President Emmanuel Macron pledged to increase French defense spending by the end of 2030 to boost the country’s capabilities in response to new global threats following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“The new conflicts of our century will not be our choice,” Macron said on Friday in a New Year’s address at the Mont-de-Marsan airbase in south-west France. “Because of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, there is no longer a peace dividend.”
He said the military budget for 2024-2030 would be €400 billion if parliament approved, with an additional €13 billion in revenue from asset sales. This corresponds to a 40 percent increase in defense spending from €295 billion in the last budget cycle from 2019 to 2025.
France’s defense ministry said the government is aiming to bring its spending above 2 percent of gross domestic product, in line with NATO commitments, but declined to provide specific forecasts.
France has regularly missed this target. According to NATO data, France spent about 1.8 percent of GDP on defense from 2014 to 2019, and 2 percent in 2020, last year’s data was available.
Germany last year pledged to meet the 2 percent target and pledged a €100 billion fund to modernize its army. Britain spends 2.2 percent of GDP on defense and has yet to commit to a large increase in its military budget.
Nuclear-armed France began increasing its defense budget in 2017 under the leadership of then-newly elected Macron. Those funds are aimed at “reinvesting and repairing our armies,” he said Friday, but more work remains to be done. Under the new budget, defense spending would increase to €59 billion annually by the end of 2030.
“Nuclear deterrence distinguishes France from other countries in Europe. Analyzing the war in Ukraine, we again see its crucial importance,” Macron said, adding that part of the additional military budget would be used to improve his country’s nuclear arsenal.
France will also use the larger budget to buy new tanks, fighter jets and drones and to overhaul existing equipment. Spending on military intelligence would also increase by 60 percent.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year raised questions among French officials about whether the military could withstand the challenge of such a high-intensity conflict, given its limited supplies of equipment and ammunition. France also had to distribute donations to Ukraine, for example to its Caesar howitzers, due to a shortage of supplies.
In June, Macron urged domestic defense contractors such as Dassault Aviation and Nexter Systems to go on a “war economy base” to bolster French capabilities. But analysts said little measurable progress has been made since then, citing long delays before the government issues orders and the time it takes for such weapons to be manufactured.
Additional reporting from Ben Hall in London