The Day After Russia Attacks
What War in Ukraine Would Look Like—and How America Should Respond
France intends both to preserve her national identity and to help bring about the peace that she cherishes. She refuses to take refuge in the comfort of a neutrality that is nothing more than an abdication of responsibility in face of the great disputes of our time. At the same time she objects to every form of hegemony, whether detrimental or advantageous to herself; for she does not challenge anyone else's right to the rights she claims for herself. For in her position, with her calling and with her resources, how could she take part in the human adventure and in the construction of peace on earth if she renounced the exercise of political imagination, if she accepted the protection of an outsider and left to others the task of shaping her own history and behavior in the world?
Naturally there are certain higher objectives which supersede the immediate national interest, but a nation must appraise these objectives in complete freedom. While giving full consideration to the facts, and in consultation with others, it must retain mastery over the means which it devotes to pursuing these objectives. France's foreign policy is based on these very simple principles, which reconcile the demands of sovereignty and the need for concerted action with other states to advance world peace. At the same time, she must respect the legitimate aspirations of the disadvantaged peoples, indeed of all mankind.
This freedom of decision, which is the very definition of political individuality and which France claims as much for the common good as for her own, calls for autonomy of action. Clearly the freedom to conceive economic, cultural and political projects and the ability to act, even if it means choosing to coöperate with others, imply the freedom and capacity to resolve in accordance with our own interests the tensions and conflicts which ruthless international competition can make very dangerous. Our refusal to accept the state of tutelage generated in Europe by the rivalry of power blocs resulting from the Second World War need not be justified on any other basis.
During the period immediately following that war-a period mainly devoted to domestic recovery but also marked by fear of Soviet expansionism-we undoubtedly relied on the military organization of the Atlantic Alliance to safeguard peace in Europe, that is, on American force and strategy. But the serious differences which turned up over the years in the opposing camps attenuated the Manichean character of East-West antagonism. Moreover, France attained nuclear capability, evidencing both her resurrection and her determination to occupy once again her normal place in the concert of nations.
Little by little, the seriousness of the political simplifications on which the unity of action of the coalition partners had been based, and which had made the coalition possible, came to light These simplifications confused the interests of Europeans with those of the United States-the dominant power, the guarantor of collective security, and the sole possessor of the ultimate weapon.
What had actually been only a consequence of the temporary weakness of Europeans in assuming responsibility for their own defense appeared a profound negation of their political individuality and their historic mission. Intellectual and economic affinities, the kinship of basic principles by which the concept of society is defined, could only mask the differences.
In these circumstances, how could one continue to accept a military organization which required Europeans, particularly the French, to sacrifice their national vocation? France had to reject the permanent integration of her defense in a collective apparatus that would, even if only occasionally, serve interests other than her own. That would have been incompatible with the autonomy of decision without which no strategy adapted to political purposes is possible.
To go further, defense policy, whatever it may be, is only valid as a function of a nation's patriotism. What happens to patriotism if the men and women of a country feel that the effort asked of them-or, if it comes to that, the sacrifice demanded-does not come from their own government but from an outside authority which may not necessarily have the same evaluation of their nation's destiny? Integration, far from assuring the validity of an alliance, may awaken considerable anxiety in the minds of the individuals involved. Patriotism is linked to the feeling that the nation has freedom of choice-if not at a time of clear and present crisis, at any rate in the long run.
Moreover, the revolution introduced into defense by the very existence of weapons of massive destruction warned that caution was necessary. The haunting presence of nuclear risk in the background of all conflicts was a basic and decisive fact for the nuclear powers, and consequently for others as well. Everyone saw how prudently the two superpowers dealt with disputes involving any of their allies, and France certainly approved of strategies designed to prevent escalation to extremes of violence; but she owed it to herself to draw the proper conclusion from this situation.
The lesson was very clear: nuclear risk is not divisible. Indeed, that risk is so enormous that a people would accept it only as a final defense of their supreme self-interest-their existence as an independent and sovereign state assuring both the unity of the whole and the diversity of individuals, both physical survival and personal freedom.
