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.

    You May Like

    Vietnam Urges US to Lift Lethal Weapons Ban Amid S. China Sea Tensions

    US president’s upcoming visit to Vietnam underscores strength of relationship, and lifting embargo would reflect that trust, ambassador says

    Are US Schools Turning a Blind Eye to Radical Qatari Preachers?

    Parade of radical Islamist clerics using mosque at Qatar’s Education City draws mounting criticism for American universities that maintain satellite branches there

    South Pole Diary: In Round-the-clock Darkness, Radiant Moon Shines Like the Sun

    You hear more and see more when the moon first comes out; it’s your senses in overdrive, tuning into a new world.

    This forum has been closed.
    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.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroadi
    X
    May 02, 2016 1:36 PM
    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora