General Bruno Clermont, Ukraine conflict: France “too far to wage a high-intensity war”

The next military programming bill (MPL) for 2024-2030 is fast approaching. And unlike the previous text, it will be examined in Parliament in the particularly sensitive context of the war in Ukraine. That’s why the Senate Defense and Armed Services Committee created a task force on the opinion of this conflict to assess the geostrategic scope of this conflict and what lessons can be learned at the military level”, recalled Vice President (LR) Pascal Allizard. A member of the commission at the entrance of the hearing of Air Corps General Bruno Clermont.

“Tomorrow’s war will be a long-term war”

Accustomed to television shows, the general, a former director of state aviation security, first listed the various stages of the conflict since February 24. He then tried to adapt to this war. “This is not the war of the 21st century.” “This is a 1914, 1940-style, technological war. This is not a Western-style war.” He then clarifies. “Tomorrow’s war will be a long-range war with submarines, planes and land […] This will not be short-range trench warfare. This is the war that the Americans are preparing for tomorrow (with China). We have to take this into account, but for this we need much higher means than allowed,” he stressed.

“The Russian system is such a system that everyone lies to everyone, and the truth is a struggle

Then he painted an unpleasant portrait of the Russian military. “It is more of a non-Russian army than a Russian army […] The Russian Navy was not busy […] The Air Force is strong, but the force is ill-prepared and lacks flying hours. The Russians, like the Chinese, know the Western doctrine and try to repeat it, but they don’t have the techniques, they don’t practice. The Russian military has many problems with corruption and cronyism. A political mafia system that started with Putin and went all the way down.” On the contrary, in his opinion, “westerners” have “the right doctrine, the right concept, the right teaching. We know how to work between land and sea, the Russians don’t […] The Russian system is such a system that everyone lies to everyone, and the truth is war, the army is judged here.

But Russia is a nuclear power, and therefore the Western countries are very weak against the strikes that Ukraine has made on Russian soil in recent days, for the first time since the Second World War. “These are old Soviet reconnaissance aircraft from the 1970s that the Ukrainians used to develop highly accurate cruise missiles.

“Putin is not fragile. He will remain in power until the end.”

Red line for US not to encourage Ukraine to strike Russia on Tuesday. “NATO does not want to go as far as a nuclear conflict with Russia. Why? Because Russia has 6,000 nuclear warheads. It is not difficult to understand, “the general insists.

Bruno Clermont raises two scenarios that could lead Russia to “cross the nuclear Rubicon.” “If Putin loses the war or is removed from power. But Putin is not fragile. He will remain in power until the end. If the war becomes more radical, if Russia is attacked, the Russian Nation will gather around its Head of State again around its soldiers who died.”

Overall, nuclear deterrence is a successful strategy for France and NATO, but “as in Russia, it has been maintained at the expense of our high-intensity conventional forces.”

Jean-Marc Todeschini, the working group’s rapporteur on PS, then asks him: “As we approach the law of programming, do we still have to think in the same way for the supply of our forces? »

“There are conspicuous gaps in the French army”

General Clermont’s response could not have been clearer. “There are obvious gaps in the French army. Anti-aircraft defense is disastrous […] That’s a huge investment that we haven’t made. We are far from the target of a high-intensity war. We don’t have enough artillery. Let’s be clear, the French army has 50 Caesar guns, 70 if you’re good. The first artillery regiment is 10 rocket launchers, and only three of the 10 are operational. I can talk to you about Rafales, Frigates, all the conventional forces that are not sufficient for high intensity warfare. ? We need everything, cyber, intelligence, drones.”

It should be noted that the appropriations for the defense mission of the 2023 fiscal bill, which provides for a 3 billion increase for the defense budget, was passed by the Senate this Monday. In the Hemisphere, Defense Minister Sébastien Lecornu was confident in the purchase of equipment for the armies. General Bruno Clermont’s hearing dampened his optimism somewhat.

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