French President Macron (Picture: PA).

France Seeks Leading Role In Post-Brexit EU Nuclear Strategy

French President Macron (Picture: PA).

The French President has called for a Europe-wide role for the French nuclear arsenal in a more co-ordinated European defence policy in which France, the bloc's only post-Brexit nuclear power, and its arsenal would hold a central role.

Emmanuel Macron highlighted how France sees its nuclear weapons as a deterrent against attacks from belligerent foes, though he conceded the country's nuclear might is diminished after its military scaled down its arsenal to under 300 nuclear weapons.

Mr Macron refused to sign any treaty to further reduce the French arsenal.

He announced an increase in military spending and positioned himself as the driving force for a united EU.

Mr Macron also touted the French military’s role in spots such as Africa’s Sahel, where he has just pledged an additional 600 troops to fight extremists.

However, the central idea in the keynote speech was that of a boosted Europe-wide role for the French nuclear arsenal in a more co-ordinated European defence policy.

Mr Macron said the strategy would prevent Europe "confining itself to a spectator role" in an environment dominated by Russia, the United States and China.

"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," Mr Macron said.

His remarks come 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 could create new tensions within NATO, where Mr Macron ruffled feathers last year by saying the lack of US leadership is causing the "brain death" of the military alliance.

Last year, Russia and the US pulled out of the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty – dating from the era of the Soviet Union – and each blamed the other for its failure.

Evoking the tearing-up of the INF treaty, Mr Macron said he wanted the Europeans to propose their own "international arms control agenda together."

Friday’s speech was part of Mr Macron’s 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.

Mr Macron explained his vision as "an offer of dialogue" and "service" to Europeans to assert their autonomy "in defence and arms control."

There was no immediate reaction from the EU Commission on Mr Macron’s proposals.

A spokeswoman said the bloc’s executive arm first needs to assess details of his plan.

There was also no immediate comment from NATO, which includes two other nuclear powers – the US and Britain.

Cover image: French President Emmanuel Macron (Picture: PA).

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