Proposed Defense Cuts in France Raise Concern

Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Pymouss

Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Pymouss

French officials are doing everything they can to improve France’s financial situation. The latest proposed budget cuts affect the French military, an idea with which many in France are naturally displeased. Many French troops serving in the French military intervention in Mali are hoping that when they return, they will have the opportunity to be heard by the Chief of State at the time of verdict on the new proposed budget.

The left has made big strides in the realm of defense since Hollande was elected last May. French troops were withdrawn from Afghanistan, where they operated without setbacks. The left published a new White Paper – a report to help clarify an issue— on the history of France’s defense. Until this point, all other White Papers regarding defense had been signed by the right. They also prepared a new law concerning military programing (to take place from 2014-2019), and undertook the current operation in Mali. All of this has occurred in the midst of a massive war against deficits.

Before the strategic and budgetary choices are made, there will be a discussion in a new council of defense next Tuesday at the Elysée. The cuts (called scenario z) were proposed in Bercy – a major administrative neighborhood.

Member of Parliament Gwendal Rouillard, who is close to the Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, announced Wednesday March 27 that the future of France is at stake with the expected arbitration for the defense budget. He stated that Le Drian is currently quite alarmed: “It’s the future of France that is in jeopardy.” The scenario proposed in Bercy would drastically reduce the budget for French armies. He insisted that “France will find it difficult to protect her territories. The scenario is being fought by Le Drian who has proposed his own ideas, which Rouillard finds much more acceptable. He deems scenario Z to be “totally unacceptable for all of France.”

Needless to say, the stakes are high for Hollande. The Malian operation has procured him and Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian a solid position in the world. While many people are aware of Hollande’s appetite for economic and fiscal issues, few people know that he served fifteen years for the commission of defense as a part of the National Assembly, which can be compared to the eight and a half years that he spent with the commission of finances.

“It is imperative that no one exaggerates the “divorce” between the army and left: the relation was well maintained by Charles Hernu,” explained a mainstay of the majority. But this occurred during the first three years of François Mitterand’s presidency from 1981-1983. This was followed by Paul Quilès, Jean-Pierre Chevènement, Pierre Joxe and Alain Richard, from 1997 to 2002. Richard left the memory of a ministry that was well appreciated for its intellectual rigor and humanity, but criticized for its “war” with Kosovo, when it demanded that some money be saved. Richard’s legacy today reflects the current Minister of the Defense, Jean-Yves Le Drian. During the past ten months, the minister has molded his image to reflect closeness with the troops, and has set himself slightly apart from the anti-defense left.

Le Drian is not the only one who should be concerned by possible defense cuts, according to Claude Géant, a previous Minister of the Interior and secretary general at the Elysée. He believes that all French should be concerned because the power of the French army, its capacity to assure the defense of the country and to protect of its interests and values in the world should not even be a consideration when it comes to spending cuts. He reminded people that France should be proud of her recent actions in Afghanistan, Libya and the current mission in Mali. Géant foresees that in the future, France might no longer be a country that can undertake such actions.

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