International
0

Macron’s Military Strategy Called Into Question

The defense cuts by Emmanuel Macron are viewed by the military as a betrayal after his strong show of support for the armed forces during his first weeks in office
French President Emmanuel Macron (L) and former armed forces chief General Pierre de Villiers ride aboard a command car during the Bastille Day military parade in Paris on July 14.French President Emmanuel Macron (L) and former armed forces chief General Pierre de Villiers ride aboard a command car during the Bastille Day military parade in Paris on July 14.

President Emmanuel Macron attempted Thursday to mend fences with the military after the resignation of the armed forces chief in a row over budget cuts for which France’s new leader has drawn criticism.

General Pierre de Villiers quit on Wednesday after being publicly slapped down by Macron for protesting the government’s plans to slash 850 million euros ($980 million) from this year’s defense budget, France24 reported.

His resignation capped a week-long spat, during which Macron made clear he would brook no insubordination as commander-in-chief, drawing a mix of criticism and respect.

On Thursday, however, he reassured the troops in person at the Istres air base in southern France that they had his support. De Villiers’ replacement, General François Lecointre, was at Macron’s side for much of Thursday’s event. Lecointre, 55, is a heroic figure in France due partly because of his role in the now famous Vrbanja Bridge bayonet charge during the Balkans War.

Saying he “deeply respected” the military, which is engaged in operations against militants in Syria, Iraq and West Africa while also defending against attacks on home soil, Macron said: “I know what the nation owes you.”

  Macron VS Army?

France’s youngest-ever president, who has sought to project an image of authority since taking office in May, responded forcefully on the eve of the annual Bastille Day military parade.

Rebuking 60-year-old de Villiers, without naming him, for the “undignified” public spat, he told a gathering of military top brass: “I am your boss.”

On Wednesday, he held that line, insisting it was “not the job of the head of the armed forces” to question the defense budget.

In his resignation statement de Villiers said the spending cuts threatened the military’s ability “to guarantee the protection of France and the French people”.

  Betrayal

The French opposition held Macron chiefly responsible for the row, which many commentators saw as the first misstep of the centrist’s presidency.

The conservative Le Figaro daily accused the president of “shooting himself in the foot” in behaving “like a little departmental head who is obliged to remind everyone who’s boss”.

The leftist Libération newspaper said Macron’s “little authoritarian fit” could be a sign he was drunk on power and said it was time for him “to grow up a bit”.

Macron’s defense cuts —part of a 4.5-billion-euro reduction in spending aimed at bringing France’s budget deficit within EU limits— were viewed by the military as a betrayal after his strong show of support for the armed forces during his first weeks in office.

Retired general Dominique Trinquand, who advised Macron during his election campaign, said the row had clouded an otherwise “remarkable” debut with the military.

“This is a hitch that will probably be a bit difficult to get past,” he told AFP.

Nuclear-armed France and Britain are the biggest military powers in the European Union.

French forces are currently taking part in strikes against Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq and 4,000 French soldiers are involved in counter-terrorism efforts in west and central Africa.

At home, 7,000 soldiers are deployed to patrol the streets after a series of terror attacks that have killed more than 230 people since 2015.

 

Add new comment

Read our comment policy before posting your viewpoints

Financialtribune.com