Paris Clarifies Macron’s Troops Comment That Has Kyiv’s Allies Wary

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (L) is welcomed by French President Emmanuel Macron upon his arrival at the Elysee presidential palace in Paris on May 14, 2023. (Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)

PARIS (dpa/TNS) — French Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné has clarified comments made by President Emmanuel Macron, who ignited a debate among Kyiv’s military backers by saying that deploying Western troops to Ukraine had not been “ruled out.”

New ways of supporting Ukraine that respond to very specific needs have to be considered, Séjourné said Tuesday in the French National Assembly.

He was thinking in particular of cyberdefence, the production of weapons in Ukraine and mine clearance, France’s top diplomat added.

“Some of these actions could require a presence on Ukrainian territory without reaching the threshold of belligerent power,” he explained.

Macron caused a stir Monday when he said sending Western troops to Ukraine was not off the table.

Macron made the comment at the conclusion of a meeting of European leaders and other Western officials in Paris, where they discussed bolstering military support for Ukraine as the full-scale Russian invasion goes into its third year.

The military powers that back Kyiv have long said that their own troops would not enter into direct conflict with Russian forces, for fear of igniting an all-out war between the West and Moscow.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who was at the Paris meeting, rebuffed Macron’s characterization of the talks.

The German leader said Tuesday that the participants had agreed “there will be no ground troops, no soldiers on Ukrainian soil sent there by European states or NATO states.”

Hours later, the White House reiterated that the United States will “not send troops to Ukraine.”

National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson went on to say that the best way for Washington to help Kyiv was to pass a $60 billion aid package that is being held up in the House of Representatives by Republican lawmakers.

Elsewhere, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said Warsaw would not send any soliders. He spoke after a meeting with his Czech counterpart Petr Fiala in Prague. 

He said the focus should be on providing Ukraine with maximum support in its military efforts against the Russian invasion. 

“Bulgarian troops will not go there,” Bulgarian Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov stated, while Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said the subject was not under discussion within her government.

Lithuania, on the other hand, said it is not fundamentally opposed to the idea of deploying Western ground troops.

Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas said Tuesday that Lithuanian troops could be sent to the country to help train Ukrainian soldiers, for instance, but would never engage in combat operations against Russian forces there.

The Kremlin issued a stern warning to Kyiv’s allies, saying their participation on the battlefield could result in a “hot conflict” among the world’s biggest military powers.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said such fighting was “certainly not in line with those countries’ interests — and they need to understand that,” he was quoted by the state news agency TASS.

The fuss caused by Macron was started when he said at a news conference following the Paris meeting that nothing had been “ruled out” to ensure that Russia does not win its war against Ukraine.

In response to a question from a journalist, he said: “There is no consensus today on officially sending ground troops.” However, “nothing can be ruled out in the dynamic. We will do everything necessary to ensure that Russia cannot win this war,” he added.

“Many people who say ‘never, never’ today are the same people who said ‘never, never tanks, never, never aircraft, never, never longer-range missiles’ two years ago. Today, the discussion is about becoming faster and stronger in the delivery of tanks and missiles. 

“So anything is possible if it helps us achieve our goal,” Macron said.

Macron was responding to a reporter’s question about remarks made by Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico.

Fico, before he departed for the Paris talks, warned of a “dangerous escalation of tensions” with Russia. Individual countries, which he did not wish to name, were apparently prepared to send their own soldiers directly to Ukraine, he said.

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