French military chief, scolded by Macron, resigns over defence budget cuts

Union Jack flags

Union Jack flags

France's most senior military chief has resigned after his blistering spat with the newly elected French president Emmanuel Macron over the army chief's suggestions that he can't guarantee the protection of France if President Macron's proposed budget cuts are implemented.

The dispute snowballed when the 39-year-old Macron told army top brass that he was "the boss" and debates should not be made public. Mr. Macron said in his election manifesto he would raise military spending to 2% of economic output by the end of his presidency, but that he would also cut overall spending by EUR60 billion to bring down the deficit and respect European budget rules.

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. De Villiers' noisy departure is rare.

Opposition Republican member Damien Abad, who sits on the parliamentary defense committee, blamed Macron's "excessive authoritarianism".

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"If the military Chief of Staff and the President are opposed on something, the military Chief of Staff goes", Macron had said.

The leader of the hard-left France Unbowed, Jean-Luc Melenchon, called it an "enormous mistake" on Macron's part.

De Villiers issued statements criticizing the cuts and reportedly told a group of lawmakers in the French parliament: "I will not let myself be fucked like this!" according to Le Monde.

Hours after being inaugurated Macron visited a hospital treating injured soldiers and his maiden foreign trip as leader took him to Mali to meet French troops engaged in counter-terrorism operations. His dissatisfaction came as France prepared to host U.S. President Donald Trump and display its military might on the national holiday of Bastille Day.

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The AP reported that Macron had initially pledged to increase defense spending to 2 percent of its gross domestic product by 2025 as part of the country's commitment to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

French forces are now engaged on three fronts.

Some 4,000 French soldiers are involved in efforts to stop the spread of extremism in West Africa.

French soldiers are also deployed in the streets of French cities under a state of emergency implemented after a series of terror attacks since 2015 that have killed almost 230 people.

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