REPORT – After the resignation of General Pierre de Villiers, the President of the Republic went to the Istres military base on Thursday, accompanied by the new Chief of the Armed Forces, General François Lecointre.
From our special correspondent in Istres
The convoy of the president leaves the "red zone", this Thursday, July 20. The ultra-protected perimeter which houses, within the BA125 air base, the missile heads of the nuclear deterrent. SLeaving his car, Emmanuel Macron walks on the sun-drenched tarmac. He passes between the dark cabins of two C135 transport planes. He approaches a hundred soldiers, gathered for the occasion in the middle of the track. Flanked by the new Chief of Defense Staff, General Francois Lecointre, Emmanuel Macron proudly displays the new duo of the chain of command. The Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, follows, a few meters behind.
The calendar is timely. This visit was planned for a long time. It is part of a tour of strategic locations. The 4th of July, the president had visited the Ile-Longue submarine base. Except that this new meeting takes on a very special meaning this time, in the context of the resignation of General Pierre de Villiers, Chief of the Defense Staff (Cema).
Perched on a small platform, the President of the Republic hastens to reassure the troops still stunned by the crisis of recent days. To cajole them. To flatter their pride. “I am very happy to be here. I wanted to thank you for the welcome you gave me.” He insists on his "esteem", his "trust", the fundamental role of the mission of these soldiers, who listen to him politely. He promises to better take into consideration the place of the families of the soldiers. And announces, for this fall, a review of the “operational strategy” of the armies.
During the speech, the soldiers observe closely their new boss, slender silhouette and white hair. General Lecointre stands behind the speaker. He displays an impassive face, a straight, indecipherable gaze. Perhaps he is staring at the Awacs plane with its control tower and the Mirage 2000s that are parked. “General, says the president to him, I want to salute your exceptional operational career.”The four-star particularly distinguished itself during the conflict in Kosovo. Incidentally, Macron pays tribute to his predecessor: “General de Villiers wanted to hand over. It's his choice”, continues the president, saluting “a great soldier”.
Soothing words, which should not deceive. Behind the scenes, the executive did not appreciate seeing Cema slam the door with a bang. When the general submitted his resignation for the first time, Monday, July 16, the Elysée asked him to please wait “48 hours”. History to find the name of his replacement. Which was the case on July 19. But the resignation statement and the farewell note on General Pierre de Villiers' Facebook do not seem to have been appreciated. "The chief of staff was disloyal in his communication, he staged his resignation," protested government spokesman Christophe Castaner.
Dissatisfied, the minister continues his charge: "His departure has nothing to do with his hearing by the defense committee on July 12, even if Pierre de Villiers could have imagined that his remarks were going to leak, unless lack of experience." And to add: “It was his behavior that was unacceptable. We have never seen a Cema express himself via a blog, or go off with journalists or challenge candidates during the presidential election, as was the case. He behaved like a protesting poet (sic). We would have liked to hear his strategic and capability vision more than his budgetary comments.”
In Istres, in any case, the president wanted to be reassuring, including on the burning question of the army budget. “I will not let anyone say that such and such a budgetary choice is made at the expense of forces, of your daily life, of your security, it is false.” Emmanuel Macron does not, however, question the 850 million budget cuts planned for this year. However, he assures that the pressure will be less next year. From 2018, “we will increase our defense effort”. The budget will rise to “34,2 billion euros”. “This increase in a year where no other budget than that of the armies will be increased is unprecedented,” specifies the tenant of the Elysée. A little phrase that should not go unnoticed in other ministries... By wanting to reassure the "great mute", Emmanuel Macron takes the risk of lighting up other sources of concern...
The speech ends. Some unenthusiastic applause rings out. The Marseille sounds. Emmanuel Macron greets a few soldiers, then gets back into the car. Meanwhile, the president's desk and official flags are loaded onto an army cart, which is speeding toward a hangar. The soldiers return to their post. In a few moments, the track emptied. A soldier slips: “We do not whistle our leader. He's our leader, we respect him."
Source: © Le Figaro Premium – In Istres, the lukewarm applause of the military for Emmanuel Macron
Patricia JS Cambay
I appreciate General Lecointre's look at our nebulous Jupitarion, don't you?