President Emmanuel Macron's offer to put the entire EU under France's nuclear weapons umbrella has provoked outrage from both the left and right. (EPA-EFE/LUDOVIC MARIN / POOL MAXPPP OUT)


Outrage as Macron floats putting EU under French nuclear umbrella 

The French nuclear arsenal, consisting of roughly 300 operational nuclear warheads, could be shared as part of an EU defence deal, Macron has argued.


French President Emmanuel Macron’s offer to put the entire European Union under France’s nuclear-weapons umbrella has provoked outrage from both the Left and Right.

The French nuclear arsenal, consisting of about 300 operational nuclear warheads, could be shared as part of an EU defence deal, Macron argued.

“I am in favour of opening this debate which must therefore include anti-missile defence, long-range weapon firing, nuclear weapons for those who have them,” he said in an interview on April 27.

Such missiles would form part of a “credible European defence” going beyond NATO as part of a “European defence framework”.

That suggestion prompted outcry from both the Left and Right, with senior Rassemblement National (RN) politician Marine Le Pen decrying Macron’s intention to “dispossess the French people of everything they have built, of everything that protects them, of everything that makes them a free people”.

Another RN representative, foreign affairs spokesman Thierry Mariani, attacked Macron as increasingly “becoming a danger to the nation”, adding that the move would likely mean France’s “seat at the UN Security Council would be next to be sold off to the European Union”.

On the centre-right, François-Xavier Bellamy, who heads Les Républicains’ list in June’s European Parliament elections, stated that “a French head of state should not say that” about a nuclear deterrent that touches “the very nerve of French sovereignty”.

Left-wingers were also upset, with Bastien Lachaud from La France Insoumise, accusing Macron of wanting to “liquidate France’s strategic autonomy”.

“[He] has just dealt a new blow to the credibility of French nuclear deterrence”, the MP said.

One group that favoured the proposal was the French Greens, with the party’s lead candidate for the EP elections, Marie Toussaint, saying such a move would represent a “European federal leap”.

Uncertainty about the US’ future commitment to European security is increasingly making senior politicians in Europe nervous.

Some are suggesting the continent takes the issue of nuclear deterrent into its own hands, with German politicians including  European People’s Party (EPP) leader Manfred Weber  MEP expressing scepticism on whether Europe could rely on NATO weapons of mass destruction.

“We would like to continue thinking about NATO, but we must also be strong enough to defend ourselves without it or in the event of Trump’s election,” Weber said, referring to upcoming US national election candidate Donald Trump.

The US’ nuclear-sharing arrangement with NATO could be a model for how France – the EU’s sole nuclear power – might share its weapons, consisting of sub­marine-launched ballistic missiles and air-launched cruise missiles.

“French presidents since De Gaulle have all stated that French nuclear weapons are to serve the French vital interest and would not be used for collective security,” said Thomas Leckwold of Pegasus Research.

Still, the “vital interest” clause has been “purposefully ambiguous”, he added.

There is “a European dimension in these vital interests”, Macron told regional newspapers from the east of France on April 27.

Sharing France’s nuclear deterrence “would contribute to the credibility of European defence”, he continued.

For a long time, Europe had underestimated the Russian threat, while overestimating the US security guarantee, according to former French ambassador Michel Duclos in an April 28 column for Le Monde.