This post serves as a small addendum to Edward’s post Not Amused about Chirac’s threat to use nuclear weapons if necessary. This addendum will hopefully broaden and continue the discussion his statements generated. I won’t be talking about the possibility of nuking Iran or other rogue states here, that element has been covered extensively by Edward’s post, especially in the comments section.
As to Chirac’s nuclear threat, yesterday’s Ouest France suggested Chirac made the statement to reaffirm France’s position as a serious player after having lost credibility with the EU constitution referendum. After the non-vote several commentators suggested that France had been demoted to a second-degree country. From Ouest France:
Jacques Chirac entend ainsi montrer quâ€™il dispose encore dâ€™un atout europÃ©en, alors que la France est lâ€™un des deux pays membres responsables de la panne actuelle de lâ€™Union. Au demeurant, plus que par des nÃ©cessitÃ©s stratÃ©giques, le discours de lâ€™Ã®le Longue est dictÃ© par la volontÃ© dâ€™un prÃ©sident affaibli dâ€™exercer son autoritÃ© jusquâ€™au terme du quinquennat. En rÃ©affirmant le seul pouvoir que personne ne peut lui ravir : la maÃ®trise du feu nuclÃ©aire.
Short summary/interpretation: Politically weakened Chirac is reminding himself and the French that they still have balls. He is also repositioning France as a first rate power in Europe.
Furthermore, he also used the threat to justify the costly maintenance of Franceâ€™s nuclear arsenal. By stressing the overhaul of the arsenal, focussing on smaller weapons, he did away with the WMD threat as its sole raison dâ€™Ãªtre. Smaller nukes on submarines can target terrorists instead of complete nations, hence: â€We still need nukes, but different ones. We are adapting to new circumstances.â€ Or, if you will: “We can turn Tora Bora into a nuclear wasteland if we want to.”
Another possibly very important thing about Chiracâ€™s speech:
Par ailleurs, le chef de lâ€™Etat Ã©largit la notion dâ€™intÃ©rÃªts vitaux aux Â« approvisionnements stratÃ©giques Â» et Ã la dÃ©fense des pays alliÃ©s. La dÃ©pendance Ã©nergÃ©tique de lâ€™Europe, rÃ©vÃ©lÃ©e par la crise gaziÃ¨re entre la Russie et lâ€™Ukraine, explique, pour une part, cette Ã©volution.
Franceâ€™s vital interests are being extended to include Â« strategic reserves Â» and the defence of allied countries. Europeâ€™s energy dependency, as exemplified by the gas crisis between Russia and Ukraine can explain, at least partly, this development. Dear commenters, fire away!