By Duyeon Kim Published by The Nautilus Institute on November 22, 2011 found here. This paper was originally published by the Korea Economic Institute on September 28 2011 and is available here. ——————– CONTENTS I. Introduction II. Report by Duyeon Kim III. References I. Introduction Duyeon Kim, Deputy Director of Non-Proliferation at the Center for […]
Last week, President Sarkozy said in a CBS television interview that France would never give up its nuclear weapons unilaterally because they continue to ‘underpin’ France’s security in a ‘dangerous’ world. He argued that his nation of 65 million inhabitants’ has ‘fewer conventional weapons than the US, than Russia, than China’. Although Sarkozy was keen to mention the fact that France has renounced nuclear testing and reduced its nuclear arsenal by one third, he added that he would be ‘jeopardizing’ the security of his country if any further reductions were made. Since his comments were picked up by a large number of news organizations, one might have initially thought there was something unique about Sarkozy’s position, but to the few French nuclear watchers out there, all of this no doubt sounded like old news…
From Sarkozy’s comments it is evident that French thinking remains wedded to the idea that nuclear weapons make a nation ‘free and independent’. It’s an idea that has long driven France’s nuclear weapons program, visible in statements by leaders such as Charles De Gaulle, Lionel Jospin, and Jacques Chirac. France’s defeat at the hands of Nazi Germany in World War II, their subsequent inability to overcome Viet Minh forces at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu (thus ending French-Indochina, a.k.a.Vietnam), and the Sueze Canal crisis and subsequent rift with the U.S., all undoubtedly sowed the seeds of France’s appetite to develop an independent ‘life-insurance policy’ to guarantee its vital interests at home and abroad. But since then, with the era of decolonization, the creation of the European Union, and France’s reentry into NATO, the rationale for the French nuclear deterrent has essentially evaporated.
France relied on a triad of air, land and sea based nuclear weapons for its deterrence until 1996, when President Chirac announced the retirement of France’s land based missile facilities. At the same time, France contradicted this positive step towards disarmament by conducting a series of nuclear tests at the Mururoa Atoll and injecting significant resources into modernizing its nuclear weapons.
Similarly, when Sarkozy stated in April 2008 that France would reduce its nuclear arsenal to 300 warheads, it coincided with the inauguration of the first of France’s new ‘Triumphant’ class nuclear submarines and efforts to perfect the new M51 nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile. And despite that reduction, France still remains the third largest nuclear power – surpassing even China, a country with a population some 21 times bigger. Which raises the question: how does France’s large and modern nuclear arsenal contribute to its ‘independence’?
France’s recent White Paper on Defense and National Security states that the ‘sole purpose’ of nuclear weapons is to ‘prevent [likely meaning deter] any State-originating aggression against the vital interests of the nation’ (although there are some questions regarding the accuracy of this official translation). In this context, the section on ‘new security parameters’ implies that French nuclear weapons might potentially have a role in responding to future threats such as the ‘the emergence of new weapons’, ‘cyber warfare’, ‘the offensive use of outerspace’, and even “black swan” events (yes, see page 5!). Given the absence of such threats today, France seems to reason that since it already has nuclear weapons, it might as well keep them as a hedge against future uncertainty.
Looking back, nuclear weapons have so far been useless for France – both in defending vital interests and enabling it to engage in overseas conflicts. Several low level interventions in Africa, a few contributions to multinational forces in international conflicts, and a stabilization force sent to Haiti – that’s pretty much it for French military intervention over the past fifty years.
Recently Sarkozy pointed to Iran’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs to suggest that ‘the future of Europe is at stake’, but it is hard to understand why this actually might be the case. Indeed, to think that Iran would ever be developing these programs with Europe primarily in mind seems an absurd and egotistical notion. Beyond being a key trading partner for Iran, Europe also has vast conventional superiority, is increasingly interconnected (and thus less practical to target), and contains many countries that profit from NATO’s alliance structure. In fact, as long as France remains a member of a nuclear armed NATO, then there seems literally no justification for Paris to possess its own independent nuclear deterrent.
Of all the countries today with nuclear weapons, France is arguably facing the fewest threats, and as a result of increased European integration, exists in one of the most stable regions of the world. In this context, if France still thinks it needs its nuclear weapons to keep it ‘free and independent’, then it’s very hard to imagine any circumstances under which it will ever feel comfortable without them. Realistically, beyond using nuclear weapons to clutch on to an increasingly fading notion of ‘great power’ status, it seems that France has as much justification to own nuclear weapons as its neighbor Switzerland would have.
