Transparency is particularly important in building trust, which is essential in arms control and disarmament, and a factor of strategic stability.
The President of the French Republic underlined the importance of transparency in the speech he gave in Istres on Thursday 19 February 2015. He invited the nuclear powers to increase transparency, both as regards arsenals and the concrete disarmament efforts. Furthermore, following the latest NPT Review Conference, the five nuclear-weapon-States, in an increased spirit of transparency, decided to maintain the conferences in P5 format, in order to closely monitor the implementation of their commitments under the action plan adopted by consensus in 2010. Five new conference have since been organized in Paris (2011), Washington D.C.(2012), Geneva (2013), Beijing (2014) and London (2015). These useful and substantial exchanges cover a wide array of issues linked, among other things, to disarmament, the fight against proliferation, peaceful uses of atomic energy and more specifically, to terminology, transparency and "reporting". France is setting an example in this area :
Transparency of our doctrine
Paris, June 2008. Photo credit : Christophe Fiard
We regularly make our doctrine public (recently in the President’s Istres speech on 19 February 2015). Basic elements of our doctrine can be found in White Papers (in 1994 ; in the White Paper on Defence and National Security published in 2008 and 2013), which reflect strategic reviews submitted to the Parliament, in the reports attached to military planning laws, and in public speeches given by the President of the Republic and the Prime Minister.
Transparency of our forces
Since the end of the Cold War, France has chosen to be more transparent when it comes to its nuclear means :
In 2008, France announced the overall ceiling of its arsenal (fewer than 300 nuclear warheads) and highlighted that it has no other weapons besides those in its operational stockpile. This announcement was unprecedented. France is the first nuclear-weapons State to provide the total amount of its arsenal. All other nuclear powers should publish figures reflecting their nuclear arsenals (number of strategic operationally deployed weapons, but also stockpiled weapons and, for States possessing such weapons, non-strategic weapons).
Detargeting of France’s nuclear means, announced in 1997, constantly reaffirmed since. This means that since then, no French nuclear weapon is pointed at any particular target.
Prior notification of all our space launches and our missile launches and the annual publication of a declaration on our space and ballistic activities within the framework of the Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (HCOC).
Transparency of our concrete disarmament actions
Publication and dissemination, within the framework of the NPT, of brochures on our disarmament efforts ;
Dismantling of the testing site in the Pacific 1 in a manner that is transparent and open to the international community. In 1996, following the last nuclear testing campaign, the French Government decided to open the Centre d’expérimentations du Pacifique (nuclear testing center) to a mission of international experts tasked with assessing the impact of France tests on the environment. This is an unprecedented measure by a nuclear-weapon State. This mission resulted in an IAEA report.
Organization of visits of former Pierrelatte and Marcoule facilities producing fissile material for nuclear weapons for Conference on Disarmament Member States, non-governmental experts and journalists.
Publication of a national report during the NPT Preparatory Committee in 2014, which was updated in 2015 2, within a framework common to the P5 : as indicated in the Action Plan of the 2010 NPT Review Conference, the governments of the five nuclear-weapon NPT States or the "P5", are working to implement action 5 in order to "Further enhance transparency and increase mutual confidence" by setting up national reports on action 5 and our other commitments, in line with actions 20 and 21. Action 21 sets out : "As a confidence-building measure, all the nuclear-weapon States are encouraged to agree as soon as possible on a standard reporting form and to determine appropriate reporting intervals for the purpose of voluntarily providing standard information without prejudice to national security." The framework which we use for our national reports includes categories of themes grouping together relevant information ; it involves the three pillars of the NPT : disarmament, non-proliferation and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. We encourage all States Parties to present similar reports, in line with Action 20.
France is playing the transparency card. It hopes others will join it down this path. Disarmament efforts are rooted in trust which is built in transparency and reciprocity. It is important for all nuclear powers to move forward in the same direction.