French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech at the Ecole Militaire Friday, Feb. 7, 2020 in Paris. French President…
President Macron, in a speech at the Ecole Militaire Feb. 7, 2020 in Paris, advocated a more coordinated EU defense strategy in which France, and its arsenal, would hold a central role.

PARIS - Major policy speeches on nuclear defense have become a tradition for French leaders, so President Macron’s discourse at the War College in Paris was highly anticipated. The timing was also key — coming a week after Europe’s only other nuclear power, Britain, left the European Union.  

Macron said he wanted to open a strategic dialogue with willing EU member states on France’s nuclear deterrence role. This was aimed at developing what he described as "real strategic culture" among Europeans.

 The president, however, did not mention whether Britain could join such a discussion. But Macron's remarks echoed his broader push for a stronger, more united European defense. 

Going forward, Macron said, France’s vital interests would now have a European dimension, and its nuclear forces could play a deterrent role and reinforce European security.  

He also warned against European inaction — suggesting that without a legal deterrence framework, the region could quickly be exposed to a new race for conventional and even nuclear weapons.  

Macron’s speech was backdropped by last year’s pullout by both the United States and Russia from the Soviet-era Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

In response, the French president said he wanted EU members to collaborate in proposing an international arms control agenda. He said France had reduced its warheads to fewer than 300, giving it legitimacy to demand other nuclear powers move toward gradual, credible and verifiable global disarmament.  

Macron said while a strong alliance with the United States was central for European security — so was greater European capacity to act autonomously.  

Reacting on Twitter, French defense analyst Francois Heisbourg said Macron’s speech offered no bold initiatives and did not break new ground — but it would also not distress or offend. He described it as a “Don’t upset the Donald” speech — referring to President Trump — and that was what he called "mild and reasonable" on Europe’s role.