“The French army does not have the capacity to conduct a high-intensity war”

The former army chief publishes the book “Words of Honor” addressed to the youth and intended to be a message of optimism and faith in the future. General de Villiers answered the questions of La Depeche.

Why did you choose to appeal to young people?

Young people are the future of France. I lived in the youth world for 43 years in the army. More than 50% of military personnel are under 30 years old. I thought it would be interesting to give them a little of my experience, face to face, through 45 letters, to teach them to love or love France again. Youth is waiting to be loved, to lead the way with strength and humanity.

Why do you think faith in the future of France is necessary?

Optimism of the will is among the qualities that I always advocate. Many things are not going well in our country or abroad. We must teach our youth that we can succeed in life with hard work, discipline and seriousness. We must also appeal to others rather than individualism around us. I think young people are waiting to be told the truth.

In your book, you point to new ideologies and criticize Vokism.

I criticize ideologies that impose a form of dictatorship on minorities over the general population. The reasons are sometimes valid, but when they impose themselves excessively on the majority, it is not a good thing. Young people expect an ideal, but often an ideology is imposed on them.

Which Europe do you defend?

I see the changing world, power states with long-term strategies such as Russia, Turkey, China, and Iran. I see that Europe is not dealing with these big issues, but with small bureaucratic concerns, essentially with a fiscal approach expressed around the euro. I am more sorry because the tension in our world is increasing. Europe thinks about this spectacle, it does not exist at all. On the contrary, I am a supporter of a Europe of Nations that respects states and promotes interstate cooperation on concrete projects in the service of citizens.

How to end the war in Ukraine?

The goal is really to stop this war, it is in the interest of France and Europe. When you look at the intensity of this conflict with 100,000 soldiers killed or wounded on both sides, it is enormous, not to mention the civilian casualties. Today, neither side is interested in walking around the negotiating table. We must continue our aid to Ukraine under attack. We cannot allow any state to set itself above all rules and all international rights. I am afraid that this conflict will continue because we do not see a possible way out of the crisis. We have been under tension since February 24, that’s the only thing that worries me. The dictator in the tunnel will never back down.

Will France be prepared to face a high-intensity war?

Our defense equipment was designed for high-intensity warfare until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Since then, our European democracies, especially France, have enjoyed peace. Our defensive apparatus has been broken down to concentrate forces with the aim of withdrawing them from the area. If we were involved in a high-intensity conflict today, the French army would not be equipped with the equipment. We have 220 Leclerc tanks, frigates and submarines, which have declined significantly over the last two decades, and we have about two hundred Rafale aircraft since 620 years ago. It is necessary to rebuild its equipment and workforce. But you don’t train gunners or radar operators or nuclear experts for a few months. This instrument, which has been sacrificed on the budget altar for the last thirty years, must be rebuilt as soon as possible.

The French army has withdrawn from Mali. Is it a failure for France?

It is a political failure in the sense that we could not win the trust of the population. But it is a military success that we have prevented the development of terrorism. We have won many wars in twenty years, but we have lost many


Do you feel freer to speak now that you are no longer the Chief of Staff?

I am freer because I do not have duties that require a certain reserve as I embody the French army. Today I embody my personality. Given that I will always remain the former Chief of the Defense Staff, I remain moderate in my remarks. But it is important to be able to say everything with balance and moderation.

Do you still have contact with the head of state?

No, there are no connections. I’m not worried. The President of the Republic has a lot of other fish to fry today in terms of the situation within the territory and the international context.

Do you want to be involved in politics?

I am already very loyal, I could retire peacefully at home in the Vendée. I wrote four books in five years, which is a lot, I write them myself! I also work with companies and young people. It’s good that you can do politics without doing it. If I had to go into politics, I would have gone a long time ago.

“Words of Honor” by General Pierre de Villiers, ed. Fayard

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