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Macron calls for coordinated EU nuclear defence strategy — with France at centre

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French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech at the Ecole Militaire Friday, Feb. 7, 2020 in Paris.
French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech at the Ecole Militaire Friday, Feb. 7, 2020 in Paris.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Francois Mori, Pool
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Addressing military officers in Paris on Friday, French President Emmanuel Macron called for a more coordinated European Union defence strategy, with France and its nuclear arsenal to play a central role in it.

His speech came one week after Britain has exited the EU, leaving France as Europe's only nuclear-armed state.

Macron's vision over nuclear weapons laid emphasis on deterrence theory: countries with such weapons should be less likely to attack each other for fear of mutual destruction, the arms serving therefore as guarantors of peace.

"The strategic stability which goes through the search for a balance of forces at the lowest possible level, is no longer guaranteed today," he declared. "Behind the crisis of the great instruments of arms control and disarmament, it is the security of France and Europe which is at stake."

You can watch the speech on the player above by press the 'play' button.

Keeping balance with a diminished power

France is one of the nine countries in the world to have nuclear force. It has reduced the size of its arsenal, which today stands at fewer than 300 warheads, Macron confirmed.

Russia and the United States are far ahead with more than 6,000 warheads each.

In addition to this list, with a reduced arsenal, stand China, the United Kingdom, Pakistan, India, Israel and North Korea.

Macron's speech comes at a time when NATO allies, who would ordinarily look to the United States for help in a nuclear standoff, worry about Washington's retreat from the multilateral stage.

This address acts as a long-running push for a stronger European defence, as US President Donald Trump has pulled away from European allies and admonished them to pay more for their own protection.

Stronger ties and further engagements?

The central idea in the speech, however, was that of a boosted Europe-wide role for the French nuclear arsenal in a more coordinated European defense policy.

He called for a collective response from European countries:

"Europeans must collectively realise that, in the absence of a legal framework, they could quickly find themselves exposed to the resumption of a conventional, even nuclear, arms race on their soil.”
Emmanuel Macron
French President

Macron's comments were eagerly awaited after his speech Monday in Warsaw in which he had promised to "take into account" European interests, and after remarks the by a German deputy close to Angela Merkel, Johann Wadephul, who said Berlin must "envisage cooperation with France concerning nuclear weapons."

Wadephul's reaction on Twitter showed some engagement: "Europeans should take up immediately Emmanuel Macron's offer. f it is serious, it is the first step towards integrating French nuclear deterrence into European defense," he said.

But Macron did not open the door much further than it already was, Le Monde noted. For him, "Europeans must be able to decide and act alone when necessary", because "democracy and law without force do not last long."