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Macron doesn’t rule out sending Western troops to Ukraine

Macron doesn’t rule out sending Western troops to Ukraine

Macron doesn’t rule out sending Western troops to Ukraine

PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday that sending Western troops to Ukraine should not be ruled out, as European leaders concluded a summit on supporting Kyiv.

“There is no consensus today to send ground troops officially but … nothing is ruled out,” Macron said at a press conference in Paris, where the meeting had just wrapped up. “We will do whatever it takes to ensure that Russia cannot win this war.”

“The defeat of Russia is indispensable to the security and stability of Europe,” the French president added.

Macron confirmed the topic of Western boots on the ground in Ukraine was discussed in a “very free and direct” manner, adding that “everything is possible, if it is useful.” The subject was first raised publicly by Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, who said a “restricted document” ahead of the summit had implied “that a number of NATO and EU member states were considering sending troops to Ukraine on a bilateral basis.”

EU leaders also moved toward an agreement on scaling up ammunition purchases for Ukraine from third-country providers — something that goes against France’s strategic autonomy agenda and desire to boost European defense industries.

On Monday evening, Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said he received “big support” at the talks in Paris from European partners for his proposal to source shells from outside the EU for Kyiv. The Czech Republic is leading a campaign to raise €1.4 billion to pay for ammunition for Ukraine, in compensation for a blocked U.S. aid package and delays in EU deliveries.

The French president said Paris “would take part in the initiative,” adding: “We’re totally open to it, the only objective is to be effective in helping the Ukrainians.”

Delegates indicated that countries were taking stock of what shells were available for purchase on the market before making a decision in 10 days’ time.

For France, this is a significant shift. Previously, Paris argued that rushed purchases of non-EU weapons and shells risks de-incentivizing European defense manufactures at a time when the Continent needs to be more self-reliant.

“It is a recognition of the challenge Ukraine faces, and that there is a bit more give, it’s a credit to the French. They’ve had a longstanding concern [about purchases from non-EU countries], and it’s a sign that they are willing to be pragmatic,” said Mujtaba Rahman, Europe head of the Eurasia Group.

Ahead of the summit, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy offered a sharp reminder that the EU had massively undershot promises on ammunition deliveries.

Speaking in Kyiv, Zelenskyy underlined the EU’s failure to deliver 1 million shells by March.

“Of the million shells promised to us by the European Union, not 50 percent arrived, but 30 percent. Unfortunately,” said Zelenskyy, alongside Bulgarian Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov at a press conference.

Macron also announced that leaders agreed to set up a ninth capability coalition on deep strikes that will focus on medium- and long-range missiles. Other coalitions include artillery, air defense and de-mining. 

While France and the U.K. have already sent cruise missiles to Ukraine, respectively SCALPs and Storm Shadows, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Monday reiterated that his government was not in favor of providing Kyiv with its long-range Taurus missiles.

The high-level gathering in Paris came as Ukraine, which has entered its third year of war against Russia’s invading forces, faces an ammunition gap on the front line and uncertainty over fickle Western support, despite having signed bilateral security deals with France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Denmark. 

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