The United States understood this lesson perfectly. In an attempt to resolve the strategic contradiction between the obligations of collective security and those of national security, its leaders invented the policy of "flexible response." But this was only a palliative. The fact is that the risk of nuclear war cannot but limit international solidarity.
The American system of flexible response implies a nuclear battlefield on the soil of Europe. Admittedly this threat has value as a deterrent to the extent that it implies the possibility of all-out war. But the credibility of the threat depends on the strategic nuclear superiority of the United States. And it is possible that the battle in Europe might have only incidental significance in American eyes, whereas for Europeans it would have the decisive significance that it could bring about the ruination of their continent
Under these circumstances, why not construct a European defense system and a strategy that reconciles both in its ends and in its means the different policies of the European states? Let us not delude ourselves with fine words. As regards both Europe and NATO the nature of the nuclear risk has to be considered. Have the promoters of the European idea thoroughly weighed what this means? The decisive question is whether the Europeans are ready-or will be in the foreseeable future-to assume the nuclear risk jointly for the defense of any one of them. At the crucial moment, who would decide in the name of all to use the ultimate weapon? And to protect what? A firm common determination is an absolute prerequisite for any mutual assistance treaty; if that determination existed no treaty would be needed, for it would necessarily express the political unity of Europe. But political unity cannot result from institutions alone: it must arise out of shared feelings about the future of the continent, out of a will to act for a common good clearly recognized as such, out of a rejection of the same impediments and adherence to the same values-in short, out of a patriotism which, taking on a new dimension, is rooted in a collective consciousness.
Without this European patriotism there can be no political unity. And without political unity, no European nuclear strategy is possible.
The European continent is not yet at that point.
As a consequence, since defense can only be on a national basis, and since the nuclear fact constitutes the paramount fact of all defense, the national defense of a middle-sized nation like France has to be nuclear.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century our country's military strength came from our numbers: we could confront any state, and only a great coalition of states could defeat us. At the beginning of the twentieth century, although our demographic situation had worsened, we were able, thanks to our overseas territories, to reëstablish numerical equality or even superiority. Now, near the close of the twentieth century, everything has changed: France is henceforth a middle-sized country in terms of population, and in the atomic age the credibility of military policy is no longer based on numbers. Does possession of nuclear weapons lend France the credibility that numbers would no longer bring her even if she still possessed them? This question is frequently debated, but it can nevertheless be answered without hesitation in the affirmative. For it is clear that to deter a would-be aggressor does not require parity of nuclear armament but simply the ability to bring to bear on him a threat proportionate to the importance he attaches to the desired conquest
In short, France's aspirations to play a fitting international role and the change in defense strategy brought about by the advent of nuclear weapons converge to justify France's present military policy. The foundations of this policy were laid down by General de Gaulle and we shall pursue them tenaciously.
Although France rejects notions of hegemony and temptations to neutrality, and is resolved to preserve her freedom of decision, at the same time recognizing the necessity for alliances, she must possess military capabilities commensurate with the interests she has to defend. Her vital interests are mainly located on her own soil and her major interests are in Europe, but she also has responsibilities, although of lesser and varying importance, throughout the world-in the Mediterranean, in the Atlantic, in her overseas departments and territories, in French-speaking Africa, and, more generally, wherever her presence or her intervention either are or would be useful in maintaining or restoring peace.
To defend these interests and carry out these obligations France requires a military apparatus with capabilities that can easily be defined. In the first place, a capacity to carry out nuclear strikes assures France her supreme freedom of decision. The level of corresponding forces is fixed in terms of the rate of casualties and material damage that we estimate as sufficient to deter a possible aggressor from attacking our national territory. The credibility of these forces depends on their level, and also on the internal security forces which must forestall any attempt to disarm us preëmptively. In addition, if the deterrent were neutralized, the operational territorial defense forces would go into action to fight the invader and organize resistance on the home front.
