Chirac threatens nuclear attack on states sponsoring terrorism

President Jacques Chirac has dropped a political bombshell by threatening to retaliate with nuclear strikes against any state found to be responsible for a large-scale terrorist attack on France.

In the biggest shift in French nuclear doctrine for 40 years, M. Chirac revealed that the force de frappe - the French nuclear deterrent - had already been reconfigured to allow it to destroy the "power centres" of any state which sponsored a terrorist assault.

He also raised once again an idea that he first floated in 1995 that the British and French nuclear deterrents should be rededicated to the defence of the entire European Union. In future, he said, France should regard its allies and its sources of strategic supplies - in other words oil - as covered by its nuclear umbrella.

The President insisted that fundamental French nuclear policy would remain unchanged. There would be no battlefield use of nuclear weapons and no "first strike". Nonetheless, his speech yesterday at France's main nuclear submarine base, at Ile Longue, near Brest, in Brittany, took French defence policy into uncharted waters.

He appeared to imply that any large-scale, state-sponsored terrorist attack on France - whether or not it used weapons of mass destruction - would invite a closely targeted nuclear response from France.

"The leaders of states who use terrorist methods against us, as well as those who consider using in one way or another weapons of mass destruction, must understand that they would expose themselves to a firm and appropriate response on our part," President Chirac said.

"This response could be a conventional one. It might also be of a different kind."

"Against a regional power, we should not have to choose between inaction and obliteration... the flexibility and reactivity of our strategic forces should allow us to respond directly against his power centres, against his capacity to act.

"All our nuclear forces have been reconfigured accordingly. To this end, the number of warheads has been reduced on some missiles on our submarines."

France's nuclear submarines were previously said to have 16 missiles, with six warheads each. Reducing the number of warheads implies the use of smaller nuclear charges, more easily aimed at specific targets.

President Chirac's motives appear to be a mixture of the personal, the electoral and the strategic. Opinion polls suggest that France no longer regards him as a significant player in world or domestic events, and his speech yesterday appears to be an attempt to thrust himself back into the limelight as an experienced world statesman with a finger on the nuclear button.

He may also calculate that the nuclear issue will play badly for his hated former protégé, the Interior Minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, who remains favourite to replace him in the presidential elections next spring.

M. Sarkozy is among a number of figures in France who have begun to question the cost of the French nuclear deterrent, which is estimated at €3bn (£2bn) a year, or 10 per cent of the defence budget, at a time when French public spending faces drastic cuts to meet EU targets.

Beyond all that, however, M. Chirac was attempting to devise a new justification for a nuclear force which he regards as one of the components of France's global influence and one of the proudest achievements of the De Gaulle era.

He was also responding to those - at home and abroad - who suggest that France has no right to lecture would-be nuclear powers such as Iran while it retains its own weapons of mass destruction.

Some commentators suggested that M. Chirac's switch of nuclear policy could take France into dangerous territory. By talking of closely targeted attacks on regional "power centres", the President was making it sound as if the country's "never-to-be-used" nuclear arsenal might be used after all.

The Communist deputy Jacques Brunhes said M. Chirac's position was extremely dangerous: "It can only encourage states which have signed the non-proliferation treaty to opt for military uses of nuclear technology."

News
i100
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
News
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and DiCaprio, at an awards show in 2010
filmsAll just to promote a new casino
News
i100
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
News
i100
Sport
Tom Cleverley
footballLoan move comes 17 hours after close of transfer window
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
News
Boris Johnson may be manoeuvring to succeed David Cameron
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Creche Assistant or Nursery Nurse

£8 per hour: Randstad Education Leeds: The Job Creche Assistant to start asap ...

Nursery Nurse Level 3

£8 per hour: Randstad Education Leeds: The Job Nursery Nurse Leeds We are now ...

Web Developer/UI Developer (HTML5, CSS3,Jquery) London

£55000 - £65000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A Global Financial Service Organi...

Data Scientist (SQL, PHP, RSPSS, CPLEX, SARS, AI) - London

£60000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A prestigious leading professiona...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering