French military chief quits after public row with Emmanuel Macron

Pierre de Villiers says he is no longer able to lead the forces 'necessary to guarantee the protection of France'

Macron and French Army
(Image credit: Thibault Camus/AFP/Getty Images)

The head of France's armed forces has resigned after a bitter row with the country's new President, Emmanuel Macron.

General Pierre de Villiers said he no longer felt able to command the sort of armed forces "that I think is necessary to guarantee the protection of France and the French people". No chief of staff has resigned since the post was created in its present form in 1962.

His exit comes after leaked reports suggest Macron is planning to renege on a promise not to cut military spending by slashing €850m (£750m) from the armed forces' budget as part of a drive to rein in public spending.

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"I'm not going to let him f*** me," de Villiers told a parliament committee.

Last week, Bloomberg reported the President had "caved in" to the military's demands for a funding freeze, but on Tuesday Macron hit back at the annual summer military garden party, telling army generals in a speech: "I am the boss.

"If something pits the military chief of staff against the President, the chief of staff changes," he added.

It is an "extraordinary" row for France, says Bloomberg, a country in which "the military adheres to a tradition of total public subservience to civilian authorities".

The "unprecedented" dispute "has reopened the debate on whether the French army, whose funding has steadily decreased over the past three decades, is being asked to do too much with too few resources", says The Guardian.

French forces are deployed in numerous sites around the world, including Africa and the Middle East, where they are fighting radical Islamic terrorism, and are heavily involved in domestic anti-terrorism patrols.

De Villiers's resignation may not bring the matter to a close, says Radio France International. "Other officers warned that Macron could pay a political price, both inside and outside the armed forces, if soldiers are killed in action and their deaths are blamed on poor equipment," it reports.

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