six questions on the potential sending of Western troops mentioned by Emmanuel Macron

This unprecedented declaration was delivered Monday evening, at the end of a meeting organized at the Elysée, in the presence of twenty-seven other countries.

“Nothing should be excluded.” Emmanuel Macron raised, on Monday February 26, the possibility of sending Western troops on the ground to Ukraine, while declaring that he assumed a “strategic ambiguity”. This unprecedented declaration was delivered at the end of an international conference organized at the Elysée, in the presence of 27 other countries. “We will do whatever it takes to ensure that Russia cannot win this war,” continued the French president.

By way of illustration, he notably announced the creation of a new coalition dedicated to the delivery of medium and long range missiles. He also mentioned a list of five “share categories” making consensus, unlike sending “officially, assumed and endorsed by the ground troops”. Despite everything, the offensive bias of the head of state will not have escaped anyone. To the point of marking a turning point in the war in Ukraine? Franceinfo takes stock of the issues arising from this hardening of position.

1 In what context did Emmanuel Macron make these remarks?

The president’s unprecedented firmness comes at a particularly delicate phase for Ukraine, which has just entered its third year of war. The fear of a Russian victory is gradually creeping into Western public opinion, while the Ukrainians have been accumulating setbacks in the East for several weeks. On February 17, kyiv was notably forced to withdraw from the fortress town of Avdiïvka.

To justify these military defeats, Volodymyr Zelensky cited the lack of ammunition on Sunday. The cause is delays in deliveries of Western military aid. “Out of a million shells that the European Union promised us, not 50% but unfortunately 30% were delivered”, he lamented. Another difficulty: the current blocking of American aid of some 60 billion dollars by Republican elected officials in the House of Representatives.

In order to ward off this bad situation, Emmanuel Macron showed his desire to remobilize his partners, by summoning around twenty heads of state and government on Monday in Paris. It was at the end of this symbolic act that he admitted not to rule out sending Western troops to Ukraine in the future. A few hours earlier, during the opening of the summit, he had already stated: “We are certainly at the moment of a surge which is necessary on the part of all of us.”

2 What are the reasons for his change of position vis-à-vis Vladimir Putin?

The time for calls between Emmanuel Macron and his Russian counterpart seems far away. In December, he assured that the origin of this breakdown in dialogue came from France. “We didn’t stop them, I didn’t stop them, he stopped them”, had castigated Vladimir Putin. The French head of state, for his part, easily justifies this change of position.

On Monday, he notably claimed to note “a hardening of Russia” these last months, “which unfortunately became cruelly illustrated with the death of Alexeï Navalny”. Friday February 16, he said: “L“The death of Mr. Navalny reveals the weakness of the Kremlin.”

No more compromises, then. Tuesday, Peer De Jong, vice-president of the Themiis institute, specialist in geopolitics and former colonel of the marine troops, underlined on franceinfo the extent to which the “shock sentence” of Emmanuel Macron was “a message clearly addressed to the Russians”. And, first of all, to their leader.

3 What troops can be sent to Ukraine?

Since the European Union does not have its own army, such an operation could be part of a specific mission. Another possibility: each Western country would be responsible for choosing whether or not to call on its army. In the case of France, the operational forces that can be immediately mobilized are those of the army. According to the latest figures from the Ministry of the Armed Forces, it is made up of 130,000 men and women, including more than 25,000 reservists.

Questioned about Emmanuel Macron’s statements to the Assembly, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Stéphane Séjourné, clarified: “We must consider new actions to support Ukraine,” Who “must meet very specific needs”. He notably mentioned the “mine clearance”THE “cyber” and the “production of weapons on site, on Ukrainian territory”. “Some of these actions could require a presence on Ukrainian territory without crossing the belligerent threshold”, according to the minister.

4 Why are Europeans reluctant to this idea?

Such a scenario nevertheless remains purely fictitious at this stage: several foreign leaders have tempered Emmanuel Macron’s comments. Among them, the Swedish Prime Minister, Ulf Kristersson, whose country will become the 32nd member of NATO. He told Swedish public broadcaster SVT that sending troops to Ukraine was not “not at all relevant” For now. The Dutch Prime Minister also tempered the French president’s comments. Questioned after the meeting at the Elysée, Mark Rutte declared that the question of sending ground troops had not been on the agenda.

Berlin, London and other European allies also rejected Emmanuel Macron’s comments. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Tuesday that“no soldier” would not be sent to Ukraine by European or NATO countries: “What was decided between us from the beginning continues to be valid for the future”to know “that there will be no troops on the ground, no soldiers sent either by European states or by NATO states on Ukrainian soil”.

On the United Kingdom side, a spokesperson for British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak clarified that“a small number” of people sent by London were already there “to support the Ukrainian armed forces, particularly in terms of medical training.” Before adding “We do not plan a large-scale deployment”. Madrid is not “disagree” with the idea of “deploy European troops to Ukraine”, according to the spokesperson for the Spanish executive, Pilar Alegria. Warsaw and Prague also rejected the possibility outlined by Paris.

5 How is the Kremlin positioning itself?

If Vladimir Putin has not yet spoken, Russia has already reacted via a Kremlin spokesperson. “It is absolutely not in the interest of these countries. They must be aware of this”Dmitri Peskov told journalists, judging that the simple fact of evoking this possibility constituted “a very important new element” in the war.

The Kremlin may have noted that there was no “no consensus” on the subject among Westerners, he remains very attentive. Asked about the risk of a direct conflict between NATO and Russia, in the event of a military presence in Ukraine, Dmitri Peskov replied that “in this case we should not talk about probability, but about inevitability”.

6 What are the reactions within the French political class?

Among the majority, speaking out is still rare for the moment. Only Prime Minister Gabriel Attal repeated on RTL Tuesday morning that“we cannot exclude anything in a war” who holds “in the heart of Europe”. A year earlier, to the day, while he was still government spokesperson, he had insisted on France Inter that sending French troops to Ukraine was “excluded”.

A 180 degree turn far from being validated by the opposition. “Sending troops to Ukraine would make us belligerents. War against Russia would be madness”warned Jean-Luc Mélenchon on his X account (ex-Twitter). The La France insoumise group at the National Assembly even went so far as to ask during a press briefing broadcast on YouTube on Tuesday “that Parliament be informed of the entire strategy in Ukraine”.

Olivier Faure, the first secretary of the Socialist Party, for his part pointed out the“worrying presidential levity”qualifying as “madness” the possibility ofgo to war with Russia”.

On Marine Le Pen’s side, indignation is in order: “Emmanuel Macron plays the warlord but it is the lives of our children that he speaks about with such carelessness.” Jordan Bardella, the president of the RN, joins her, arguing on his X account that“Emmanuel Macron seems to be losing his cool.”

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