In the second place, we have our air and land and our air and sea forces for both reconnaissance and combat Their function is to furnish the government with the information and the means to fight which would be necessary in order to make a deliberate decision to resort to nuclear response. They also make France able to contribute, along with her allies, to the settlement of crises in Europe.
Finally, our forces of intervention have the mission of assuring the defense of our interests, especially in the Atlantic and in the Mediterranean. They put us in a position to intervene in French-speaking Africa, where we are linked to certain states by aid agreements, and, on occasion, in the rest of the world. The importance of this capacity to intervene outside Europe is not very high, but it has to be maintained. We must be able to assert ourselves, whether in a limited manner and solely on our own initiative in a particular theater of operations, or under other circumstances as part of a joint action.
But to give the government full autonomy of decision, these various military capabilities must be the product of a national effort of scientific research and technological development. This element in our defense policy is of paramount importance in a time when innovations are frequent and often revolutionary. It assures our indispensable freedom of choice in armaments, and it also contributes to the development of technologically advanced industries.
The fact that France intends to remain free to choose her own policy, and to act as she sees fit, does not in any way exclude coöperation with other countries. She cannot ignore the fact that her freedom is bounded by the realities of a very complex world. Some of the constraints are rigid, some tense, some confused, and everywhere they are crisscrossed by the many and varied relationships between nations. In short, the will to be oneself cannot operate-or even make any sense-apart from the necessity to live with others.
Coöperation is common sense; it is not only desirable, it is imperative for people who are aware of the dangers that surround them and who understand how closely they are bound to other nations. Often coöperation provides the only means of making progress toward solving the difficult problems of our times and of attempting to regulate, if not avoid, the crises in which the interests of one and another are inextricably bound together. Nations that wish to contribute effectively to building a better future and enlarging the opportunities for peace have a duty to strengthen these bonds.
As far as Europe is concerned, it is very much in this spirit that we attach such great importance to the Franco-German treaty and to our membership in the Atlantic Alliance. In the same spirit we pursue the policy of an opening to the East, in particular with regard to the Soviet Union. This policy, like our withdrawal from the military organization of the Atlantic Alliance, marks-though on a different plane-our resolute opposition to the policy of blocs. We feel that such a policy dangerously and artificially limits the development of international links and generates suspicion and tension. There are better things to be done with the development of a language common to all those interested in the security of our old continent.
Coöperation, then, is salutary; but it also must be practicable, reconciling and respecting the interests of each partner. In fact, it is limited to the area, often restricted, in which the interested parties can reach agreements without either ulterior motives or major risks. The lessons of history and the realities of geography teach us the difficulties and limitations of coöperation. Today, in the field of defense, the difficulties have conspicuously increased and the limitations are distinctly marked (as we have seen) by the constraints imposed by nuclear strategy.
Because the nuclear risk is not divisible, any nuclear coöperation which might have a strategic character is simply not possible. The decision to employ nuclear forces can be made only by a single nation, which is to say that any regulations laid down in advance, which set forth the conditions for employment, diminish the deterrent's credibility. The effect, in other words, is the opposite of the one sought in theory.
Limitations also apply to coöperation of our conventional forces in the European theater. Of course, France could not remain aloof from the settlement of the disputes or crises that might endanger the security of the continent. But just because it is hard to imagine an armed conflict occurring in Europe that would not ultimately jeopardize our vital interests, we cannot permit tensions to be transformed into serious conflicts; this would be contrary to our policy of avoiding such conflicts.
Our operational coöperation with our allies thus will express? as circumstances require, our desire to discourage and eventually contain aggression at its source. But we will not use up, by resorting to deterrent man?uvres, the means that would be available to us to halt aggression in its tracks if it actually occurs.
Within the precise limits thus laid down, there are many important methods of operational coöperation. It finds expression through particular and precise agreements which enrich the instruction and improve the effectiveness of our conventional forces-to the extent, that is, that such agreements do not limit the use of such forces. The same is true of agreements relating to aerial defense or tactical commmunication systems.
