Allies Rebuff French President’s Talk of Sending NATO Troops to Ukrainian Front

Ryan Morgan
By Ryan Morgan
February 27, 2024World News
French President Emmanuel Macron's statement Monday on the possibility of European nations sending troops to Ukraine has garnered mixed reactions. While Mr. Macron highlighted the need to prevent Russia from winning the war, leaders from Germany, Poland, Sweden, and the Czech Republic stated that such intervention was not on their agenda. The Kremlin promptly warned that NATO deployment in Ukraine would make conflict with Russia "inevitable." Macron's statement was also met with criticism from French opposition leader Marine Le Pen as well as left-wing spokespersons, who labeled it "serious" and "total madness," respectively. The lack of consensus among European leaders and concerns about unilateral decision-making have prompted demands for clarification from politicians and the French parliament.

Political and military leaders throughout the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) have broken ranks with French President Emmanuel Macron, rejecting his talk of sending alliance troops to join the fighting in Ukraine.

On Monday, Mr. Macron floated the possibility of sending NATO troops into Ukraine as the country marks two years of fighting against Russian invasion forces. Mr. Macron said the prospect of sending NATO troops into Ukraine was “discussed openly” at a recent meeting of NATO members.

“There’s no consensus today to send in an official, endorsed manner, troops on the ground. But in terms of dynamics, nothing can be ruled out,” Mr. Macron said at a news conference at the Élysée Palace on Monday evening.

By Tuesday morning, leaders of the United Kingdom, Germany, Poland, and Italy indicated they would not be volunteering their countries’ troops for such a deployment.

“There will be no ground troops, no soldiers on Ukrainian soil sent there by European countries or NATO states,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told reporters on Tuesday.

German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius similarly proclaimed that troop deployment to Ukraine “is not an option” for Germany. German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said he was heartened by Mr. Macron’s display of support for Ukraine but said Mr. Macron should channel that energy into supplying more weapons and ammunition for Ukrainian forces.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk announced his country “does not plan to send its troops to Ukraine.”

“Since Russia’s aggression two years ago, there has been full unity among all Allies regarding the support to be offered to Kyiv,” Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s office said Tuesday. “This support does not provide for the presence of troops from European or NATO Countries on Ukrainian territory.”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also pushed back on talk of directly involving the alliance in the fighting in Ukraine.

“NATO allies are providing unprecedented support to Ukraine. We have done that since 2014 and stepped up after the full-scale invasion,” Mr. Stoltenberg said. “But there are no plans for NATO combat troops on the ground in Ukraine.”

On Tuesday, a spokesman for British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told reporters that a limited number of U.K. military personnel are already in Ukraine in a supporting role but said, “We haven’t got any plans for large-scale deployment.”

Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico was among the few leaders of a NATO member nation to suggest at least some of the members could get more directly involved in the fighting in Ukraine. Mr. Fico said his country had no such plans for a Ukraine deployment but said some countries were considering bilateral deals with Ukraine to send troops their way.

NATO Deployments to Ukraine Would Make Wider War Inevitable: Kremlin

The Russian government was also quick with its warning calls to keep NATO troops out of the ongoing fighting in Ukraine.

Throughout the last two years of fighting, the Russian government has bristled at the arms, funding, and intelligence-sharing NATO members have provided Ukraine to use against Russian forces. Despite NATO’s support for his opponent, Russian President Vladimir Putin has not seen an occasion for direct conflict with the 31-member alliance, but if NATO troops directly fought with Russian forces, that could change.

“It’s not going to be about probability, but inevitability – that’s how we assess it,” Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said of the probability of a direct armed conflict between Russia and NATO if NATO troops deployed to fight in Ukraine.

Speaking with the Russian state-owned TASS news agency, Mr. Peskov said any NATO members considering sending troops to Ukraine should ask themselves whether such a move “corresponds to their interests, and most importantly, to the interests of the citizens of their countries.”

Article 5 of NATO’s foundational 1949 North Atlantic Treaty states that a direct attack on a NATO member nation would be treated as an attack on the entire alliance, and the member nations would respond in collective self-defense. The NATO treaty is less clear about member nations joining an existing conflict involving non-members, as would be the case if NATO forces entered the ongoing Ukraine-Russia conflict.

Biden Urging Congress to Approve New Ukraine Aid

Mr. Macron’s talk of directly involving NATO forces in the war in Ukraine comes as Ukrainian forces are reportedly running low on ammunition, and the country is considering expanding military draft laws to compel enough men to continue fielding its army.

The United States has all but exhausted its existing rounds of funding for Ukraine, and lawmakers have been deliberating for months about the future of military aid for Ukraine.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Senate passed a $95 billion supplemental spending bill that would include about $60 billion in new support for Ukraine. That bill has yet to clear a vote in the House of Representatives. Many Republican lawmakers have complained about the price tag for the spending supplemental, as well as its lack of border security provisions. Some Republicans have also shown increased skepticism about keeping the fighting going in Ukraine instead of pressing for a settlement.

President Biden is expected to meet on Tuesday with the top four leaders in Congress—Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.)—to reiterate his calls for the House to pass the $95 billion spending supplemental.

“If that national security supplemental were to go on the floor of the House, it would get bipartisan support. We know this. We’ve heard from Republicans who have said this. And we’re going to continue to push forward. And that is part of what the President is going to discuss with the Big Four tomorrow,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Monday.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this article.

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