UK defence secretary rebukes Macron over nuclear comments
President Emmanuel Macron revealed too much when he said France would not respond to the use of nuclear weapons by Russia in Ukraine with its own arsenal of nukes, British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has said.
Macron pointed out in an interview on Wednesday that his country’s nuclear doctrine “rests on the fundamental interests of the nation. They are defined clearly and wouldn’t be directly affected at all if, for example, there was a ballistic nuclear attack in Ukraine, in the region.” The French leader also tweeted on the same day that France does “not want a world war.”
Wallace was asked about the French president’s comments as he attended a meeting of NATO ministers in Brussels on Thursday. “It reveals President Macron’s hand,” he said.
“Our view is if Russia were to use a nuclear weapon, there would be severe consequences for Russia,” the defence secretary explained.
Unnamed NATO officials also told The Telegraph newspaper that Macron’s words threatened the “principles of deterrence.” The sources pointed out that “we don’t go into details on scenarios.”
At the event NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg reiterated that “[Russia’s President] Putin knows that if he uses a nuclear weapon in Ukraine, it will have severe consequences for Russia,” without expanding on what they might be.
US President Joe Biden said earlier this week that it would be “irresponsible” for him to discuss his response in case Russia decides to nuke Ukraine. US national security adviser, Jake Sullivan warned in September that such a development would have “catastrophic consequences” for Moscow.
What The Telegraph described as a “nuclear war of words” between Russia and the West started last month after Putin vowed that Moscow would use “all the means” at its disposal if Russian territorial integrity was threatened. The statement was interpreted by the US and its allies as a “veiled threat” to deploy nuclear weapons during the conflict in Ukraine.
Numerous Russian officials have since insisted that the country wasn’t threatening anybody with nukes and pointed to Russia’s military doctrine, which states that nuclear weapons may only be used if such arms or other weapons of mass destruction are being deployed against the state, or it is faced with an existential threat from conventional arms.