Emmanuel Macron plans to pump billions into French military spending

France's armed forces need to be ready for new threats and technological attacks

A soldier salutes French President Emmanuel Macron at the Mont-de-Marsan airbase, where he proposed a substantial boost in military spending. AP
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France's defence budget should be increased by a third for the next seven years to purchase new technology such as drones so that the country can be ready to tackle changing threats and battlefronts, President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday.

Parliament will be urged to approve his new budget of more than €400 billion ($430 billion) for 2024-2030, up from €295 billion for the 2019-2025 period.

The announcement of major spending came a day after more than a million people protested in France against a proposed reform to pensions and the raising of the retirement age.

“As war is changing, France has and will have armies ready for the perils of the century,” Mr Macron said at the Mont-de-Marsan military airbase in south-western France. “We need to be one war ahead.”

He said the military needed to be ready for new threats and technological attacks.

“After repairing the armed forces, we are going to transform them,” he said. “We need to do better and do it differently.”

France needs to develop the military capabilities “because we won't choose the conflicts we will have to wage”, Mr Macron said.

French President Emmanuel Macron is shown a military drone. EPA

The news caused French defence stocks to outperform the Paris bourse.

Thales SA shares rose 2.1 per cent, the biggest increase on the French blue chip index CAC 40. Safran SA added 1.6 per cent and Dassault Aviation rose 2.8 per cent.

Mr Macron also said the budget for military intelligence would also be increased by 60 per cent for the same period, and he hoped to double the country's ability to respond to major cyber attacks.

The presidency has also said France wanted to increase its air defences by 50 per cent.

The new defence bill also aims to boost military equipment production “to respond to the needs of the armed forces” but also “to the expectations of a partner” such as Ukraine, the Elysee Palace has said.

Paris has boosted its defence spending in recent years, but its military capacities have come under scrutiny since Russia in February last year invaded pro-western Ukraine.

France has delivered weapons to Ukraine since the invasion, but at a slower rate than some of Kyiv's other western allies.

It has provided weaponry such as the Caesar howitzer artillery system and created a fund of €200 million for Ukraine to buy equipment directly from French manufacturers.

The French government has also pledged to hand over highly mobile AMX-10 RC light tanks, which are wheeled rather than tracked but have a much heavier cannon typical of a tank.

France's needs are not the same as Ukraine's, the French presidency has said.

“France is not Ukraine. It doesn't have the same security interests, and doesn't have a border with Russia,” it has said.

“We have nuclear weapons and we belong to the European Union and Nato.”

But it does need to be able to respond rapidly within a European framework, with or without Nato, which would mean deploying 20,000 troops at short notice.

Updated: January 20, 2023, 10:33 PM
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