By Edward Cody
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, October 30, 2008; Page A18
PARIS, Oct. 29 — The French government decided Wednesday to increase military spending by an average of $1.8 billion a year as part of an effort to field a trimmer but better-equipped army to safeguard France’s role in world affairs.
The five-year program, which has been under study since President Nicolas Sarkozy took power in May 2007, was maintained despite a financial crisis that has undermined the already sluggish French economy and led to predictions of budget cutbacks across the government. Defense Minister Hervé Morin said the decision illustrated Sarkozy’s determination, even amid financial turmoil, to conduct activist policies in Afghanistan, Africa and other trouble spots around the globe.
France’s President sarkozy will embrace more defense spending.
(AP Photo/Jacques Brinon)
Sarkozy proposed Wednesday, for instance, that European countries, including France, dispatch a military force to Congo to work alongside U.N. peacekeepers trying to end the spiraling conflict there.
“In spite of the crisis, we will not touch defense funds,” Morin said in an interview with the Figaro newspaper. “France wants to maintain a strong foreign policy. For its voice to be heard, it must be a credible military power.”