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Sarkozy promises defense investment

  |   July 16, 2009 at 5:55 PM
PARIS, July 15 (UPI) -- French President Nicolas Sarkozy promised a substantial investment in his country's military to enable it to meet future challenges.

Sarkozy, in an appearance on France 2 television following Tuesday's Bastille Day parade, said France would spend $527 billion over the next 12 years on additional intelligence services and high-tech weaponry.

"We're going to make a great effort on (the French military's) equipment," Sarkozy told France 2. "They will have all means to protect themselves in the battles that they will fight in."

The promise of additional funding comes as the French Senate considers a measure that could result in more than 50,000 defense-related jobs -- military and civilian -- cut. That represents more than 10 percent of such jobs.

But during the annual July 14 National Celebration in which the French military takes center stage, Sarkozy gave assurances that France was yet a power and would stay that way.

"The challenge for tomorrow is to have a France, with 65 million people, recognized as a great power. That our voice will be heard," the president told France 2.

To further that cause, Sarkozy in March returned France to NATO's military command 43 years after Charles de Gaulle, complaining of U.S. influence and leadership in the organization, pulled the French from the command.

"This rapprochement with NATO ensures our national independence," Sarkozy said in his March speech. "To distance ourselves would limit our independence and our room for maneuver.

"We have to be progressive. A solitary nation is a nation that has no influence whatsoever."

France has begun shifting its strategic focus from its former colonies in Africa to the Persian Gulf and further east where potential markets for the French defense industry lie. India, for example, was a highly visible guest at Tuesday's Bastille Day celebrations with 400 Indian soldiers leading the parade down the Champs-Elysees.

India has also announced plans to update its military, with $30 billion set aside to spend over the next five years. The Indian air force is known to be considering the Rafale fighter, which is built by France's Dassault Aviation.

In his March NATO speech, Sarkozy said: "Today France is no longer threatened by a military invasion, perhaps for the first time in her history.

"Other threats have taken its place; these are linked to globalization, terrorism, proliferation and attacks against space systems and the IT systems our technological societies are heavily dependent on."

That also led to the intelligence aspect of Sarkozy's comments Tuesday to France 2 in which he said he planned to put a priority on "everything concerning intelligence."

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