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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 18, September 1997

Speech by French Prime Minister

'Speech by Lionel Jospin, Prime Minister, to IHEDN (Institute of Higher National Defence Studies), Paris, 4 September 1997,' French Foreign Ministry Bulletin d'Information en Langue Anglaise, French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 15 September.


"Nuclear Deterrence

Deterrence remains the mainstay of our defence strategy. Indeed, it is worthwhile pointing out that the deterrent force was neither created nor designed solely in the context of the cold war. So the ending of the East-West antagonism does not today call into question its essential role in the defence of our territory and protection of our vital interests. Furthermore, it should also be emphasized that thousands of nuclear weapons are still stockpiled all over the world. Despite the disarmament effort and the many international monitoring agreements and procedures, in which France today plays a greater part than ever before, it hasn't been possible to prevent all nuclear proliferation, although it has been greatly reduced.

So as to be able to face up to potential new proliferation and the risks of the resurgence of a major threat, France has therefore maintained a credible deterrent capability, but at a level of strict sufficiency, below that of the cold war.

Furthermore, in a world still dominated by the quest for the balance of power, France's nuclear status helps safeguard its freedom of action and appraisal on the international stage.

With two modernized components, our deterrent force will be maintained at the highest technological level - in particular, new-generation submarines will gradually be brought into service. France will also go on reviewing its strategy so as to tailor its doctrine and capabilities to any changes in the potential threats. It will also seek to step up the dialogue with its main European partners on the whole issue of deterrence.

As a nuclear power, France has a two-pronged approach. It does not question the immediate effective contribution of nuclear weapons to international stability and its own security; on the other hand, it wishes to make the greatest possible progress in collective disarmament and to promote international rules to prevent proliferation. This is why, since 1991, our country has taken a series of unilateral decisions in the nuclear sphere, confirmed its full support for the Non-Proliferation Treaty, ratified the Tlatelolco Treaty and signed and ratified the protocols of the Rarotonga Treaty on the denuclearization of the South Pacific and the Pelindaba Treaty on the denuclearization of Africa. Finally, it has given up nuclear testing.

In September 1996, France signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty which should be ratified within a year from now. This is a major act, which I hope will rapidly be followed up by the negotiation of a Treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons.

The deterrent effect of our nuclear forces, of course, contributes to the general aim of conflict prevention. It is in this task that we see the clearest manifestation of France's twin objective:

  • to guarantee strategic autonomy through the acquisition and maintenance of an intelligence capability able to anticipate the emergence of threats and occurrence of crises;
  • to contribute to peacekeeping and international security, which requires us to step up our cooperation with countries in areas where France has strategic interests: Africa, Central Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

This priority prevention capability is, however, credible only if it is underpinned by a real and substantial capacity for action and therefore for projection. Indeed, France must be able to deploy a national force far from home and participate in the command and deployment of a multinational force with our allies. ..."

Source: Bulletin d'Information en Langue Anglaise, French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 15 September.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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