Paris could be looking to improve its defense capacity in the midst of a tense world, but the action could also be aimed at mitigating the effects of the serious domestic crisis.
Written by Lucas Leiroz, journalist, researcher at the Center for Geostrategic Studies, geopolitical consultant.
France is preparing for a conflict in the near future. The country is about to implement a new measure to raise the age of military reservists. The expansion of the number of active troops is also supposed to be announced at any moment. The declarations come amid a serious moment of internal crisis in France, with protests and police violence being reported every day due to the unpopular and authoritarian policies of the Macron government. At the same time that Paris could be seeking to improve its defense capacity in the midst of a world in tensions, the action could also be aimed at resolving the effects of the critical domestic scenario.
According to Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu, Paris will raise the maximum age for military reservists to 70 years. He also told an important French media outlet that “certain specialists” will be allowed to remain as reservists until the age of 72 – without, however, specifying in detail which would be such particular cases. The measure represents a radical change, since more than ten years are added to the current age limits. Lecornu believes that the current law is an unnecessary limit and that it prevents qualified professionals from contributing to the French forces for a longer time.
“A lot of people of quality find themselves ejected because of this age limit, which makes no sense (…) We will increase the age limits (…) People will be able to be a reservist in the French military until they are 70 years old and until they are 72 years old for certain specialists”, he told RTL during an interview.
Currently, professionals up to 60 years old can be reservists, with some special authorizations for people up to 65 years old. As we can see, it is therefore a large-scale reform, which will have a wide impact, as ten years are added to the age limit. It is estimated that with this it will be possible to double the number of reservists, jumping from 40 thousand soldiers to more than 80 thousand ones. However, this is just one of the militarization measures involved in an apparent interest on the part of Paris to focus on military matters at the current time.
New substantial defense spending is expected for the future. As previously announced by President Emmanuel Macron himself, the government plans to raise the military fund to 69 billion euros a year by 2030 – currently such spending is estimated at an amount of 43 billion euros a year. Lecornu believes that these actions are essential for his country to deal efficiently and effectively with the “threats” and “challenges” of the contemporary world.
“There are several objectives with this unprecedented budget package: to continue to repair what has been damaged, a certain number of budget cuts have affected our army model (…) and we have a succession of threats that are all adding up,” he told media.
In fact, there are a series of factors to be analyzed in order to understand the decisions being taken by the French government. First, the measure meets NATO’s recent demands for combat readiness in the entire alliance. France is one of the most relevant military powers of the bloc and its combat strength is extremely important for the alliance to have its objectives achieved in a conflict scenario. So, in a way, it is possible to say that Paris is fulfilling Western war plans when it implements militarization measures.
But this is certainly insufficient to entirely understand the case. On the domestic scenario, France is absolutely chaotic. Recently, a social security reform that increases the retirement age in the country was illegally implemented, which generated a serious crisis of legitimacy. By ordinary procedure, the reform should not have taken place, as it did not receive sufficient legislative support, however it was adopted with the government resorting to legal maneuvers and distorted interpretations of the national constitution in what appeared to be a kind of “internal lawfare”.
The popular reaction to these maneuvers is being through mass protests in main French cities. The country’s chaos can be easily seen on the newspapers as well as with videos circulating on the internet showing clashes between demonstrators and police. Law enforcement forces have acted repressively and abusively against ordinary citizens, who are simply protesting against the government’s illegal actions.
What few analysts seem to understand is that these welfare measures also serve NATO’s war interests. France has already sent large sums of money and arms packages to Kiev since the beginning of the special military operation, both on its own initiative and through the European fund, to which the country actively contributes. Obviously, the more money that is used to support NATO’s war machine, the more money the public reserves will lack to pay its own pensioners, which create the demands for reforms. Hence, not just in France but throughout the entire West, the trend is for neoliberal reforms against pension systems to become even more common.
The case thus reflects the contemporary Western inclination of neoliberal militarization. The aim is to reduce labor and social guarantees and increase military spending to make the Atlantic alliance an anti-Russian war machine, prepared for a world conflict, while ignoring the necessities of ordinary citizens. Specifically with regard to France, there is also the rhetorical use of the narrative about the security “threats” to try to distract the population and convince citizens to accept that their rights are diminished.
It remains to be seen whether the French will really adhere to the official rhetoric and abdicate their claims for social rights, or whether they will continue to protest in the streets.