Sunday, March 23, 2008

Nico le Terrible

There is a lot to say about Nicolas Sarkozy's speech in Cherbourg last Friday during the launch of France's newest nuclear submarine, Le Terrible.

Not so much that he called for new limits on French nuclear weapons, as commentators emphasized [the French President uses every opportunity to remind everyone that his country is bankrupt, so it's hardly surprising]. But I was interested to see how he acknowledged the limits of nuclear weapons to protect the interests of France.

[The video of Sarkozy delivering his speech is relatively interesting, but I wish they'd shown the reactions from the audience made up of the crème de la crème of the nuclear establishment]

President Sarkozy reminded that the US and China, two of the original Nuclear Weapons States acknowledged in the Treaty on the Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) have not ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) of 1996 [let alone India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel who joined the nuclear weapons club since the NPT entered into force in the 1970s]. Sarkozy says he will propose to the international community "an action plan" which he wants the eight nuclear powers [I think he's forgotten Israel, hasn't he?] to endorse before the next Review Conference of the Parties to the NPT in 2010.

There is a lot of expectation about Monsieur and Madame Sarkozy's State visit to the UK this week. I wonder if on this occasion the UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown will join France and call upon the US and China to ratify the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty by 2010 at the latest. After all, both on the same days the UK and France signed (24 January 1996) and ratified (6 April 1998) the CTBT. It would thus make sense for them to ask together that their partners do the same.

President Sarkozy also announced support for a ban on the manufacture of nuclear weapons-grade fissile material. Whether this will be enough when the NPT Parties will assess in 2010 whether the Nuclear Weapons States are complying with the 13 steps agreed by consensus in 2000 remains to be seen. And whether it is consistent with France's pro-active nuclear plants wholesale campaign is an open question.

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