Where vital interests are no longer in jeopardy, possibilities for coöperation are increasing. On the sea the situation is more flexible than on land; there the protection of our national interests, in particular maintenance of our freedom of movement in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, has much to gain from coöperation with countries with interests similar to ours. Our will to take part in keeping the peace in the Mediterranean basin, especially the western part, is based on our coöperation with the coastal states. Finally, we attach a special value to coöperation with the countries of French-speaking Africa; our agreements with them are among their guarantees of independence.
But even if the field for coöperation is very broad, it remains a fact that any armed intervention, even on a limited scale, is a grave matter in itself, to be used only in circumstances when vital interests are clearly jeopardized, not only in the eyes of the coöperating parties but in those of international opinion.
Another area open to military coöperation is technology. In everything having to do with conventional arms, coöperation often provides effectiveness and reduces cost. Once again, it is a different story with nuclear weapons. Coöperation here with the United States or Great Britain comes up against the MacMahon Act, which involves the essential nature of nuclear secrets. Exceptions to the MacMahon Act were granted by the United States to its privileged ally, Great Britain. But France was not at Nassau. As a continental nation, the national character of her nuclear armament, the basis of her independent defense, is at the heart of her political freedom.
Having set forth the principles of French defense policy and defined the kinds of coöperation in defense matters which are based on them, we must examine the validity of that policy for the future in light of the possible evolution of the world political and strategic situation, principally in Europe.
The progressive rise of China is making the bipolar ideological and strategic antagonism of the United States and Soviet Russia obsolete, and making them conscious of the strain on their respective economies resulting from their nuclear rivalry. At this time they are engaged in the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT). These negotiations, aiming to limit the arms race and minimize the risks of a major confrontation between the two superpowers, must have the support in principle of the entire world. They seek to limit their defense budgets and to guarantee their own security, thanks to the balance that has at last been struck because of the risks that would be run by both sides in the eventuality-by now unthinkable-of a direct nuclear confrontation. But in fixing the strategic situation in accordance with their vital interests, might not the two superpowers create new dangers in theaters that for them are secondary? In such cases, might not their confrontation, perhaps by way of intervening states, become actually less improbable, being confined within limits set in advance?
Can Europeans help wondering whether their territory may not become a secondary theater of war for the superpowers?
While the SALT negotiations proceed, some people raise the possibility that the United States may disengage from Europe and reduce its forces there. Such a disengagement would be part, of course, of an attempt to set up an equilibrium that would be less costly for the two superpowers. Does this not risk that if the SALT negotiations succeed, the situation in Europe will tend to be less stable? Moreover, one may question how far the United States can go in this direction. Can it possibly dissociate itself from the North Atlantic and from the Mediterranean, which more than ever is one of the world's sensitive regions, where so many interests of so many nations converge, some of them tied closely to the United States?
The Russians' viewpoint in these matters is quite different No doubt they seek the same balance of nuclear forces. But can they retreat from those "outer fortifications," the satellites? These are still necessary to protect their own territory, even though 25 years of Soviet military presence there has not stamped out the yearning for national independence, and in spite of the exceedingly brisk competition that has grown up between the Soviet and Chinese interpretations of communism. The answer is no, it cannot. Soviet policy is interested in finding a balance of forces with the United States. But the limits of Soviet disengagement are quickly reached.
What new strategy, then, could the United States find for participating in the defense of Europe, on the hypothesis that there will be a significant reduction of the military strength at its disposal? Some experts have advanced the possibility of using tactical nuclear weapons very soon after the outbreak of hostilities. But is such a strategy practicable without entailing an unacceptable risk of destruction in Europe?
