Published: Thu, July 20, 2017
Global | By Maureen Mccoy

France's Army Chief Steps Down After Defense-Spending Fight With Macron

France's Army Chief Steps Down After Defense-Spending Fight With Macron

Differences between Macron and General Pierre De Villiers came out in the open last week when the chief of staff sharply criticized government plans to cut this year's defense budget in a closed-door parliamentary committee, according to leaked reports.

"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.

"Armies basically obey. So in substance the president was within his rights to restate his authority, but the way [Macron] did it will leave marks." former French chief of armed forces Henri Bentégeat told Le Monde.

Pierre de Villiers said he could no longer guarantee the "robustness of the defence forces" given the financial restrictions.

French government spokesman Christophe Castaner told reporters that Macron has nominated Gen. Francois Lecointre, a career military officer, as the new chief of staff.

The general's departure was not a surprise since Mr Macron subjected him to a public dressing-down last week over his objections to an €850 million cut imposed on the defence ministry this month.

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Gen de Villiers' resignation comes a day after a bill to toughen France's security laws passed its first reading.

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

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

The development is a new obstacle for the recently elected president.

On Friday, de Villiers wrote on his Facebook, "no one deserves to be blindly followed", referring to the French president.

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. President Donald Trump is saluting the United States' "unbreakable" bond with France. He also intends to rein in the country's fiscal deficit to below 3 percent of gross domestic product, in line with European Union rules.

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