French General de Villiers Quits Over Macron’s Budget Cuts
Chief of Staff Resigns Over Defence Budget Cuts
General Pierre de Villiers, the French Chief of Staff, has resigned in protest over President Emmanuel Macron’s drastic cuts to the defence budget, according to the BBC.
France’s government last week revealed major cuts to bring its budget deficit below the level of an EU cap. In response, General de Villiers said that he could no longer “guarantee the durability of the army model” that was necessary to ensure the protection of France.
Macron Bluster Backfires Over Budget Blunder
Following the budget decision, Macron attempted to stifle comment by the military. “It is not dignified to hold certain debates in the public arena,” he said in a speech at the French ministry of defence last week.
In an interview with Le Journal du Dimanche, he was more direct: “If the military chief of staff and the president are opposed on something, the military chief of staff goes.”
He added that, as long as he “knows the chain of command and how it works”, the general had his “full trust” .
The de Villiers and Macron had been due to meet on Friday to discuss matters.
French Defence Spending Cut by €850m
Macron intends to cut military spending budget for 2017 by €850m ($975m; £752m). Most of this will be clawed back from equipment spending.
General de Villiers warned a parliamentary committee last week that the government should not cross him on the matter of defence spending.
General de Villiers was appointed Chief of Staff in February 2014 and had his tenure extended by the current government in June.
Not long after he took up his role he had threatened to walk out over budget cuts that were later canceled.
De Villiers said he believed that it was his duty to tell politicians of his “reservations” as he announced his resignation on Wednesday, July 19.
Henri Bentégeat, the former French Chief of Staff, told Le Monde that the president had the authority to impose his will, but added, “The way he did it will leave marks. You can’t publicly question a military leader like that in front of his subordinates.”
Serious Flaw in Macronomics
Macron’s move comes as he tries to get the French budget deficit below the European Union cap of 3% of national income for 2017. Short-term raiding of the defence budget is the key element in this strategy. The government has targeted €850m of military spending, meaning that new military equipment orders will be delayed or cancelled.
Macron has also said that he intended to raise defence spending by €1.5bn to €34.2bn in 2018 and has pledged to bring the defence budget up to NATO’s target of 2% by 2025. It is currently at 1.77% of GDP, meaning that a further €2bn per year would need to be invested.
General de Villiers is reported to have told French told MPs last week: “I know when I am being had.”