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France to boost military spending, modernize army

In this Friday, Sept. 29, 2017 file photo, France's President Emmanuel Macron, left, shakes hands with French soldiers of the NATO Battle Group at the Tapa military base, about 90 kilometers west of Tallinn, Estonia. (AP Photo/Marko Mumm)

PARIS (AP) -- French President Emmanuel Macron's government is ramping up military spending, arming drones and hiring more "cyberfighters" for Europe's biggest army -- notably amid demands by NATO and U.S. President Donald Trump for European countries to pitch in more for their own defense.

    The French defense minister presented a bill Thursday foreseeing 295 billion euros ($364 billion) in overall defense spending from 2019 to 2025. That includes 1.7 billion euros in additional spending each year through 2022, particularly to modernize equipment and improve intelligence.

    "The world is more uncertain, and the threats are more and more diffuse," Defense Minister Florence Parly told reporters, noting growing demands for domestic military deployment after a string of deadly extremist attacks.

    She insisted that France needs more defense spending to maintain its global influence and "intervene where its interests are threatened, and where it's needed for international stability."

    France has thousands of troops overseas, from the Middle East to Africa, and will be the EU's only nuclear-armed nation when Britain leaves the bloc next year.

    The military upgrade is part of Macron's efforts to beef up collective European defense capacity and strengthen the EU as Brexit looms.

    The plan aims to fulfill Macron's campaign promises last year to raise defense spending to 2 percent of GDP by 2025, in line with what NATO wants from all members. At a NATO summit in May, Trump reiterated longstanding U.S. pressure on allies to increase military spending.

    After a steady decline in defense spending and personnel cuts under Macron's predecessors, the government now is promising 6,000 more jobs by 2025.

    The bill also includes France's first armed drones, new nuclear combat submarines, more fighter planes and new intelligence satellites. The bill goes to parliament, where it's expected to face a few months of discussion before a final vote this summer.

    France's military chief quit last year after a spat with Macron over defense budget cuts.

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