France marks Bastille Day on weekend of heavy security

French President Emmanuel Macron and Chief of the Defence Staff French Army General Francois Lecointre arrive in a command car for the traditional Bastille Day military parade on the Champs-Elysees in Paris, France, July 14, 2018.

Thousands of people came out on Saturday for the annual Bastille Day military parade on Paris’s Champs-Elysées Avenue, which is also expected to draw more celebrations if France wins the weekend’s World Cup final. As onlookers paid tribute to the armed forces, thoughts on the security situation were not far from their minds.

Crowds lining the Champs Elysees Avenue watched as the mounted soldiers of the French Republican Guard opened the way for President Emmanuel Macron.

The annual parade has happened almost every year since 1790, and each year it attracts many who come for the first time.

“I’ve never come to see it, even though I live in Paris,” says 18-year-old Aracelis.

“It’s important, it’s very patriotic, and it’s very beautiful, with all military from all over the world.”

Onlookers also include tourists, visitors and new arrivals to the country.

“Since my childhood, I’ve attended all the ceremonies of the independence day there,” says Shagufta, who emigrated from Mauritius with her family last year.

“As it’s my first time in France for the fourteenth of July, I’m kind of curious to see what it looks like.”

Paying tribute to the armed forces

Flyovers from 64 fighter jets and other military aircraft are highlights of the parade, which is prepared for several months in advance and also involves more than 4000 troops, 220 vehicles, 250 horses and 30 helicopters.

“I’m impressed by the army, because they are protecting us, and in this time it’s really important for us to see them,” says Jeanne, 18, who has come to see the parade from the south of France.

“I’m really proud of them.”

A wave a terror attacks beginning in 2015 increased the visibility of the armed forces in everyday life, as they were deployed around the country.

While citizens tend to have a positive view of their role they play, many also feel it’s important to let the troops know they are valued.

Christophe is a former member of the air force.

“With the exception of the fourteenth of July, people are not really supporting the French troops,” says Christophe, 50, a former member of the air force.

“Because of the terrorist attacks in the past, it’s important to be here and say thank you for your help.”

Unprecedented security for Bastille Day and World Cup

Even though there has not been a major attack since the truck ramming that killed 86 people in Nice on Bastille Day in 2016, authorities say the terror threat has not changed.

And with many expected out in public places to watch France in this weekend’s World Cup final, the government has deployed a record 110,000 security personnel around the country.

“It’s more secure because there were attacks,” Aracelis says. “So there’s more security, and I think it’s a good thing.”

The recent history of attacks and the presence of the military in public places is also in the minds of visitors to the country.

Americans Camille and Rob Mosley are in Paris for the first time… celebrating their honeymoon.

“We’ve seen security even before this weekend,” says Camille, an American visiting Paris for the first time for her honeymoon.

“At a lot of the major tourist places there’s a lot of security checks and guys with machine guns, but it makes you feel safe, so it’s nice.”

“Because of the bombings and stuff like that, we were kind of nervous and thinking of sticking to the hotel and not going out much,” says Camille’s new husband Rob.

“But as soon as we got here, we felt definitely secure out in the city walking around.”



France’s cyber command marched in Paris’s Bastille Day Parade for the first time

A small demonstration that cybersecurity is a national priority

Image: Ministère des Armées

For the first time, France’s military cyber command marched in this year’s Bastille Day parade on the Champs Elysees in Paris, alongside other units in the nation’s armed forces. The military noted that it’s a recognition of the advances that the unit has made since its formation last year, and reinforces that “cyber defense remains a national priority.”

French defense minister Jean-Yves Le Drian announced the formation of COMCYBER in December 2016, noting that the emergence of state actors operating in cyberspace was a new way to approach warfare. The command brought all of the nation’s soldiers focused on cyber defense under one command, with three main tasks: cyber intelligence, protection, and offense.

The timing of the creation of the command is no coincidence: it came after widespread allegations from the United States that Russia had intervened in the 2016 Presidential election. Yesterday, those allegations gained some additional credibility as a grand jury issued incitements against 12 Russians, claiming that they had carried out cyberattacks to undermine the country’s election infrastructure.

The recognition that France’s COMCYBER has received by being permitted to march in the parade alongside the rest of the country’s armed forces is a notable example of the seriousness to which its taking the issue, as officials warn that countries such as China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea remain a threat to the US and other nations’ digital infrastructure.



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