The file photo shows a French Rafale fighter jet. (AFP)
French lawmakers have approved an increase of nearly two billion euros in defense spending in 2018 as Paris boosts its involvement in the ongoing conflicts across the Middle East and Africa.
The 1.8 billion euros in additional spending approved by the National Assembly late on Thursday took the defense budget to 32.4 billion euros.
The boost will raise defense spending to 1.82 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP), compared to 1.77 percent this year. The increase also compensates for an 850-million-euro cut to this year’s defense budget.
In July, lawmakers had reversed cuts to the 2017 budget, which triggered a major spat between President Emmanuel Macron and then chief of the armed forces General Pierre de Villiers.
De Villiers had complained to parliament that the army was being “screwed,” drawing a public rebuke from Macron, which made the general resign.
A large chunk of the funds will go toward renewing military transporters, fighter jets and other equipment.
French forces are engaged on multiple fronts in the so-called anti-terror operations across various regions of the world, especially in West Africa and the Middle East.
France has been involved in a US-led coalition that conducts strikes against purported hideouts of the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in Syria and Iraq.
Paris has also deployed around 4,000 troops in western and central African countries.
At home, 7,000 French soldiers have been deployed to patrol the streets in the wake of a series of terrorist attacks by Daesh and other terrorist groups.
Beyond 2018, President Macron plans to continue plowing more money into the military to reach a NATO target of spending equivalent to two percent of the GDP by 2025.
European NATO members have come under pressure from US President Donald Trump to shoulder more defense costs to relieve the burden on the United States. The Pentagon spending currently accounts for about 70 percent of combined NATO defense spending.
Nuclear-armed France and Britain are the biggest military powers in the European Union. France’s defense budget is expected to reach some 50 billion euros by 2025.