French Armed Forces Chief Quits After Marcon Clash

French Armed Forces Chief Quits After Marcon Clash

France's Emmanuel Macron was confronted with the first crisis of his presidency when the head of the armed forces resigned in protest at cuts to the defence budget.

De Villiers, whose role as head of France's armed forces was prolonged by Macron back in June, had initially publicly complained about the government's plan to cut the military's budget by €850 million, predominantly by saving money on equipment.

Gen de Villiers later posted a statement on Facebook in which he did not name Mr Macron but said "no-one deserves to be blindly followed".

In a newspaper interview at the weekend, Mr. Macron added that if there was a difference of opinion, "it is the chief of the defence staff who will change his position".

Gen Pierre de Villiers said in a statement he could no longer "guarantee the durability of the army model" that he considered necessary to ensure France's protection.

Retired general Vincent Desportes said the resignation was the greatest rupture between the French military and politician establishments since a failed coup d'état to overthrow de Gaulle in 1961.

While Macron has promised to boost defense spending to 2 percent of gross domestic product by 2025 as part of France's commitments to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, his budget minister last week announced a reduction of 870 million euros in military spending this year as part of an overall expense squeeze.

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The Military Chief De Villiers and President Macron were going through a rift ever since the President had announced a "cut" in the military budget.

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.

Jean-Luc Melenchon, the leader of the far-left France Unbowed movement, opined that de Villers' was correct to speak "frankly" during the closed door parliamentary defense meeting about budget cuts. President Donald Trump is saluting the United States' "unbreakable" bond with France.

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

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.

It also appeared at odds with Mr. Macron's commitment to increase military spending to 2 percent of G.D.P. - the amount that North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries are required to spend on defense - by 2025.

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