As I blogged in late February, there has been progress toward implementing the U.S.-India Nuclear Deal. I also pointed out that obstacles remain to the deal’s entry into force, including completion of an agreement regarding a nuclear spent fuel reprocessing facility and approval by New Delhi of a liability limitation bill for U.S. firms.
With the news last week that the government decided not to introduce the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill in the Indian parliament, there is still no telling when U.S. firms will be able to start reaping the benefits from nuclear trade with India. The tragic comedy that many opponents of the deal warned it would become seems to be playing out as predicted: U.S. efforts to rewrite the rules on international nuclear trade are likely to end up benefiting firms in Russia, France, and other nations much earlier (and perhaps even far more) than their U.S. counterparts…
The proposed liability limitation bill would shield U.S. suppliers from liability in the event of a nuclear accident and make plant operators responsible for damages from any accidents. It would cap legal liability for international nuclear reactor operators at $65 million and limit the Indian government’s financial obligation to roughly $385 million. It would also require that all assertions of wrongdoing be filed inside of 10 years.
Without such legislation U.S. firms would likely be unable to get the necessary insurance to engage in nuclear cooperation. Competitors to U.S. firms such as France’s Areva and Russia’s Rosatom do not require liability limitation legislation because they are covered by protections from their home governments.
While the Indian cabinet has approved the legislation, consideration of the bill was pulled on March 15 by the lower house of parliament, the Lok Sabha. Speaker Meira Kumar deferred consideration after receiving notice from at least four members of the opposition that they intended to block the bill at the introduction stage, as they found it to be in violation of the Indian Constitution and several former Supreme Court rulings.
The ruling government in India largely supports the bill, as it is in their interest to fully implement the U.S.-India Nuclear Energy Cooperation Deal. They argue that the nation requires a liability structure to bring it up to par with global standards, especially given the frequent power blackouts that affect even the capital, New Delhi. Analysts believe Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wanted to secure approval of the legislation before he travels to Washington in April for President Obama’s Nuclear Security Summit. They now estimate he will seek passage of the bill before Obama visits India later this year.
Critics of the bill in India include members of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Communist Party of India (Marxist). They have voiced concern that the bill is being forced through parliament as a result of U.S. pressure, noting that the ruling government is “safeguarding the interests of the United States at the expense of the safety of Indian people.” They argue that the legislation does not provide adequate protection for residents and leaves the bulk of responsibility for any ensuing land reclamation efforts to Indian citizens. Under the bill, the majority of compensation for victims of nuclear accidents would fall on Indian taxpayers.
One observer notes, however, that the bill does have a loophole allowing the operators of Indian nuclear power plants the “right of recourse” against supplier firms if an accident results “from the willful act or gross negligence on the part of the supplier of the material, equipment or services, or of his employee.” This right is not included in the IAEA’s Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage (CSC), which India also plans to join, and, according to the observer, should work to allay Indian concerns that the supplier is completely protected, even if the amount is capped. Omer Brown of the DC-based council for the Contractors International Group on Nuclear Liability (CIGNL) also emphasized that joining the CSC would ensure that India would be “eligible to get supplemental funds from the CSC international fund paid by the United States and other CSC Member States.”
Information Minister Ambika Soni has stated that the ruling coalition would pursue an understanding with the opposition prior to sending the measure back to parliament. Science and Technology Minister Prithviraj Chavan also supports reconsideration, noting that “there is no urgency to introduce the bill.” Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Nirupama Rao, who was in Washington early last week, continued to insist that the U.S.-India deal was “proceeding smoothly and satisfactorily,” adding that “we are in the process of operationalizing the agreement through close coordination between our two governments.”
In other news, little progress appears to be being made in negotiations on a spent fuel reprocessing arrangement, which is an additional required step before the U.S. and India can begin nuclear trade. Current estimates are that negotiations may not conclude until after the May NPT RevCon.
One thing we know for sure is that while the U.S.-India deal remains in limbo, countries such as Russia and France, which do not face the same impediments to nuclear trade, will continue to eat up more of the lucrative Indian nuclear energy market pie, estimated to exceed $150 billion in coming years . Will there be any pieces left for the U.S. by the time all of the roadblocks are removed?
by Travis Sharp Updated March 4, 2008 Check out our analysis of U.S. arms sales agreements with the Middle East. The United States is far and away the leader in worldwide arms sales agreements. Consider the following: From 1999 to 2006, the United States averaged $15.44 billion per year in worldwide arms sales agreements. That […]