The Defense Base, the response to French constraints in terms of defense spending

In November 2018, following an article by Michel Cabirol for the economic site La Tribune, the Socle Défense project had briefly attracted some media and political attention, to the point of being the subject of a subject in the 20h of France 2. While the Strategic Review and the Military Programming Law were in preparation, this project proposed to rely on a new financing architecture using savings and a defense equipment leasing model, making it possible to increase defense investments beyond 2,65% of GDP, threshold defined by the Defense Base to enable France to face, from 2022, the threats posed at the time by the rise in power of the Russian and Chinese armies, and thus to play a decisive role in future military crises , both in Europe and in the Pacific. Major originality of the project, the use of a leasing model, while relying on the bases of what will later become the economic doctrine Defense with Positive Valuation, made it possible to increase defense expenditure, in particular in terms of equipment, without increasing fiscal and social pressure and without deepening the country's sovereign debt, thus responding to the main objections put forward to a more massive investment in National Defence.

Recent news, obviously in Ukraine, but also in the Pacific, has shown that the security analyzes that formed the basis of the Defense Base had been relevant, and the announcements throughout Europe concerning a rapid increase in defense budgets to contain the threat Russian also tend to validate the response then proposed. In France, however, announcements have so far been somewhat cautious in this area, and not only because of the particular context linked to the presidential election campaign. Indeed, despite a proven effort over the last 5 years that has brought the budget of the armies back to a level of balance allowing them to be gradually modernized and to put an end to the haemorrhage in capacity which affected, French military and industrial capabilities remain undersized to respond to the current and future level of threat, while at the same time, the country's budgetary leeway has been particularly eroded by the effects of the Covid crisis and the increase in the country's sovereign debt. In this context, even if many aspects have evolved since 2017, the paradigms presented by the Defense Base can represent a relevant alternative to respond to the security challenges facing the country today without harming the country's budgetary and economic balances.

Needs accentuated by the war in Ukraine

In just over 4 weeks of combat, the war in Ukraine shattered many of the conceptual pillars on which the French, and more generally European, armies are built. Indeed, an army composed of 70% conscripts and reservists, in a situation of relative technological weakness, but having a numerical advantage and excellent morale, managed to stop the powerful Russian army and its 120 professional battalions, this despite firepower and an undeniable technological advantage. For many senior officers and generals in the West, it was impossible that Ukraine could not resist for more than a few days, and even today on TV sets and in interviews in the written press, many refuse to believe that the Russian offensive could end up failing. The fact is, all the paradigms on which French military power was designed have been undermined by the course of this war, whether it is the limits of air power, the supposed advantage represented by technology on the battlefield, or the role of the masses, including against professional and experienced forces.

The Russian Armies suffered very heavy losses against the Ukrainian defenders despite their technological advantage and a superior professionalization of its personnel.

It will therefore very probably be essential for the French armies to reconsider their format, both in terms of personnel and equipment, especially since the Russian armies have documented losses of one and a half times the number of tanks and infantry combat vehicles available to the French Army in total in just 4 weeks of combat, and about 50% of the personnel forming the Land Operational Force. Even the French deterrence component has been put under extraordinary pressure, with 3 of the 4 nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines at sea simultaneously, a position that the French Navy cannot sustain over time, any more than it will be able to maintain its only aircraft carrier in the western Mediterranean beyond a few weeks, a few months at best. However, budget planning as defined today and until 2025, will in no way make it possible to meet these needs, even taking into account the planned increase in the French defense budget of €3 billion per year over the next two years. to come.

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