We learned that, on Saturday, France carried out a test firing of a strategic ballistic missile, without nuclear warhead, in Biscarrosse in the Landes. The Minister of the Armed Forces welcomed the “success» of such a shot, and took the opportunity to boast “the credibility of our nuclear deterrent”. This is an opportunity to recall that nuclear deterrence is only a myth and that it absolutely does not protect France, quite the contrary.
All the rhetoric justifying nuclear deterrence comes up against this obvious fact that politicians, from the right and the left, want to obscure: the use of nuclear weapons is literally unthinkable because it involves the death of thousands and millions of innocent civilians. It is not a weapon of defense, it is a weapon of total destruction and annihilation. By possessing such a criminal weapon of terror, France is in fact a potentially terrorist nation.
If the threats weighing on our country are essentially terrorist, climate or technological piracy, how do our weapons of mass destruction protect us from these threats? No political leader answers this question. Above all, France’s possession of nuclear weapons provides arguments to non-possession countries who want to obtain them and this fuels the race for weapons of mass destruction in the world. Thus, the existence of nuclear deterrence is an aggravating factor in the threat to humanity. She is a threat to us and to others.
The powers with expansionist aims also note that our deterrence in no way prevents or slows them down in their ambitions; they know that our nuclear weapons cannot be used against them. If they were against nuclear powers, our country would be destroyed by their response. Posing such a risk on our country is, to say the least, a curious way of wanting to defend it. The response, French and European, must be economic (sanctions), political (action in international bodies, support for democrats in dictatorships and “democracies”), cultural and media (mobilization of international civil society).
The infeasibility of nuclear deterrence destroys all the doctrines which claim that they protect France. On this point, we will recall the words of the former President of the Republic, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, who, in his memoirs, testifies that faced with a Soviet invasion, he would have been unable to give the order to ‘use nuclear weapons. These words are unambiguous: “Whatever happens, I will never take the initiative for a gesture that would lead to the annihilation of France»1. He was perfectly aware that this gesture would have led to terrible reprisals for France. In other words, he would have been dissuaded from dissuading. We must therefore be convinced that nuclear weapons are unusable. It is therefore useless. The sensible words of the former President of the Republic can only convince us that deterrence is only a myth.
French political leaders have assured for decades that nuclear deterrence is our country’s life insurance. In reality, it is above all a death insurance! It is supposedly a weapon of “non-use” intended to deter anyone who would like to attack the vital interests of France. This untruth does not stand up to rigorous scrutiny. How can a weapon that should not be used deter a potential attacker? Furthermore, isn’t threatening to use nuclear weapons itself criminal? The United Nations has recognized that “any use or threat of use of nuclear weapons would constitute a violation of the United Nations Charter”. Today, some political leaders clearly envisage the use of nuclear weapons by “warning strikes”, without imagining for a second the disastrous consequences of such recourse, even “limit» as they claim. The use of nuclear weapons cannot be reasonable, because its purpose is never reasonable. The purpose of nuclear weapons is destruction. Any use of nuclear weapons would of course be a crime against humanity and civilization.
And yet, nuclear deterrence is still a taboo subject in France. Political leaders, from the right and the left, for sixty years, have been using the most perfect tongue-in-cheek on the subject, in an insistent and desperate denial of the ethical, political and strategic issues posed by the existence of these weapons of mass terror. . Over the years, nuclear deterrence has become a sacred object, an idol that comes from faith and not from the reasonable mind. “Men’s belief in nuclear weapons, analyzes Jean-Marie Muller, as a symbol of power is one of the most formidable spells to which humanity has ever succumbed. It means the alienation of conscience, the enslavement of reason and is akin to a real bewitchment.»2. This irrational belief in nuclear deterrence justified and still justifies today the waste of tens of billions of euros, without a debate worthy of the name having ever taken place in the public square.
Nuclear deterrence is totally incompatible with democracy. We must face the facts, it signifies the supreme concentration of power. We remember the words of François Mitterrand on television in 1983: “The centerpiece of the deterrence strategy is the head of state, it’s me”. The implementation of nuclear fire rests on the decision of a single person, the President of the Republic who has personal power such as no absolute monarch has ever possessed. He has under his fingers a force capable of exterminating tens of millions of people! This possible solitary and totalitarian decision to use nuclear weapons is not compatible with the Constitution. Its article 2 which defines the principle of the Republic “Government of the people, by the people, for the people» contravenes the idea that a single man can have the right of life or death over an entire people, to the extent that the use of nuclear force could lead to dramatic reprisals for the French people. Thus, nuclear deterrence being consubstantial with the Fifth Republic, all those who imagine a Sixth Republic, without calling it into question, are lying to the French.
Our nuclear deterrent has until now been of no use, but has cost us a lot (430 billion euros since the creation of the Atomic Energy Commission in 1945!). It has not averted any threat and has in no way protected France against terrorism and even less against climate change or the COVID-19 pandemic which has caused more than 100 deaths in France. The time has come to dare to make a gesture of courage and prestige for peace by solemnly renouncing nuclear weapons. This gesture bringing peace would have a “cosmic impact», according to the expression of Théodore Monod. “Looking at things calmly, affirms Jean-Marie Muller, it seems reasonable to think that such a decision would constitute an event of considerable international significance. Not only would the renunciation of nuclear weapons not undermine the “greatness of France”, but quite the opposite would happen. How can we not believe that this would result in an increase in prestige – not illusory this time – for our country? Without a doubt its ability to make its voice heard in the major debates of international politics would not be weakened, but strengthened. We can bet that women and men all over the world would welcome France’s decision as an act of courage which gives them a little hope.