Macron Floats Ukraine Troop Deployment if Frontline Breached

French President Emmanuel Macron said the question of sending Western troops to Ukraine would “legitimately” arise if Russia broke through Ukrainian front lines and Kyiv made such a request, in an interview with The Economist published Thursday.

Macron in the interview doubled down on his comments from earlier this year of not ruling out sending troops to Ukraine, which sent shockwaves through Europe and unsettled allies including Germany. Most of France’s allies said at the time they would not send any forces.

The news weekly said Macron gave the interview after delivering a keynote speech last week, in which he declared that Europe is “mortal” and could “die” partly due to the threat posed by Russian aggression after its February 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

It was published at a key moment for Macron, who is due to host Chinese President Xi Jinping on May 6-7 for a state visit and has been issuing increasingly stark warnings about the threat posed by Russian aggression.

“Absolutely. I’m not ruling anything out, because we are facing someone who is not ruling anything out,” said Macron when asked if he stood by his earlier comments made on February 26.

Macron said that “if Russia decided to go further, we will in any case all have to ask ourselves this question” about sending troops, describing his refusal to rule out such a move as a “strategic wake-up call for my counterparts.”

His latest comments come as some analysts believe that Russia could be on the verge of launching a major new offensive in Ukraine. Russia said Thursday it had captured another village in eastern Ukraine, where Moscow’s forces have been making advances for days.

In an apparent bid to keep harmony with Berlin ahead of Xi’s visit, Macron was due to dine privately Thursday with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at a Paris restaurant, a French presidential official said.

‘Clear Strategic Objective’

Macron described Russia under President Vladimir Putin as “a power of regional destabilisation” and “a threat to Europeans’ security.”

“I have a clear strategic objective: Russia cannot win in Ukraine,” Macron said.

“If Russia wins in Ukraine, there will be no security in Europe.

“Who can pretend that Russia will stop there? What security will there be for the other neighbouring countries, Moldova, Romania, Poland, Lithuania and the others?” he asked.

“It has broken all the frameworks and has basically returned to a logic of total war,” he said.

But he suggested that Moscow’s war machine was not sustainable over the long term.

“Devoting a third of its budget to defence is not sustainable for a country whose gross domestic product is lower than that of France, Germany or the United Kingdom,” he said.

Reaffirming his mantra that Europe must reduce its defense dependence on the United States, Macron said Europe needed a “credible strategic concept of joint defence” adding that “nuclear weapons must be included in the debate.”

After Britain’s exit from the European Union, France is the sole EU power with its own atomic weapons.

Hungary, whose Prime Minister Viktor Orban is seen as the strongest supporter of Putin within the EU, took issue with Macron’s latest statements.

“If a NATO member commits ground troops, it will be a direct NATO-Russia confrontation, and then it will be World War III,” Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said.

‘Existential Risk’

Macron said Europe faced not just a military and security risk but also “an economic risk for our prosperity” and “an existential risk of internal incoherence and disruption to the functioning of our democracies.”

“Things can fall apart very quickly,” the French president added.

He said Europe must defend its “strategic interests” in its economic relations with China to address imbalances and restore “reciprocity” in economic ties.

Indicating that Ukraine would loom large in the talks with Xi, Macron said: “It’s not in China’s interest today to have a Russia that destabilises the international order.”

With European Parliament elections looming next month in which the far-right is set to make gains in France, he warned voters against voting for nationalists.

“I say to Europeans: Wake up… All European nationalists are hidden Brexiteers. It’s all the same lies,” he said, referring to those in Britain who backed its exit from the European Union.

“Make no mistake. If you entrust the keys to people who think like they do, there is no reason why Europe should become a great power,” he said.

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