France will boost military spending by more than one-third in the coming years, President Emmanuel Macron said, as he unveiled ambitions to transform the French army to deal with the great “perils” of this century.
Acknowledging the end of the “peace dividend” of the post-Cold War era, Macron said on Friday the planned 2024-2030 budget would adapt the military to the possibility of high-intensity conflicts, made all the more urgent since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine almost 11 months ago.
The spending spree is needed to ensure “our freedom, our security, our prosperity, our place in the world”, said Macron.
The budget for the period will stand at 413 billion euros ($447bn), up from 295 billion euros ($320bn) in 2019-2025, which means by 2030 France’s military budget would have doubled since he took power in 2017.
“As war is changing France has and will have armies ready for the perils of the century,” said Macron, speaking at the Mont-de-Marsan airbase in southwestern France. “We need to be one war ahead.”
The money would notably go to modernising France’s nuclear arsenal.
“Nuclear deterrence is an element that makes France different from other countries in Europe. We see anew, in analysing the war in Ukraine, its vital importance,” he said.
France will invest massively in drones and military intelligence, areas where French officials have said recent conflicts exposed gaps, and the military should pivot towards a strategy of high-intensity conflict.
Macron’s speech came as defence ministers from NATO and other countries met at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany amid warnings Russia will soon re-energise its invasion of Ukraine.
Although France is the world’s third-biggest arms exporter and the European Union’s sole nuclear power, it has come under criticism for not sending more weapons to Kyiv.
Macron has stepped up supplies since the middle of last year, sending Caesar truck-mounted howitzers and promising AMX-10 RC tank destroyers, but French officials have said operations in Africa and years of chronic under-investment have made it impossible to do more immediately.
Macron did not announce new support for Ukraine, but said France had to be ready for a new era with an accumulation of threats. Some were old wars, others more unprecedented, “between sophistication and brutal simplicity”, he said.
He also said France would beef up its capacity to respond to cyberattacks and increase the budget for military intelligence by nearly 60 percent.
Last year, the head of French military intelligence resigned just a month after Russia launched what it calls its “special military operation” against Ukraine for what officials said was a failure to predict the invasion.
Macron also said France would pay particular attention to its military presence in overseas territories, especially in the Asia-Pacific where new threats were emerging.
“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.”