Nuclear Weapons in Europe: British and French deterrence forces


  • Niklas Granholm
  • John Rydqvist

Publish date: 2018-04-26

Report number: FOI-R--4587--SE

Pages: 79

Written in: English


  • France
  • Great Britain
  • nuclear weapons
  • SSBN
  • deterrence
  • European security
  • United States
  • nuclear cooperation


Questions about the meaning, role and utility of nuclear deterrence in a European context has come to the fore in recent years. Russia has reemphasized the role of a full-spectrum nuclear arsenal. This includes increased reliance on substrategic nuclear weapons for battlefield use, to compensate for its perceived inferiority in conventional armaments. In Europe, the main multilateral and intergovernmental institutions and cooperation have been put under strain as a result of several negative developments. As a consequence the UK and France, Europe's two nuclear powers, are debating the role and composition of their respective deterrent forces. Multiple, complex security dilemmas, and the possibility that established alliances and partnerships might not be sufficiently reliable, inform the choices that have to be made. The study concludes that while the current arsenals will remain fundamental to national security, their long term futures are far from certain. Budgetary constraints, domestic politics, and strategic perceptions informed by national nuclear mentalities are the main factors determining the outcome and composition of French and British arsenals beyond 2030.