HomeThe Franco-German duo and nuclear deterrence: Between misgivings, misunderstandings, and implicit convergences (from 1954 until today)

HomeThe Franco-German duo and nuclear deterrence: Between misgivings, misunderstandings, and implicit convergences (from 1954 until today)

The Franco-German duo and nuclear deterrence: Between misgivings, misunderstandings, and implicit convergences (from 1954 until today)

Le « couple franco-allemand » et la dissuasion nucléaire : entre méfiance historique, malentendus réciproques et convergences implicites (de 1954 à nos jours)

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Published on Tuesday, June 21, 2016


Exista-t-il entre la France et l’Allemagne une incompatibilité nucléaire fondamentale et indépassable, qui hypothéqua tout projet d’Europe stratégique ? N’y a-t-il pas eu de tentatives de fonder un dialogue stratégique franco-allemand substantiel en matière nucléaire ? Quels buts les acteurs impliqués ont-ils poursuivi, et quelles leçons ont-ils pu tirer de ces éventuelles tentatives et de leurs échecs ?



In the early 1960s, facing the emergence of the French “force de frappe”, the Chancellor Adenauer asked candidly the French Ambassador François Seydoux: “This bomb, I really wonder against whom it is conceived.” The suspicious tone of this often quoted statement, sheds light on one of the main sources of misunderstanding between French and West-Germans as they both entered the nuclear era.

Indeed, the legacy of World War II and the bipolar division of Europe put France and the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) on a radically different stance towards the nuclear issue. Whereas France eventually managed to integrate the club of atomic powers, the hypothesis of a German nuclear bomb remained, following the famous Gaullist quote, “the last casus belli in the world”, stressing the extent to which the Soviets – and, as a consequence, their Western adversaries – resented such a scenario.

Behind the universal formulation of its clauses, the Non-Proliferation Treaty signed in 1968, the lynchpin of the bipolar nuclear order, was all about setting in stone the definitive FRG renunciation of the possession of nuclear weapons. In return, the FRG would welcome ever more numerous and powerful US nuclear weapons on its soil, and would only have a marginal role in the command and control of these weapons, exactly like the other European allies hosting such weapons (UK, Turkey, Italy).

By contrast, during the 1960s and 1970s, Vth Republic France managed to develop the third nuclear arsenal in the world, allowing Paris to assert more forcefully its divergences with Washington and other European countries, on the Atlantic Alliance’s military strategy. From 1959 onwards, the increasing intensity with which France asserted its independence gradually led to the French withdrawal from NATO integrated structures of military command in March 1966 – right at the same time when the FRG fostered its strategic cooperation with the US and the UK in the NATO framework – this dual and contradictory process giving birth to a real taboo regarding nuclear issues between Bonn and Paris. In France, the possession of the “bomb” nurtured the illusion of a fully recovered independence. In the FRG, the absence of a nationally controlled deterrent, coupled with the seemingly insuperable division of the country into two parts, reinforced the perception of an existential dependence on the US. This dissymmetry lies at the heart of French and German nuclear experience during the Cold War.

Nevertheless, a few German political actors, especially Adenauer, were deeply aware of the advantages the French nuclear program could offer: increased diplomatic room for maneuver vis-à-vis a sometimes bullish US ally, and more fundamentally, a counterweight to the weakening of the US strategic guarantee in the context of an emerging nuclear parity between the two superpowers. Maybe even more importantly, when France, in the second half of the 1960s, used its independent nuclear deterrent as an instrument to overcome the East-West antagonism by promoting “détente”, this policy prepared in many ways the logic of the “Ostpolitik”, contributing to the possibility of a German reunification in the future.

Hence, in spite of mutual misunderstanding and mistrust inherited from history, there has been, during certain “privileged moments” (e.g. the Berlin/Cuba crisis in 1958-1962, or the Euromissiles crisis in the early 1980s), a fertile strategic dialogue between French and German decision makers, including on nuclear issues.

Therefore, the central questions of this conference will be the following:

  • Is there a fundamental and insuperable nuclear incompatibility between France and Germany, jeopardizing any genuine project of a strategic Europe?
  • Does recent research add knowledge on specific attempts to open a substantial Franco-German strategic dialogue on nuclear issues?
  • Which aims did the actors pursue, and which lessons did they draw from these attempts – and from their failures?

Beyond the sole examination of these “privileged moments”, this conference will aim to identify and analyze potential phases of Franco-German cooperation, in which nuclear issues played a role, even indirectly, and will also include the study of mutual perceptions and Franco-German nuclear misunderstandings.


