Macron says putting Western troops on ground in Ukraine cannot be ruled out

Macron tells European leaders to ‘have the humility to note that we have often been six to 12 months late’ on Ukraine

Arpan Rai
Tuesday 27 February 2024 07:30 GMT
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Zelensky warns Ukraine will not exist if Russia wins war

French president Emmanuel Macron has told European leaders that sending Western troops into Ukraine cannot be ruled out.

Mr Macron was speaking at a gathering of 20 European leaders in Paris to display collective “conviction” backing Ukraine against the Russian invasion that is now in its third year.

“There is no consensus at this stage to send troops on the ground. Nothing should be excluded. We will do everything that we must so that Russia does not win,” Mr Macron told reporters on Monday.

At least 20 European leaders, including from the UK, Poland, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia, Portugal and Belgium, met at the Elysee presidential palace for discussions on how to ramp up ammunition supplies to Ukraine.

“Let us have the humility to note that we have often been six to 12 months late. This was the objective of this evening’s discussion: everything is possible if it is useful to achieve our objective," Mr Macron said, adding that Europe should not depend on the United States to fight in Ukraine

He added: "Many people who say ‘Never, never’ today were the same people who said ‘never tanks, never planes, never long-range missiles’ two years ago.”

French president Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech to open a conference in support of Ukraine with European leaders in Paris on Monday 26 February
French president Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech to open a conference in support of Ukraine with European leaders in Paris on Monday 26 February (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

A statement by the Elysee palace said the conference “was an opportunity to share observations on the situation on the ground, the profound destabilisation caused by Russia and its renewed aggressiveness against Ukraine and against Europe.”

“We are talking about our support for Ukraine and our collective security. A collective leap is necessary from all of us,” Mr Macron said on X, formerly Twitter. He wrote that he had “shared conviction with our partners tonight: Russia cannot and must not win in Ukraine,” in a separate post.

The high-level meeting, coming just days after the war reached its second anniversary, was aimed at countering the Kremlin’s narrative that Ukraine’s partners are waning in their support and Russia is set to win the war, as it ramps up its military offensive with help from Iran and North Korea.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky also attended the meeting virtually and backed the French president’s warning regarding escalation of the conflict. “We must ensure that Putin cannot destroy our achievements and cannot expand his aggression to other nations,” he told the leaders.

While Ukraine has managed to stall the Russian army and limited their offensive to the eastern side of the country, grinding warfare has continued.

The country has seen setbacks on the eastern battlefield, with the recent collapse of Avdiivka in Donetsk as generals complained of shortages of arms and soldiers.

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte, seen as the frontrunner to become the next Nato chief, told reporters the issue of sending troops was not the focus of Monday’s talks.

And a White House official said that the US has no plans to send troops to fight for the Ukrainian side against Russia, and that there are no plans to send Nato troops to fight in Ukraine.

Slovak prime minister Robert Fico, who has opposed military aid to Ukraine, said several Nato and EU members were considering sending soldiers to Ukraine on a bilateral basis.

"I can confirm there are countries that are prepared to send their own troops to Ukraine, there are countries that say never, among which Slovakia belongs, and there are countries that say this proposal needs to be considered," he said before boarding his plane home.

The French leader is looking for solutions after security talks in Munich failed to make any progress earlier this month, an unnamed adviser to the president told Reuters.

"We’re neither doomy nor gloomy. We want Russia to understand that. Russia will have to count on us all collectively to end this war," the adviser said.

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