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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Nuclear Test Costs Dwarfed Benefits




PARIS -- The political pain caused by President Jacques Chirac's decision to resume French nuclear tests for a final series almost certainly outweighed the military gain, strategic analysts say.


Chirac's decision last June unleashed a far bigger firestorm of world protest than his advisers had anticipated, projecting an ugly image of France and, most seriously from Paris' point of view, alienating large sections of European public opinion.


The Gaullist leader said tests were vital to maintain France's force de frappe (strike force) in a post-testing era by allowing computer simulation.


Chirac announced an end to the bitterly-disputed South Pacific tests Monday after six underground blasts in the last five months, including the last and biggest test Saturday.


Dominique Moisi, deputy director of the French Institute for International Relations, said: "The benefits, if they exist, are technical: a modernized, more reliable and safer weapon. A civilian has no way of judging."


Despite calls for a consumer boycott of French goods, the economic impact appears to have been slight. France remained the world's No. 1 tourist destination in 1995. A dip in sales of high-profile wines in Japan and Northern Europe was almost the only economic cost.


Moisi said the main costs were diplomatic and political, citing "the reinforcement of an arrogant, selfish image of France in international civil society" and "self-isolation at an important moment for the future of European construction."


When Prime Minister Alain Jupp? proposed a policy of "concerted deterrence," in which Paris might extend its nuclear umbrella to protect its European Union partners, there were few takers. Ten of 15 EU members voted at the United Nations for a halt to testing last year.