Did France Change its Nuclear Policy?On 19 January French president Jacques Chirac said that France could retaliate with nuclear weapons against states that launch terrorist attacks against it. Mr. Chirac's threat is considered a departure in terms of French defense policy.
Actually it was just a confirmation of that what I have already wrote in JED, on the occasion of Rafale and its ASMP weapon. The French nuclear policy changed considerably since the end of the Cold War, however one point remained unchanged. Contrary to USA, France always claimed that anybody who would threaten the France most vital interests – the country existence above all or who would use weapons of mass destruction against France, would have to consider the French nuclear retaliation. This claim was without pointing out any potential country, and thought Soviet Union was the most probable enemy, it could be also the United States, should the USA seriously endanger the France’s independence. Now not the Soviet Union but rouge states could do the same – bring sever losses to French citizens by using weapons of mass destruction, either delivered by ballistic missiles or by terrorists. On the both cases France could retaliate against the country of the attack’s origin. So since the end of Cold War France deactivated her land based ICBMs, maintained her submarine based SLBM and Mirage 2000N armed with ASMP capability, and added ASMP capability to the carrier based Super Etendard attack fighters. In the future the mission of the both land based Mirage 2000N and carrier based Super Etendard will be taken over by Rafale fighters, both land based (and fully deployable) and carrier based naval Rafales. The armament will be ASMPA improved nuclear missile, with the range of 600 km, which gives quite stand off capabilities. The ASMPA and Rafale will be the main tool for nuclear retaliation, giving the France of near global strike capability, through deployment of the aircraft carrier anywhere in the world. All the rouge countries’ territories are within the reach of Rafale-ASMPA tandem, thought China or Russia might stay beyond, as they are not countries likely to attack France. However the French SLBM are the main type of “Cold War type” deterrence tools against big but stable (“non-rouge”) powers.
Citing the press release, “the French president said nuclear dissuasion remained the fundamental guarantee of national security. The president said France is in the position to inflict all kinds of damage to a major power. Confronted with a regional power, he said, the choice is not inaction, but rather flexibility and reactivity. And French forces are capable of responding directly to such a power.
Mr. Chirac said that leaders of any state that uses terrorist means against France must understand they risk what he called a firm and appropriate response for his country. That could come via conventional weapons, he said, but also by what he described as [those of] another nature, that is nuclear weapons.”
And what about the other nuclear capable countries? Do they consider a nuclear attack against – let’s say – Iran, when they are attacked by chemical bombs delivered by terrorists of Iranian origin?