It’s a great pleasure for me to meet with women and men, military and civilians, who are involved in a fundamental mission for our independence and security: the nuclear deterrent. Our nuclear deterrent national force was created thanks to our efforts and represents what France is capable of making when a goal is set. I’d like to pay tribute to those experts and military men who were involved, and still are, in those efforts.
The bipolar world is over, but threats against peace have not disappeared. Radical ideas advocating for the clash of civilizations, cultures and religions are spread in many countries and such ideology leads to horrible attacks. Such crimes remind us that fanaticism can bring about all kinds of crazy things and, in the future, things could be even worse and states could be involved. The war on terror is one of our priorities but we can’t limit our security and defence issues to this necessary combat. Our world changes constantly and new power centres emerge quickly. There’s nothing to cause hostility between the centres, but we are not protected against this eventuality. In addition, our world is characterized by the emergence of power reaffirmations based on the possession of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons. This made the Security Council recognized that the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their missiles were a real threat for international peace and security. The persistence of the most traditional risks of regional instability can’t be ignored either.
In view of these threats, France has chosen prevention, first of all. But to believe that prevention is enough to protect ourselves would be naive. Sometimes, when it’s necessary, force must be used. Therefore, we must count on an important capacity of intervention beyond our borders with conventional weapons to support and accomplish this strategy. Nuclear deterrent is the direct extension of our policy of prevention. It allows us to control our acts too. At the same time, we support international efforts regarding general and complete disarmament as well as the negotiation of a treaty prohibiting the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons.
The integrity of our territory, the protection of our population and the free exercise of our sovereignty will always be the core of our vital interests, but they are more than that. The perception of these interests changes with the evolution of the world, a world characterized by the increasing interdependence of the European countries and the effects of globalization. For example, the security of our strategic supplies or the defence of the allied countries are among the interests to be protected. The President of the Republic must take into account the threats or blackmails against our interests. As I said just after September 11, 2001 attacks, nuclear deterrent is not aimed at deterring fanatic terrorists. However, the leaders of those nations, who would resort to terrorist means against us, as well as those who may consider the use, in any ways, of weapons of mass destruction, must understand that they will expose themselves to a firm and adequate response on our part. That response may be conventional, but it can also be of another kind.
Our means of nuclear deterrent have been adapted to the world we live in. We can provoke all kind of damages to a great power that would attack the interests we consider to be vital. Against a regional power, our answer wouldn’t be inaction or annihilation. The flexibility and reaction capacity of our strategic forces will allow us to directly counterattack those power centres and their capacity to act. Our nuclear forces have been made up based on this spirit.
But our concept with regard to the use of nuclear weapons is still the same. We wouldn’t use nuclear means with military purposes in a conflict. These are «not-to-be-used weapons». However, they’re still a threat for the leaders that would attack our vital interests. The basic principles of our doctrine of deterrence have not changed but the way in which they are expressed has evolved and changes constantly to allow us to face the XXI century. The missiles of our deterrent force must be modernized too not to lose their effectiveness. Even if it is not completely effective, France has promised to do a common reflection with the rest of the members of the Atlantic Alliance about the development of an anti-missile system to complete our deterrence capacity.
Today, 10% of our defence budget is aimed at nuclear deterrence. Less than this would be an irresponsible act for it defends the US and the European continents. In 1995, France presented the ambitious idea of having a joint deterrence force with the purpose of favouring the European reflection about the issue. I’m still convinced that, at the proper time, we should talk about a common defence. _ As Commander of the Armies and on behalf of the French people, I’d like to express the appreciation and gratitude of the nation to those who are involved in this essential mission.
Thank you very much.

France (présidence de la République)

«Speech by Sr. Jacques Chirac, president of the French Republic, during his visit to the naval and air strategic forces», by Jacques Chirac, press services the Elysée , January 19, 2006. Text adapted from a speech given in Landivisiau - Ile Longue / Brest, to the naval and air strategic forces of France.