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Protecting Europe

[This editorial is also available in Ukrainian.]

Ukraine's probable victory in repelling Russian aggression does not, however, make Europe immune to further attempts at destabilisation or even outright aggression. Putin's Russia is indeed an enemy and it will take time and a lot of change in that country before it becomes an acceptable partner again. Europe must therefore strengthen its defence.

Russian aggression has unfolded with the permanent threat of the use of a nuclear weapon against a state which, in 1994, voluntarily gave it up in exchange for international guarantees of its borders and sovereignty from the members of the UN Security Council. Fighting continues with the same blackmail while Ukraine's neighbours and allies are forced to provide limited assistance in the form of arms and loans, with America dragging along a more or less willing Europe.

This demonstrates that a state without nuclear weapons is vulnerable to conventional aggression. Whatever the size of its armies - one can multiply the number of divisions - it would not prevent an aggression such as the one suffered by Ukraine.

It is true that the security of the European continent is mainly ensured by NATO and American nuclear cover. But, in the event of serious attack against one of its members, whether hybrid or conventional, are we sure that the Americans would immediately and totally put the security of their own citizens at stake by immediately "going nuclear" and engaging their deterrent forces? Legitimately, and as history teaches us, they will inevitably think twice and, most certainly, try to "calm the game" before resolving to intervene.

This is where the French President's repeated statement on 9 November in Toulon comes into its own.

By restating that the French deterrent "had a European dimension", Emmanuel Macron, like all of his predecessors, emphasised the French contribution to European security. The French nuclear force, independent and agile, is the additional guarantee that Europe and NATO, in which it fits perfectly, lack.

We know that the best ally is always the closest, and while there is no reason to question American solidarity with Europeans, realism and experience show that in the face of aggression from a nuclear-armed state, only nuclear weapons really protect. On European soil, the activation of a European deterrent force could convince the United States to intervene and thus more effectively dissuade the aggressor.

In other words, all conventional efforts by Europeans will be in vain if they are not supported by European "nuclear credibility". As for missile defence, as imagined by some, including Germany, it cannot provide a 100% guarantee of effectiveness in the face of the Russian modus operandi as we know it, and, in this case, all it takes is for a single nuclear warhead to cross it for ... the billions spent in vain to be blown away in a holocaust.

Moreover, if it were to happen, this initiative would revive a dangerous arms race, with Europeans increasing their investment in conventional weapons while our potential adversaries increased their nuclear warheads. The result would be the opposite of what was intended and would increase the danger for Europe.

Europeans should therefore learn from this: only nuclear weapons protect against aggression by a state with this capability; only the closest ally offers the guarantee of intervening at the outset of an aggression because its direct interests are shared with the aggressed. The only Union state equipped with nuclear weapons is France. The security of the Union cannot therefore be thought of without France, which provides it with the dimension it lacks.

If these few obvious facts could be shared by the Europeans, perhaps their future defence efforts would protect them from aggression by a revisionist state like Putin's Russia. If not, they would simply be paying for words... and exorbitantly expensive equipment that would be useless in the event of aggression. And if this were to lead to open conflict, they would have chosen the war that would be most costly in human lives.

A frank and in-depth European consultation on the issue of deterrence is essential to guarantee Europe's security. It is time to organise it, for example within a European Security Council bringing together heads of state and government whose first duty is to protect Europe and Europeans.