French intelligence chief Vidaud fired over Russian war failings

General Eric Vidaud, the head of French military intelligence, is about to lose his job as a result of his failure to forecast Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, in a rare instance of a Western high official suffering serious consequences for institutional failure.

As per the daily L’Opinion, the armed forces chief of staff notified Gen. Eric Vidaud, director of military intelligence, on Tuesday that he would be leaving by summer.

According to a French Ministry of the Armed Forces article quoted by European Union-funded news site Euronews, General Vidaud, who has led the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DRM) for seven months, will go immediately owing to “insufficient briefings” and a “failure to comprehend the challenges.”

In an interview with Le Monde in early March, General Thierry Burkhard, France’s current Chief of Defence Staff, admitted that “the Americans said the Russians were going to attack, and they were right,” while “our services rather thought that the conquest of Ukraine would have a monstrous cost and that the Russians had other options [to bring down the Ukrainian government].”

While the DRM appears to have attempted to defend its soon-to-be-former, with a source telling the AFP news agency that his role was to “military intelligence on operations, not on premeditation,” and that they had also said Russia had the means to invade Ukraine and “what has happened proves [the DRM] right” rather than incompetent.

“This is a warning to the whole [French intelligence] community.” Professor Alexandre Papaemmanuel of the Institute of Political Studies in Paris stated, “You have to be efficient and address all the risks” (IEP).

In early March, however, Gen Burkhard admitted that French intelligence was not up to the standard of US or UK briefings, which were widely publicized to put pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“The Americans were right when they claimed the Russians were going to attack,” he told the French newspaper Le Monde.

“Our services instead believed that invading Ukraine would have been monstrously expensive and that the Russians had other possibilities” to overthrow Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky’s administration, he continued.

President Emmanuel Macron had spoken to President Putin frequently in the days leading up to the invasion on February 24, making France’s misinterpretation of him all the more awkward.