Renewed debate on Western troops in Ukraine: Macron´s remarks spark discussion

Two years ago, headline over headline with the newest developments, newest death numbers and newest information regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine reached us over basically every news report. With the war going on for over 2 years now and new events and developments overtaking the news, the topic steps increasingly into the background. This does not mean that the situation is cooling down or talks and negotiations are not part of the everyday agenda of countries and international organisations.

“We should not exclude that there might be a need for security that then justifies some elements of deployment”, were words spoken by the French President Macron in a news conference on Monday evening, after he hosted a meeting of Western leaders discussing support for Ukraine. His statements sparked irritation and debate in the international arena and especially among NATO members. By indicating the idea of placing Western troops on Ukrainian ground to support Ukraine in the war between Ukraine and Russia, Macron challenged the prevalent fear and opinion that an active participation would increase the risk of Russian escalation, also against NATO countries.

In response the White House stated that the United States would not send troops to Ukraine and also Germany, Britain, Italy, Spain, Poland and the Czech Republic opposed the idea. Additionally, the Kremlin asserted that such action would make a confrontation between Russia and the NATO members inevitable. Therefore, the president’s statements led to disagreement and tension between NATO members, which could have a possible negative effect on the common representation of unity against the Russian aggression. Especially in the Franco-German relationship the supply of support to Ukraine sparks tension because both countries have accused each other of not acting enough or too late in the past. Moreover, when looking at the United States Macron´s words could have a negative effect on the already going on debate regarding a bill that would provide 60 billion dollars of aid to Ukraine, which is already stuck in Congress. The debate could take even longer or result unsuccessfully when a fear of possible war is surrounding the discussion. With Trump stating that Putin “can do whatever the hell they want ” and threatening that the United States would not support NATO member states in a confrontation with Russia if they do not invest more into defence, the fear of a drawback of American support becomes worse. An isolation of the United States under Trump as a possible follow up president, would have drastic consequences for Ukraine, because Europe would hardly be able to fill the support gaps.

On the other hand, the open statement of the possibility of intervention by Western countries can be seen as a reminder of Western support and power for Ukraine and against Russia. An eastern diplomat pointed out that “the fact it is now on the table means it’s much, much worse than we thought it was”. And people are tired. Tired of the war. Tired of the violence. Tired of defending and constantly fighting for their right to live in peace and freedom. “I just want this war and the sirens to end sooner”, says Vita, a Ukrainian citizen. With not enough aid and growing Russian dominance, this wish does not seem to be fulfilled soon. Even though the exhaustion is growing, the willingness to defend is not breaking.

“I need ammunition, not a ride”, a famous quote once said by President Zelensky gains in importance with every continuing day of this war. French officials were sent out to clarify Macron´s intention to encourage dialogue and propose measures including the deployment of non-combat troops in activities such as demining, border protection or training Ukrainian forces. The French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne stressed the need for new actions to support Ukraine in areas of weapon production, cyber defence and mine clearance. If the current situation stays the same, “we will comfort President Putin in his impression that we are weak”, stated a French diplomat.

To sum up, Macron´s public comments led to reactions and discussions and importantly gave us a hint about the current situation in Ukraine. “I do very much think what Macron said is useful. It also demonstrates to our public opinion the urgency of the matter and what is at stake”, is what an eastern European diplomat stated. 

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