General Lecointre Named as New French Chief of Staff
General Lecointre to Take Over from General de Villiers
General François Lecointre, a career military officer, has been nominated France’s military chief, after his predecessor quit Wednesday in a dispute with President Emmanuel Macron over budget cuts in a new challenge to Macron’s administration and his economic reforms.
French government spokesman Christophe Castaner told reporters that Macron has nominated Lecointre as the new chief of staff of the armed forces, replacing Gen. Pierre de Villiers.
Lecointre served in Sarajevo during the Yugoslavia wars in the 1990s and recently led the EU military training mission in Mali to help fight Islamic extremists.
Macron’s office sought to play down tensions over de Villiers departure, even as French defense commentators described their public dispute as a serious crisis.
De Villiers’ office said the general submitted his resignation to Macron at a security council meeting Wednesday and the president accepted. Macron’s office did not immediately comment.
De Villiers lashed out at new spending curbs during a closed-door parliamentary commission meeting last week, according to leaked reports.
The dispute escalated over the past week, with de Villiers issuing an appeal on Facebook saying “Watch out for blind trust… Because no one is without shortcomings, no one deserves to be blindly followed.”
Without naming him directly, Macron then publicly upbraided de Villiers to military officials, saying, “it is not dignified to air certain debates in the public sphere. I made commitments [to budget cuts]. I am your boss.”
Macron’s own behavior has elicited criticism, notably by those who accuse him of authoritarian tendencies after he overwhelmingly won election in May and saw his new centrist party dominate last month’s parliamentary elections.
The resignation foreshadows the battles Macron will likely face as he tries to reduce the deficit and government spending and boost the stagnant economy.
While Macron has promised to boost defense spending to 2 percent of GDP by 2025 as part of France’s commitments to NATO, his budget minister last week announced limits on this year’s military expenses as part of an overall spending squeeze.
De Villiers, head of the military since 2014, insisted that it was his “duty” to express his concerns about military resources amid the sustained threat of extremist attacks.
“I have always taken care … to maintain a military model that guarantees the coherence between the threats that weigh on France and Europe, the missions of our armies that don’t stop growing, and the necessary budget means to fulfill them,” he said his resignation statement.
“I no longer consider myself in a position to ensure the durability of the military model that I believe in, to guarantee the protection of France and the French,” he said.
Who is François Lecointre?
Born on 6 February 1962 in Cherbourg, François Gérard Marie Lecointre is a long-serving French army officer. Along with Bruno Heluin, he led his men in the what has been described as the French Army’s last battle with fixed bayonets at the Battle of the Vrbanja Bridge in 1995.
After completing his preparatory classes at the Prytanée National Militaire in La Flèche , Francois Lecointre studied at the Saint – Cyr Military Special School (General Promotion Monclar) from 1984 to 1987 and then at the Infantry School from 1987 to 1988, before joining the 3rd Marine Infantry Regiment from 1988 to 1991.
Lieutenant Lecointre was appointed to the rank of captain of the naval troops on 1 July 1991. From 1993 to 1996, he was a combat company commander of the 3rd Marine Infantry Regiment in Vannes. Captain Lecointre participated in Operation Turquoise in 1994 in Rwanda. He commanded the 1st company of the 3rd RIMa of the Northern grouping of Operation Turquoise. He was then engaged with the French forces under the command of the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. On the orders of General Gobilliard and Colonel Sandahl, together with Lieutenant Heluin, he led two sections against the Bosnian Serb armed forces at the time of the Vrbanja bridge in Sarajevo 27 May 1995.
From 1996 to 1999, he was an instructor at the school of Coëtquidan (Morbihan), where he trained student officers in military tactics. From 2005 to 2007, Colonel Lecointre was the corps chief of the 3rd Marine Infantry Regiment in Vannes. From August 1 , 2011, he has served as commander of the 9th Marine Infantry Brigade in Poitiers until his appointment as a general and Commander of the European Union Training Mission to Mali in 2013. Since August 2016, he served as Head of the Prime Minister’s military cabinet.
Image: General Lecointre meets Malian soldiers during the European Union Training Mission to Mali in Koulikoro in 2013, by Taxandriarock (2013, CC3).