France's armed forces chief resigns

Posted July 20, 2017

The head of the French armed forces has quit after a clash with President Emmanuel Macron over budget cuts.

At a parliamentary committee meeting last week, de Villiers said he would not allow the French armed forces to be "screwed" by budget cuts.

"Consequently, I assumed my responsibilities by presenting the resignation to the President of the Republic today, which he accepted", including an official press release published by General Villiers.

Macron later told a newspaper that, in the case of a dispute between the head of the armed forces and the president, "it is the chief of staff who will change his position".

The military is being asked to shoulder about 20 percent of the total anticipated cuts to the French budget this year, which would mean a reduction of 850 million euros, about $979 million, in military spending.

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Mr Macron's approval rating fell five points to 54 per cent in July, according to a monthly poll by BVA for Orange and La Tribune.

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Macron appointed General Francois Lecointre to be France's new military chief later Wednesday. When Gen de Villiers criticised the cut last week, it was at a meeting with deputies that was supposed to be off the record.

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

Damien Abad, a member of the opposition Republicans who sits on the parliamentary defense committee, tweeted that Macron's "excessive authoritarianism led to the resignation".

In a Facebook "letter to a young recruit" last week, he wrote: "As everyone has their shortcomings, no one should be blindly followed". 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.

In his first foreign visit after taking office, he visited French troops engaged in counter-terrorism operations in the West African country of Mali.

Macron says the belt-tightening is temporary and that he remains committed to boosting defence spending to 2.0 percent of gross domestic product by 2025 (around 50 billion euros), in line with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation targets.