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NATO allies rule out sending troops to Ukraine as Russia rebukes Macron

Berlin, Germany/Moscow, Russia
Reuters

The United States and key European allies said on Tuesday they had no plans to send ground troops to Ukraine, after France hinted at the possibility, and the Kremlin warned that any such move would inevitably lead to conflict between Russia and NATO.

French President Emmanuel Macron had said on Monday that Western allies should exclude no options in seeking to avert a Russian victory in Ukraine, though he stressed there was no consensus at this stage.


Ukrainian servicemen of 93rd brigade fire a 2S1 Gvozdika self propelled howitzer towards Russian troops, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, near the town of Chasiv Yar in Donetsk region, Ukraine, on 22nd February, 2024. PICTURE: Reuters/Inna Varenytsia/File photo

His comments, made at a hastily convened meeting of European leaders in Paris on ways to boost flagging support for Kyiv, come amid battlefield gains by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces in eastern Ukraine as well as growing shortages of ammunition and manpower on the Ukrainian side.

However, Germany, Britain, Spain, Poland and the Czech Republic distanced themselves from any suggestion they might commit ground troops to the Ukraine war, now in its third year.

“[T]here will be no ground troops, no soldiers on Ukrainian soil sent there by European countries or NATO states,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Tuesday.

German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius was equally adamant.

“Boots on the ground is not an option for Germany,” Pistorius told reporters during a visit to Vienna.



The White House later reiterated that it too had no plan to send ground troops, instead urging US lawmakers to approve a stalled security aid bill that would ensure Ukrainian troops got the weapons and ammunition needed to continue their fight.

Seeking to clarify Macron’s remarks, French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne said on Tuesday the president had in mind sending troops for specific tasks such as helping on mine clearance, production of weapons on site, and cyberdefence.

“[This] could require a [military] presence on Ukrainian territory, without crossing the threshold of fighting,” Sejourne told French lawmakers.

Scholz did say that European leaders now appeared willing after Monday’s talks to procure weapons from countries outside Europe as a way of speeding up military aid to Ukraine.

Germany has become the second biggest supplier of military aid to Kyiv since Russia launched its full-blown invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, but is extremely wary of steps that would draw the NATO alliance into direct conflict with Russia.


German Chancellor Olaf Scholz attends a groundbreaking ceremony at the new Freiburg-Dietenbach development in Freiburg, Germany, on 27th February, 2024. PICTURE: Reuters/Heiko Becker

Russian rebuke
The Kremlin issued a swift warning about what was at stake.

“The very fact of discussing the possibility of sending certain contingents to Ukraine from NATO countries is a very important new element,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, commenting on Macron’s remarks.

Asked about the risks if NATO members did deploy troops to fight in Ukraine, Peskov said: “In that case, we would need to talk not about the probability, but about the inevitability (of a direct conflict).”

Russia and the United States – the big power behind NATO – have the world’s largest arsenals of nuclear weapons. President Joe Biden has cautioned that a conflict between Russia and NATO could trigger World War III.


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The possibility in particular of German troops being deployed to ex-Soviet territory is hugely sensitive for Russia, whose fierce resistance to Hitler’s invasion during World War Two is an integral part of national identity. Putin has even cast Russia’s actions in Ukraine as a struggle against “Nazis”, a stance Kyiv and the West dismiss as cynical and absurd.

A senior Ukrainian official welcomed Macron’s decision to raise the possibility of sending Western troops to his country.

“This shows, firstly, an absolute awareness of the risks posed to Europe by a militaristic, aggressive Russia,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said in a written comment on Macron’s statement.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, rattled by the resistance of some US Republicans to providing more aid for Kyiv, has stepped up his lobbying of European governments for more artillery shells and longer-range weapons.

The Czech Republic this month announced plans, backed by Canada, Denmark and others, to finance the rapid purchase of hundreds of thousands of ammunition rounds from third countries to dispatch to Ukraine.

РWith reporting by Reuters reporters in Moscow, Kyiv, Washington, Berlin, Paris, London, Madrid and Prague 

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