Can the French defense ecosystem avoid military and industrial decommissioning by 2035?

Until recently, it was common to hear, in the comments of French and European leaders, that the French defense ecosystem, its armies and its industry, were at the forefront. top of the European hierarchy.

The new Military Programming Law 2024-2030 should make it possible to preserve this dominant position in Europe, and a major position in the World, by bringing the budget of the armies to €67 billion in 2030, or from 2,15 to 2,25 % of French GDP, on this date.

Once the satisfaction of seeing military spending continue to grow until 2030 has passed, after 25 years of critical underinvestment, developments in the global security and industrial defense environment quickly gave rise to questions, and even criticism, on the trajectory of this LPM, considered insufficient to respond to the emerging challenges.

Today, the French defense ecosystem is caught in a potentially deadly vice, with, on the one hand, a sovereign debt and public deficits that are largely excessive, depriving the country of room for maneuver in this area, and on the other , a massive and rapid transformation of the threat, as well as industrial and military competition, in Europe and throughout the Western sphere.

In this context, is the downgrading of all components of French defense, in Europe and around the world, inevitable? And, what alternatives can be considered, to try to preserve France, its armies and its defense industry, from this potentially irreversible downgrading?

The rapid evolution of the international threat in Europe and the world and the NATO investment floor at 2,5% GDP in 2025

There is, obviously, no point going back to the rapid evolution of military threats developing around the world, including in Europe. Between thethe rise of the Russian armies and defense industry, the colossal efforts developed by Beijing to catch up and surpass American military power as soon as possible, the worrying developments in Iranian and North Korean trajectories, and massive rearmament at the global level, global tensions are, today, at the highest level since the end of the Cold War.

Russian defense industry
The Russian defense industry has experienced extraordinary growth over the past two years in support of the military operation in Ukraine.

Faced with this situation, France, like the vast majority of countries in the Western sphere, has increased its defense spending. to achieve a defense effort of 2% in 2024, and with the objective of reaching around 2,2% at the end of the current LPM, in 2030.

However, this effort already appears insufficient. Thus, today, the French armies are facing significant budgetary constraints, severely hampering their training and training capabilities, and forcing difficult, but discreet, trade-offs in modernization efforts, as when only 160 of the 200 Leclercs will be modernized over the duration of the LPM, while this modernization is, in the opinion of even specialists on the subject, very insufficient in the face of the observed changes in threats on the Ukrainian battlefield.

This budgetary trajectory could, moreover, be quickly blacklisted, even within NATO. Indeed, the decision to carry the floor of the defense effort of the members of the alliance at 2,5%, and not 2% as today, was postponed to 2025, during the next alliance summit, to avoid creating dissension in the alliance.

However, the objective is now set, and the trajectory of the current LPM will therefore not make it possible to meet the minimum requirements of the Atlantic alliance, considerably altering the official discourse regarding the first army and the first defense industry. in Europe.

Germany and Poland take the reins of European defense in the conventional domain

It is true that Paris can rely on an exclusive capability within the European Union, and very rare globally, its two-component deterrence. This effectively guarantees the ultimate security of the country, and prevents the possibility of nuclear blackmail.

The weight of deterrence on the French defense effort

However, it does not represent, at least today, a skill with strong international influence, including among Europeans, who remain very attached to the American nuclear shield, while they are much more reserved towards of the trust they place in Paris, to protect their interests if necessary.

French defense ecosystem Missile SLBM M51 France
French deterrence absorbs 20 to 25% of the army budget.

Above all, the technological skills surrounding French deterrence suffer from two severe handicaps. Firstly, they are not exported, or with difficulty, making France bear the entire cost of design and development. Above all, they are expensive, and even very expensive.

In fact, the costs of French deterrence, on the army budget and the defense effort, are attributed to investments in conventional means which are exported, and which represent a much more effective military potential on the international and European scene, in the vast majority of cases.

Until now, France managed to balance its investments between deterrence and conventional forces, in the global hierarchy, by relying in particular on greater efficiency of investment, an almost autonomous national BITD, and by consuming slowly. the residual military and technological potential inherited from the end of the Cold War.

Poland takes the position of European eastern glacis facing Russia

In recent years, however, and in particular the start of the conflict in Ukraine, the world armies have significantly increased their budgetary resources and their ambitions. In Europe, this is particularly the case of Germany and Poland, which do not suffer from the budgetary capture of deterrence.

K2 Black Panther Poland
Poland has acquired numerous major equipment to modernize and expand its military assets, such as 180 K2 Black tanks Panther built in South Korea, while 820 examples are expected to be assembled in the country.

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