Whether a nuclear war was won or lost it would not fail to have disastrous effects on densely populated European territories. Any strategic policy based on such a radical formula-which leaves little room for temporizing, which does not permit the correction of mistaken appraisals or clumsy executions, and which prematurely seals up every outlet for moderating dialogue-any such strategic policy seems to me very poorly designed for guaranteeing the security of the countries where it would be applied. Even in terms of their own interests alone, can the two superpowers themselves accept the possibility of the destruction of Europe?
Consequently-and taking the Soviet attitude into account-the necessary condition for a significant withdrawal of American forces from Europe may be that the European nations find new formulas to assure the continent's strategic stability. Such formulas should be, first of all, in their own interest, but also, in the long run, in the interest of the superpowers.
Since Europe cannot agree to being both the object and the theater of a nuclear confrontation between the superpowers, certain modalities now envisaged for the defense of Europe seem to me unacceptable. In the nuclear age, the primary objective of a defense system is to safeguard the peace. Not any peace at any price, certainly, but a peace that assures every nation the freedom to pursue its own destiny. For us, it is less a question of preparing for victory one day than of deflecting permanently every threat of conflict, so that it will not be necessary to win.
In other words, the security of Europe can rest only on deterrence and on the strategic nuclear weapon which is its instrument. But as stated, the very nature of the nuclear weapon restricts it to the national arsenal for a long time to come. Moreover, Germany's particular situation excludes her from possessing and employing nuclear weapons. Thus, Europe absolutely cannot count on a European weapon to guarantee her security around the world.
She cannot count, either, on a political agreement. France is certainly ready to participate in a European security conference. But even if a conference led to the proclamation, by unanimous agreement, of the principles of balance and stability in Europe, that could not settle everything. Plenty of problems would remain, including the Germany problem, which still lies at the heart and center of European security.
The foregoing reflections have an uncertain and hypothetical character, but the potentialities which they point to cannot be categorically rejected at present
All this only highlights the positive character of the French defense system, which undeniably constitutes a determining and stabilizing factor in European security. It would weigh in the balance as heavily in a crisis as it would around a conference table. Indeed, although the French deterrent can and should play a role when the nation's vital interests are threatened, France is not isolated. Western Europe as a whole cannot fail to benefit indirectly from the French strategy, even though decisions-and it cannot be otherwise-belong to France alone, in the person of the President of the Republic.
Because France is not isolated, it is also true, of course, that even though developments abroad cannot change anything fundamentally, they can influence the operation of French defense policy. Clearly, for example, the introduction and activation of our mobile forces are not independent of the moves of allied forces, particularly of the German forces, which in the event of a crisis would be the first ones in action. It is no less clear that, while the employment of our tactical atomic weapons is the responsibility of the French government alone, it will take place in response to a situation recognized generally as grave.
It is a question here of a genuine solidarity quite independent of the system of collective defense conceived of at the time when the nations of Western Europe had no freedom of action other than what the two superpowers granted them. This solidarity is in no sense incompatible with a diplomatic effort directed, through agreement with the U.S.S.R., toward the consolidation of the European situation which is a condition of world peace.
Truly, France's acquisition of a nuclear capability has profoundly modified the situation of the Atlantic Alliance for the good of all the allies. It has made relations among members of the Alliance more honest by rejecting the earlier dogma that in all cases the interests of the European nations were identical with those of the United States. Today, those who have advocated methods of integration that in fact led to subordination pure and simple, those who tried to hide the reality of things-even those people have finally realized that in NATO, as in Hans Christian Andersen's story, "the emperor has no clothes."
The existence of an independent French strategic nuclear force, the central element of our whole military apparatus, constitutes a valuable factor in European security. Our national strategy does not pretend to solve all the problems of the defense of Europe. But it constitutes a primary and exemplary rallying-point, at the same time that it enables France to assert an independent policy in Europe in the service of collective security.
So it is that France, assuming her own defense, and ready should the occasion arise to coöperate with her allies and with all countries concerned with peace and freedom, is pursuing a policy of independence which is a fundamental and durable element in the Europe-and in the world- of tomorrow.