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France's new nuclear doctrine

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The new nuclear deterrence doctrine announced by President Jacques Chirac in January 2006 has rightly been recognized as a milestone, although in fact several of the key changes in policy were set forth in June 2001. While France remains determined to deter major power threats, its main new preoccupation is deterring regional powers by making clear that it has developed more employable nuclear options. The innovations announced in January 2006 include the focus on deterring state sponsors of terrorism, the threat to attach an enemy's ‘capacity to act’, the more discriminate and controllable employment options, the willingness to launch ‘final warning’ strikes, the description of ‘strategic supplies’ as a potential vital interest, and the presentation of nuclear deterrence as the foundation of a strategy of prevention and, when necessary, conventional military intervention. Several factors may have led Chirac to make the speech at this juncture. These include maintaining the credibility of deterrence and presidential power, sustaining the budgetary effort required for the nuclear posture, clarifying French deterrence doctrine for external and internal audiences, and sending a message of autonomy to Iran's and France's key European partners. The new doctrine's implications include its significance for deterrence and non-proliferation and for France's relations with its partners in NATO and the European Union.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2006

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