France is now the only European Union State equipped with nuclear weapons. This means that it has to think of its security from a European point of view. European partners have to take it into account.
On 7 February, recalling France's nuclear policy, Emmanuel Macron reached out to Europeans, offering them the opportunity to take part in an in-depth dialogue and joint exercises on deterrence, with a view to greater strategic autonomy for Europe.
Its partners accept nuclear weapons on their soil, under the wings of their own aircraft, in the back of their lorries and in the recesses of their hangars, the use of which can only be ordered by the US President. NATO may be discussing this, but the only one with the power to implement deterrence, this most sophisticated diplomatic exercise, this subtle marriage of bluff, power, technology and reason, and ultimately use these weapons, is Donald Trump.
Nuclear weapons are like no other. In French doctrine, they cannot be a weapon of war; they are intended to prevent war. Their credibility depends on the unacceptability of the damage that a potential aggressor would suffer and to dissuade him from counting on the success of escalation, intimidation or blackmail.
The size of the nuclear arsenal is therefore not decisive; only its sufficiency and efficiency is a measure of this. This requires that deterrence be implemented always and in all circumstances by means of a single, effective command, which excludes any committee or collegial body. NATO weapons are thus under sole US command in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and even Turkey!
French deterrence will therefore obviously remain under a single French command. On the other hand, and as many European observers have wished and I myself have wished on several occasions, the French President, the one who ultimately decides what "vital interests" justify the deterrent, has stated that "France's vital interests now have a European dimension", recalling France's "unshakeable solidarity" with its European partners. The Member States of the European Union are therefore directly involved, with Germany being the first of these.
Following in the footsteps of his predecessors, while recalling its unwavering attachment to the Atlantic Alliance as a coalition of democracies, Emmanuel Macron is once again reaching out to his partners. Will they be more inclined to trust him than to give a blank cheque to their great and distant ally, whose concerns are often elsewhere, in this vital matter? Will they at last see the urgent need to gradually build up European strategic autonomy, which does not rule out anything in terms of our alliances, but better protects our interests?
It will be a long time before there is another continental power in Europe capable of contributing like France and its deterrent to the security of the continent. In the face of growing threats and destabilization at its borders, Europe needs the nuclear dimension as the ultimate guarantee of its security. This time, Europeans will therefore have to choose: Trump or Macron?