France is a unique country in that it openly declares that is possess nuclear weapons and emphasizes the role of ballistic missiles in its nuclear Triad. France has maintained a policy of independent deterrent and withdrew from NATO integrated command structures in 1961. Two cornerstones of French nuclear policies during the Cold War are following:
The doctrine of
faible au fort (weak against the strong) which meant that it is possible to deter an opponent with relatively small nuclear arsenals
touts azimuts which means that if opponents can strike from any direction it is important in response to target weapons in all directions.
Nuclear weapons played a central role in the strategic doctrine of the country during the Cold War.After the end of the Cold War two major developments took place. Nuclear deterrence was divided from major conventional operations and emphasis was given to coalition operations, especially in the context of European operations. France then switched its doctrine so that if France was attacked it could use its nuclear weapons against relatively weaker states that possessed biological or chemical weapons.
France abandoned its policy of nuclear independence and is trying to realize its potential on the European theater by influencing the Common Security and Foreign Policy (CFSP). France has since dismantled its ground nuclear forces and its Hades tactical missile and there is continuous pressure to lower expenditures on nuclear forces.
France’s nuclear arsenal consists of 60 ALBMs and several types of aircraft able to carry them. The country also has 4 nuclear submarines capable of launching strategic SLBMs - type 16 M-45.