Army chief quits after budget cuts debate with President Emmanuel Macron

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The cuts to military spending are part of a EUR4.5 billion plan his government hastily put together in an attempt to get back on track with deficit reduction this year.

Mr Macron had said he would not tolerate dissent from the military. The pair had been scheduled to meet on Friday to try to sort out their differences.

Macron's office sought to play down tensions over de Villiers departure, even as French defense commentators described their public dispute as a serious crisis.

The deep cuts to the defense budget have angered the military because Macron has shown his support for the army, navy and air force since he came to power in May. He also reportedly said the president should not mess with him on the matter, using a far stronger expletive.

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. There are plenty of tributes being paid to the just-resigned chief of general staff Pierre de Villiers. One reason is that Emmanuel Macron had initially raised such hopes among the military.

France's defence spending was expected to be 1.78 per cent of gross domestic product this year, down from 1.96 per cent in 2010, despite heavy commitments including operations in Syria and sub-Saharan Africa.

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


His words were leaked, through no fault of his own.

Macron had gone public with his rebuke.

And that felt like a humiliation.

The five-star general, who served in Kosovo and Afghanistan and is widely liked by the rank and file, said that throughout his career, he had believed it was his duty to tell politicians "of my reservations".

"If something puts the chief of the armed forces at odds with the president of the republic, the chief of the armed forces changes", Mr. Macron said in the interview. "You can't publicly question a military leader like that in front of his subordinates". However, the interior and foreign ministries also had to face budget cuts.

"I won't let myself be f*** like that", he said according to two parliamentary sources.

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