Disarmament is the topic that has exercised our minds this summer. Clearly, we cannot hope to do more than touch on a question on which so much scholarly work has been done. But we think that the three articles in this issue of RDN by leading French researchers will provide a reasonable insight into how it is viewed in France today.
Camille Grand explains the philosophy behind French disarmament diplomacy. Although since 1990 France has been a very enthusiastic advocate, it is still perceived as hostile to disarmament. Its conservative position is explained by its insistence that disarmament is not a moral goal per se: disarmament measures have to lead to greater security, whether in France, Europe or the world. Otherwise, prudence is necessary. The challenge for France is to make that link better understood.
The piece by Louis Gautier takes up the issue of France finding itself wrong-footed over its contrasting of the ‘virtual world of disarmament’ and the ‘real world of deterrence’. At the same time, an increase in the number of nuclear states is weakening deterrence. France has therefore tried to reconcile collective disarmament measures, which it seeks to promote, with its retention of a nuclear capability. It does not intend to lower its guard, but to avoid isolation it must try to stimulate the debate on nuclear deterrence within Europe.
The lengthy review by François Géré covers many aspects of disarmament, concluding that the big questions will remain unanswered for a long time. As far as France is concerned, despite its cuts in its nuclear forces and its adherence to treaties it is still sometimes seen as the odd man out. Yet its logic is to maintain simply an adequate capability to deter threats to its vital interests.
In addition to these articles, the French edition of RDN this summer also reproduces many essays on disarmament that we published between 1945 and 2009, reflecting the development of French thinking on this topic since the end of the Second World War.
It has not been RDN’s custom to publish letters to the Editor, mainly because our readers seem to have been shy at corresponding, but that is now changing: this issue ends with a letter commenting on an article we published in May. Readers please note that we welcome comments on the pieces we publish: we are in favour of openness and criticism. We invite you to put pen to paper, or, rather, finger to keyboard. One thing we would especially like to hear is your opinion of the English edition after its first six months as an electronic publication. If that opinion is positive you could let potential readers know too.