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Defense

Can France Still Afford its Nuclear Deterrence?

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Courtesy Kenny Cole/Flickr

This article was originally published by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s The Strategist on 3 November 2016.

France has a deep and abiding relationship with nuclear technology. French policy-makers have based France’s energy and military independence around nuclear programs. However, as the French government attempts to justify its budget policies in the lead-up to the presidential election in April 2017, calls for a public debate on the cost of military nuclear deterrence are increasing.

This debate encompasses three main questions. Should France still base its global defence strategy on nuclear deterrence? If yes, how should nuclear deterrence be conducted? Finally, how should the state efficiently budget for this strategic investment?

Questions about the future of the nuclear program come from the growing cost of France’s nuclear deterrent. France’s nuclear arsenal is currently fully operational but will soon require a complete modernisation. Within the next 30 years, French forces will need new submarines, aircraft and missiles. To achieve this, France’s current military nuclear expenditure of €3.4 billion a year, which equals 10% of the French Ministry of Defence’s total budget, will need a significant increase. By 2025, nuclear deterrence will cost French taxpayers an estimated €6 billion a year or more. Where will future French governments find €120 billion over 20 years?