Macron to hike military funds amid Ukraine war, new threats

PARIS (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday proposed to boost defense spending by more than a third through 2030 and to “transform” France’s nuclear-armed military, to better face evolving threats and take into account the impact of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Macron announced a proposal for 413 billion euros (nearly $450 billion) in military spending for the period of 2024-2030, to ensure “our freedom, our security, our prosperity, our place in the world.”

That compares with spending of about 295 billion euros in a similar military plan for 2019-2025.

The money would notably go to modernizing France’s nuclear arsenal, boosting intelligence spending by 60%, doubling the number of military reservists, reinforcing cyberdefense and developing more remote-controlled weapons.

“Nuclear deterrence is an element that makes France different from other countries in Europe. We see anew, in analyzing the war in Ukraine, its vital importance,” he said in a speech to military personnel at an air base in Mont-de-Marsan in southwest France. France is the only member of the 27-nation European Union with nuclear weapons, and the bloc is still largely dependent on the U.S. and NATO for defense.

Macron also wants to expand French submarine surveillance capacity to depths of 6,000 meters (nearly 20,000 feet), both for military reasons and to protect critical infrastructure such as undersea cables carrying energy and information across oceans that have come under threat.

Friday’s speech comes as defense officials from the U.S. and allies are meeting in Ramstein, Germany, to discuss further help for Ukraine.

Macron didn’t address Ukraine’s pleas to supply French Leclerc tanks — even after a tongue-in-cheek video released Thursday by Ukraine’s defense ministry vaunting the tanks as “compact, sporty, easy to park’’ and quoting French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre.

France already has provided Ukraine with 18 Caesar cannons, six TRF1 cannons, two Crotale air defense systems, rocket launcher units, anti-tank and anti-air weapons, armored vehicles, munitions, protective gear, medical equipment and military rations, according to Macron’s office. Earlier this month, France agreed to send AMX-10 RC armored surveillance and combat vehicles that in French are called “light tanks.”

France also is aiming to train at least 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers as part of EU-wide training efforts.

“What we are experiencing on European soil for the past year in Ukraine teaches us lessons,” Macron said.

“The threats are multiple, and mix together,” he said. “There is no longer a peace dividend, because of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine … The international order has ceded to a state of play between nations like we have not seen in decades.”

Macron noted threats from hybrid warfare, cyberattacks and continued threats from terrorism, and called for boosting the production capacity of the arms industry to be able to help Ukraine and supply the French military.

Among lessons of the Ukraine war, Macron’s office said the French military needs to be more reactive and ready for quick deployments, and have equipment that performs well, logistical support and ammunition.

Macron wants France’s military strategy to strengthen the country’s role as an independent global power. He called for reinforcing military partnerships with European neighbors as well as countries like Egypt, India, United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, and in Africa.

The new budget plan would need parliamentary approval. Macron’s centrist alliance doesn’t have a majority in either house of parliament, but military officers have long lamented shrinking spending on the armed forces, and conservative and far-right parties tend to support investment in defense.

France’s military budget reached 1.9% of gross domestic product in 2021, with a goal to reach 2% by 2025, as per NATO expectations.

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Bob Edme contributed to this report from Mont-de-Marsan.

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