French Interior Minister and presidential hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy urged a revision of the country's defense strategy, though he said in an interview published Thursday that France must keep its nuclear deterrent.
Sarkozy, who heads France's governing conservative party and openly covets the presidency, said France needs to adapt its defense strategy to respond to the new terrorist threat.
"Today, the adversary is no longer the Soviet Empire which no longer exists but terrorism and proliferation," Sarkozy told the French review, The Best of the Worlds.
"Are we adapted to this new fight? Is our strategy the right one?" he asked, adding it is "a debate which deserves to be had."
Sarkozy said France's nuclear strategy would need to be examined within the framework of the larger revision of the country's defense strategy but insisted on the need to retain the nuclear deterrent.
France and Britain are Europe's sole nuclear powers.
Sarkozy criticized President Jacques Chirac, whom he aims to replace in next year's elections, saying the French leader's personal relationships with Chinese and Russian leaders undermined France's standing on the international stage.
"I cannot accept that with the pretext of having good relations with China or Russia we can abstain from saying what we think regarding the universal values that our country is known around the world for," he said.
He added that France sometimes "seems willing to exchange its principles in the name of realpolitik."