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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 13, February - March 1997

Franco-German Talks on Nuclear Weapons

On 29 January, France and Germany released a Joint Security Concept. Much controversy was aroused by the following passages on nuclear weapons:

"The supreme guarantee of the Allies' security is ensured by the strategic nuclear forces of the Alliance, in particular those of the United States. The independent nuclear forces of the United Kingdom and France, which fulfil a deterrent role of their own, contribute too the global deterrence and security of the allies."

"[France and Germany agree to hold] a dialogue on the role of nuclear deterrence in the context of a European defence policy."

The release of the Concept, and its prior leaking to Le Monde newspaper, led to allegations that France had changed its nuclear stance by accepting the prime, overriding importance of NATO nuclear weapons; and to allegations that Germany was changing its non-nuclear stance and pondering the merits of a Franco-German deterrent, or at least significant German input into the French deterrent.

Each country promptly insisted that its policy had not changed. However, there were also assertions that the position of the other had:

"It is worth noting that France for the first time has signed a document in which NATO's nuclear defence is seen as the decisive element and the British and French nuclear systems back this up." - German Defence Minister Volker Ruehe, 29 January

"Our doctrine hasn't changed. The only new element on nuclear policy is that, for the first time, France and Germany declare themselves ready to hold a dialogue concerning the nuclear concept in the context of a European defence policy... French nuclear forces are recognised by Germany as having a special role in the concept of a European defence policy... " - French Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jacques Rummelhardt, 30 January

Rummelhardt also claimed, apparently at odds with Ruehe, that the wording on NATO nuclear weapons was taken directly from a 1991 NATO communique approved by then French President Francois Mitterrand.

Reports: France, Germany set crisis, nuclear talks - paper, Reuter News Reports, 24 January; France denies changing nuclear doctrine, Reuter News Reports, 30 January; Germany and France outline objectives in security cooperation, The Week in Germany, 31 January; Franco-German pact stirs debate about nuclear weapons, For Your Eyes Only, 17 February.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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