Emmanuel Macron said he won’t use nuclear weapons if Russia does in Ukraine
UK defence secretary Ben Wallace said Mr Macron had ‘revealed’ his hand
It comes as Nato allies warn Russia of dire consequences should it go nuclear
Next week it will hold a drill with no live weapons to simulate an attack on Russia
Defence secretary Ben Wallace has rebuked Emmanuel Macron after the French president ruled out launching a nuclear strike on Russia.
The UK’s secretary of state for defence said Mr Macron had revealed his hand by confirming that if Vladimir Putin goes nuclear in Ukraine then France would not repay it in kind.
There are raised tensions that the Russian president could authorise a nuclear attack as his illegal invasion of Ukraine continues to falter, although the Kremlin has denied it intends to use its arsenal.
In recent weeks Nato allies have repeatedly warned that the consequences for Russia would be dire if it did launch such an attack, although the exact nature of these has been left deliberately ambiguous.
And these threats will loom large in the mind of Putin as nuclear bombers take off from bases in Britain next week in a drill to simulate a nuclear strike on his country.
The nuclear-readiness drill, which will take place over the course of next week, will see dozens of aircraft from Nato allies scrambled as part of the drill and in united show of force.
However, a chink in that united front appeared yesterday when Mr Macron seemed to rule out using his country’s nuclear arsenal in the event of a strike by Putin for fear of causing a ‘global war’.
Speaking with state broadcaster France 2, he said: ‘Our 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.’
When asked about the French president’s comments at a Nato meeting in Brussels yesterday, Mr Wallace said it ‘reveals President Macron’s hand’.
He added: ‘Our view is if Russia were to use a nuclear weapon, there would be severe consequences for Russia. It would be breaking the 1945 taboo on the use of nuclear weapons. And it would leave him incredibly isolated globally.
The Telegraph quotes sources at Nato as saying Mr Macron’s words could upset the ‘principles of deterrence’ and that he should not ‘talk about it publicly
answer, not a nuclear answer but such a powerful answer from the military side that the Russian army will be annihilated, and Putin should not be bluffing.’
Like Mr Stoltenberg, U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin also declined to speculate how NATO might respond to a nuclear strike, calling Russia’s threats ‘reckless’ and ‘irresponsible.’
‘As I look at indications and warnings, I don’t see any need to make any changes to what we’re doing right now,’ he told a news conference.
It comes as dozens of RAF jets and US air force planes have travelled to Europe in preparation for Nato drills to simulate launching nuclear strikes against Russia.
The drills, which are codenamed ‘Steadfast Noon’, will take place next week and will see 60 planes from 14 Nato nations scramble to simulate a nuclear attack on Putin.
Among the aircraft taking part will be F-15 Eagles based at RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk, which can carry nuclear weapons, as well as B-52s which are being flown over from the US.
The annual exercise, which does not involve live bombs, will see RAF Typhoons play the role of Russian MiG jets which would simulate Putin’s defences, The Sun reports.
The drills had been planned before Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine in February, with US officials saying it has been held regularly at around this time of year for more than a decade.
Cancelling the drills because of the war in Ukraine would have sent a ‘very wrong signal,’ Mr Stoltenberg said on Tuesday.
The bulk of the simulations will take place more than 1,000km (625 miles) from Russia, the US defence official said.
‘While we will continue routine activities to sustain our (nuclear) deterrent, there will be no special messaging around our exercises,’ the U.S. defence official said.
‘We think nuclear sabre rattling is reckless and irresponsible. Russia may choose to play that game but we won’t.’
The exercise comes as Russia gets set to host its annual Grom exercise, which normally takes place in late October and sees it test its nuclear-capable bombers, submarines and missiles.
Mr Stoltenberg said Nato would monitor Russia’s annual nuclear drills very closely, as it has done for decades, and remain vigilant ‘not least in light of the veiled nuclear threats and the dangerous rhetoric we have seen from the Russian side’.