An Update on the French Nuclear Deterrent: The 2021 Budget – Second Line of Defense

By Pierre Tran

Paris – France recently published its 2021 draft defense budget, which set aside €5 billion ($5.9 billion) for the nuclear deterrent, taking a chunk out of a total budget of €39.2 billion.

Hitting that nice round number showed the significance of nuclear weapons, on which France relies for its seat at the top table reserved for world military powers.

The draft budget includes €1 billion of studies to develop the nuclear ballistic missile submarine, and a fourth generation nuclear-tipped, air-to-ground missile, the air-sol nucléaire 4ème génération (ASN4G) to replace the present nuclear-armed cruise missile, dubbed air-sol moyenne portée amélioré (ASMPA).

France is proud of ownership of such weapons and its permanent seat on the UN security council, two possessions perhaps not unrelated. The five holders of that prized placement on the council are Britain, France, China, Russia and the US, all holders of thermonuclear arms.

There are other members on that UN council but they hold rotating posts.

Other nations are developing nuclear weapons, with India and Pakistan perhaps joining China, France and the UK in the ranks of “second order nuclear powers” by 2030, said an Oct. 2 report from the Fondation de Recherche Stratégique, a think tank.

The spread of Covid 19, however, has sown seeds of doubt, as there may be a “significant drop in investment” on the modernization of nuclear weapons if the crisis extends in time and depth, wrote the authors, Emmanuelle Maitre and Bruno Tertrais.

Why nuclear counts for France

The French nuclear spending reflects political importance as
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