Jacques Chirac, France's president, on Thursday threatened to use nuclear weapons against any state that backed terrorism against his country or considered using weapons of mass destruction.
In a high-profile speech to military officers updating France's strategic doctrine, Mr Chirac said the end of the Cold war had removed neither the threats to peace nor the justification for a nuclear deterrent.
Citing the dangers of regional instability, rising extremism, and the proliferation of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, Mr Chirac said France's nuclear deterrence remained the "fundamental guarantee of our security."
Although Mr Chirac conceded that the country's nuclear arsenal could not deter fanatical terrorists, he said it could help prevent states from sponsoring those terrorists.
"The leaders of states who use terrorist means against us, as well as those who would consider using, in one way or another, weapons of mass destruction, must understand that they would lay themselves open to a firm and adapted response on our part. This response could be a conventional one. It could also be of a different kind," he said.
Opposition politicians immediately denounced Mr Chirac's comments on Thursday as "irresponsible."
France, which first acquired an autonomous nuclear deterrent in 1964, spends almost €3bn a year, or just under 10 per cent of its defence budget, to maintain its nuclear deterrent, including approximately 350 warheads. However, some politicians have questioned its relevance and complained about its cost in a post-Cold war world.
I've said before that the French remind me of the Americans, right?