What We Don’t Know About Nuclear Deterrence Could Hurt Us

What We Don’t Know About Nuclear Deterrence Could Hurt Us
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, his daughter and an official watch what Pyongyang says is a test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile from an undisclosed location in North Korea, undated photo provided by the North Korean government on Dec. 18, 2023 (Korean Central News Agency photo via Korea News Service and AP Images).

French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent speech at the Sorbonne on his vision for the European Union, as well as his follow-up interview with The Economist, have attracted a lot of attention—as Macron intended. Never one to mince his words, Macron warned that “Europe can die” and expressed a sense of urgency in defeating Russia in Ukraine, even to the point of refusing to rule out sending French troops there in support of Kyiv.

While these comments made headline-grabbing news, another topic he touched on merits further attention: nuclear weapons.

In his speech at the Sorbonne, Macron stated, “Nuclear deterrence is at the heart of France’s defense strategy. It is therefore an essential element in the defense of the European continent.” In the Economist interview, Macron made his point more explicitly, saying that he was prepared to make France’s nuclear weapons available to protect the whole of Europe. Macron even referenced former French President Francois Mitterrand, and rightfully so. Back in the late 1980s, Mitterrand assured his West German counterpart, then-Chancellor Helmut Kohl, that France’s arsenal could be “the nuclear deterrent of Europe” in a bid to convince him to reject U.S. forward-deployed nuclear weapons on the continent.

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