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

French president faces test of his authority as head of military quits

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

Recently, a hostile argument had broken out between the two men, as the country prepared for Bastille Day parade where Macron hosted U.S. President Donald Trump.

General Pierre de Villiers, the French army's chief of staff, resigned on Wednesday after an increasingly bitter public feud with President Emmanuel Macron over proposed budget cuts to the military.

Macron has promised to boost defense spending to 2 percent of GDP by 2025 as part of France's commitments to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, but his budget minister last week announced limits on this year's military expenses.

General de Villiers reacted in a Facebook post this week, saying he could resign.

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De Villiers, appearing before a closed-door hearing of parliamentarians - had used strong language to protest at the 850 million euro ($A1.24 billion) defence budget cut Macron was making as part of his efforts to rein in state spending.

In an interview over the weekend, Macron said that "it is the chief of the defense staff who will change his position".

In an editorial to be published in Thursday's Le Monde newspaper, Gen Desportes accused Mr Macron of "juvenile authoritarianism" and said that there was a sense of "betrayal" in the armed forces. When his first act was to cut €850m for many - not just in the armed forces - that felt like a betrayal. De Villiers' noisy departure is rare.

"It's clear today that the executive can not bear a situation where its top public servants have a view of things that is different from the political view put together by the Elysee", Gen Vincent Desportes, former head of France's top main military school, said. What are the defence cuts all about? His government said last week it needs to find EUR20 billion of savings next year alone to meet its objectives.

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New equipment orders will be delayed or cancelled and the defence ministry is also being asked to take on the €1.3bn cost of foreign operations.

Macron, he said, had named Lecointre and also told ministers at a weekly cabinet meeting that he was still aiming to raise the defence budget to 2 percent of gross domestic product by 2025 despite cutbacks in 2017. That would mean a sum of €50bn - at least a further €2bn each year, unprecedented in France.

"I may be stupid, but I know when I'm being had", he said.

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