French defense chief de Villiers quits over clash with Macron

French military chief Pierre de Villiers resigned Wednesday in the aftermath of a public clash with President Emmanuel Macron last week. File Photo by David Silpa/UPI

July 19 (UPI) — French military chief Gen. Pierre de Villiers resigned Wednesday after a public clash with President Emmanuel Macron over defense funding.

De Villiers, upset by $980 million in proposed defense budget cuts, said in a statement that he could no longer command an army that’s “necessary to guarantee the protection of France and the French people.”

At a parliamentary committee meeting last week, de Villiers said he would not allow the French armed forces to be “screwed” by budget cuts.

“I may be stupid, but I know when I’m being had,” he said.

Macron responded in a meeting with military leaders on Friday that, “I am your president,” and encouraged loyalty and acceptance of his directions.

De Villiers, in a later Facebook post, did not name Macron but commented, “No one deserves to be blindly followed.”

Macon was criticized by some for his public dressing down of his country’s chief of military staff.

De Villiers’ resignation comes before France faces its first military crisis under Macron, who was elected in June.

“Armies basically obey. So in substance the president was within his rights to restate his authority, but the way [Macron] did it will leave marks.” former French chief of armed forces Henri Bentégeat told Le Monde. “You cannot publicly question a military leader like that in front of his subordinates. When Macron attends the first ceremony for a soldier killed because of a lack of equipment, all the criticism will be directed at him.”

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