French military head quits over Macron budget cuts

French military head quits over Macron budget cuts

President Emmanuel Macron made it clear that he will brook little dissent from subordinates in a standoff that climaxed Wednesday when the disgruntled French military chief quit over budget cuts - and was quickly replaced by a general seen as more "Macron-friendly".

Former chief of the French armed forces Henri Bentégeat told Le Monde that the president had the right to impose his authority, but added: "The way he did it will leave marks".

De Villiers said he had sought to maintain a French defence force able to do an increasingly hard job within the financial constraints imposed on it.

De Villiers said in his resignation statement he felt he had no choice but to stand down because "I no longer feel able to ensure the sustainability of the model of the armed forces that I think is necessary to guarantee the protection of France and the French people".

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.

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"Reservations" Gen de Villiers, 60, was infuriated by an €850m ($975m; £752m) cut in the military spending budget for 2017.

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Trump met with Macron in France earlier this month. De Villiers' noisy departure is rare.

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

President Macron's plans for military cutbacks have been criticised by opponents and even some in his own party.

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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.

Damien Abad, a lawmaker from the conservatives Republicans, also took issue with what he termed Macron's "excessive authoritarianism".

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 pledged during his election campaign to boost defense spending to 2 percent of gross domestic product by 2025, in line with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation targets.

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