Thursday, 30 June 2016

  • 16:30 Meeting in front of the Hotel (before the departure to Kéroman)
  • 17:00 – 19:00 Guided Tour of the Former Submarine Base of Kéroman by Christophe Cérino, University of South Brittany 19:00 – 19:30 Travel by car to the Breton village of Larmor Plage
  • 19:30 Promenade along the Atlantic Wall

Friday, 1 July 2016

8:30 – 9:00 Arrival at the University of South Brittany – Welcome Coffee

9:00 – 9:30 Opening Session

Welcome address by Eric Limousin (Director of the Faculté de Lettres, Langues, Sciences Humaines et Sociales, University of South Brittany)

Introduction by the organisers:

  • Nicolas Badalassi (University of South Brittany, CERHIO),
  • Frédéric Gloriant (University of Paris III, ICEE),
  • Guillaume de Rougé (University of Paris III, ICEE)

9:30 – 11:00 Panel 1: From the Beginning of the Franco-German Strategic Dialogue to the Nuclear Ambiguities of the “Adenauer / de Gaulle” Era

Chair & Discussant: Benedikt Schoenborn (University of Tampere)

  • Elmar Hellendoorn (University of Utrecht), Nuclear Beginnings between Paris and Bonn. French Politico-Strategic Motives for Franco-German Uranium Enrichment and the ‘Syndicat d’études pour une usine de séparation isotopique européenne’, 1954-1957.
  • Andreas Lutsch (University of Würzburg; CISAC, Stanford University), From Bonn to Valhalla? Nuclear Assistance and West German Nuclear Ambitions, 1960-1963.
  • Frédéric Gloriant (University of Paris III, ICEE), De Gaulle’s Nuclear Policy towards West Germany: A Historiographical Reappraisal, 1958-1969.

11:00 – 11:15  Coffee Break

11:15 – 12:30  Panel 2: Ostpolitik and the Franco-German Nuclear Relations

Chair: Elmar Hellendoorn (University of Utrecht)

  • Benedikt Schoenborn (University of Tampere), Early Concepts of Ostpolitik and French Nuclear Deterrence.
  • Nicolas Badalassi (University of South Brittany, CERHIO), Franco-German Relations, European Security and Disarmament Issues in the Era of Ostpolitik, 1969-1974.

Discussant: Andreas Lutsch (University of Würzburg; CISAC, Stanford University)

12:30 – 14:00  Lunch

14:00 – 16:00  Panel 3: From the Euromissiles Crisis until the End of the Cold War

Chair & Discussant: Frédéric Bozo (University of Paris III, ICEE)

  • Ilaria Parisi (University of Paris III, ICEE), Moving to the “Second Circle” : French Deterrence, the Defence of Europe and the German Question, 1975-1983.
  • Yannick Pincé (University of Paris III, ICEE), France-Federal Germany: A strategic Debate that became Political during the Eighties.
  • Dominique Mongin (INALCO), Evolution of French Nuclear Strategy towards Germany during the Mitterrand’s Presidency.

16:00 – 16:30 Coffee Break

16:30 – 18:00  Panel 4: Controversies and Concepts: How Relevant is the Concept of “Extended Nuclear Deterrence” in the Franco-German Context?

Chair & Discussant: Oliver Meier (SWP, Berlin)

  • Joël Mouric (University of Western Brittany), Raymond Aron, Germany and the Atomic Bomb.
  • Christine Leah (Yale University), Extended Deterrence by Non-Superpower Nuclear Weapon States.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

9:00 – 11:00 Panel 5: Nuclear Uncertainties in the Post-Cold War Era

Chair : Dominique Mongin (INALCO)

  • Guillaume de Rougé (University of Paris III, ICEE), The French Commitment in the Alliance’s Nuclear Deterrence Debate since 2014: Rationale, Challenges, and Potential Implications for the Franco-German Relationship.
  • Oliver Meier (SWP, Berlin), Walking Together in Different Directions? Prospects for French-German Cooperation on Nuclear Deterrence and Arms Control.

Discussant: Christine Leah (Yale University)

  • 11:00 – 11:15  Coffee Break
  • 11:15 – 12:00 Conclusion and Debate


  • Université Bretagne Sud, 4 Rue Jean Zay
    Lorient, France (56100)


  • Thursday, June 30, 2016
  • Friday, July 01, 2016
  • Saturday, July 02, 2016

Attached files


  • France, Allemagne, guerre froide, dissuasion, nucléaire, europe, stratégie, construction européenne


  • Nicolas Badalassi
    courriel : nicolas [dot] badalassi [at] univ-ubs [dot] fr

Information source

  • Guillaume de Rougé
    courriel : guillaume [dot] de [dot] rouge [at] ens [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« The Franco-German duo and nuclear deterrence: Between misgivings, misunderstandings, and implicit convergences (from 1954 until today) », Conference, symposium, Calenda, Published on Tuesday, June 21, 2016, https://calenda.org/370830

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