News / Europe

    France Marks Bastille Day Amid Military Cuts

    • French Republican Guards ride in the parade during the traditional Bastille Day celebrations, on the Champs-Elysees, in Paris, July 14, 2014.
    • Dozens of doves are released after the Bastille Day parade in Paris, France, July 14, 2014.
    • French President Francois Hollande, standing left in the command car, drives down the Champs-Elysees during the Bastille Day parade in Paris, France, July 14, 2014.
    • Nine alphajets from the French Air Force Patrouille de France release a trail of national colors as they fly above the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Elysees during the annual Bastille Day military parade in Paris, July 14, 2014.
    • A French army helicopter flies past the Eiffel tower on its way to the Bastille Day parade in Paris, July 14, 2014.
    • Tanks rumble down the Champs-Elysee during the traditional Bastille Day parade in Paris, July 14, 2014.
    • French army helicopters approach the Arc de Triomphe during the Bastille Day parade in Paris, July 14, 2014.
    France Celebrates Bastille Day
    Lisa Bryant

    France observed its national holiday, Bastille Day, which it traditionally uses to showcase French military power with an annual parade down the Champs Elysees in Paris. But this year's July 14 celebrations come amid heightened tensions over cuts in defense spending and questions about whether France has the capacity to fulfill missions in Africa and elsewhere.

    As in previous years, this year's Bastille Day began with a display of France's military muscle - on the air and on the ground - before the usual picnics, balls and fireworks.

    Fighter jets streaked across the Paris sky - crossing the city in the space of seconds. This year marks the centenary anniversary of World War I.

    Troops from dozens of countries who fought in the Great War marched in Monday's Bastille Day parade in Paris alongside French forces.

    France has always placed high priority on its defense capabilities, including its nuclear arsenal. And France's military expenditure still ranks among the highest in the world. But the economy is still struggling and this year's Bastille Day also underscored fears of a weaker France.

    In per capita terms, French defense spending is at its lowest level since 1960. The government has announced it will cut 7,500 defense jobs between now and next year - and more than 34,000 posts by 2019.

    The cuts come as the United States has been urging European nations to spend more on defense, not less. They also come amid France's involvement in two peacekeeping operations in Africa - one in Mali and the other in Central African Republic.  

    On Sunday, French Defense Minister Jean Yves Le Drian announced the end of Operation Serval - the French military offensive against extremists in northern Mali. French troops will be redeployed to combat extremists in the larger Sahel region - which may be an even bigger challenge.

    The reductions have sparked anger within the ranks and at the top of the military establishment. In an unprecedented move, the heads of France's air force, army and navy reportedly threatened to resign in May if further cuts were made. "Is France's military faced with "mission impossible?" asked the latest edition of the weekly Journal du Dimanche newspaper.

    Former French defense minister Herve Morin added to the scathing criticism just hours before the Bastille Day parade.

    In a radio interview Monday, Morin said the morale of France's military is at an all-time low. He predicted further spending cuts were likely - even as the world faced a myriad of threats, and countries like Russia and China were beefing up their military.

    Polls show the majority of French don't want cuts in defense spending. The Bastille Day parade is over, but the questions and the grumbling over France's military and its future will likely continue for a long time to come.

    Bastille Day commemorates the storming of the Bastille fortress in Paris on July 14, 1789, marking the beginning of the French Revolution.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Not Again from: Canada
    July 14, 2014 12:46 PM
    Not a good deterrent situation; as we all can clearly observe, day by day global instability grows; armed conflicts are also increasing: in numbers, in greater numbers of populations involved; in the size of the conflict areas involved; in their complexity; in the type of weapons, because of advanced weapons" proliferation; and so on. Anything that affects deterrence negatively it is bad for peace and stability.

    France appears to be following the lead of Germany = continuous reduction in its forces; essentially more and more of the Western deterrent effort is being shifted onto the US taxpayer, and onto the children of US citizens. Such reducing moves show that the Western deterrence posture is further being degraded. Concurrently we observe that the ones that have the least proportional contribution, given their potential, to the alliances, have the loudest voices, and expect the greatest level of influence when seating at discussions; and often, ther influence is negative or has a dragging anchor effect.

    Time will come, if not already here now, when a proportional, to wealth/risk/ population...., index will need to be considered/developed, and applied to decision making, so that those that proportionally contribute the least, based on overall potential, their influence is reduced accordingly. It is not a good situation, because a reduction in overall deterrence increases the probability of war. A decrease in deterrent capacity also lessens the ability of alliances to influence positively negative events, without resorting to force.

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