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France announced plans to boost defence spending by more than 40%, bringing it into line with NATO targets after complaints from US President Donald Trump that Europe is not pulling its weight.

European NATO members have come under pressure from Trump to relieve the burden on the US, which currently accounts for about 70% of combined NATO defence spending.

The French government unveiled a bill that increases spending on its armed forces from €34.2 billion euros in 2018 to €50 billion in 2025, taking the defence budget from 1.82% of GDP currently to a NATO target of two percent.

The French spending increase under new centrist President Emmanuel Macron marks a shift after years of belt-tightening in defence, which caused tension in the ranks. Last year, the head of the armed forces resigned after a row with Macron over cuts to defence expenditure in an interim budget for 2017 agreed after his election victory in May.

Macron is France’s first commander-in-chief to have never served in the military, having come of age after compulsory military service was scrapped in 1997. But he has repeatedly stressed his commitment to the armed forces, which are battling jihadists in West Africa and in the Middle East and are mobilised on the streets of France due to the domestic terror threat.

The defence ministry plans to raise its spending by €1.7 billion a year between 2019 and 2022, increasing to €3 billion a year between 2023 and 2025.

A chunk of the funds will be spent on replacing ageing APCs, adding more refuelling aircraft and ships and upgrading France’s nuclear arsenal.

The bill also sets aside more money for the troops, in the form of better training, improved accommodation for military families and new equipment, including new bullet-proof vests and night-vision goggles.

The budget deficit is forecast by the economy ministry to dip to 2.8% of GDP in 2018, while the public debt is estimated at €2.2 trillion, the equivalent of 96.8% of GDP.

 

Nexter's eight-wheel drive VBCI IFV is deployed to Mali with French Armed Forces. (Photo: Nexter)

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