Ukraine's allies must 'jump-start' their support, Macron tells Paris summit

Ukraine AP - Gonzalo Fuentes
FEB 27, 2024 LISTEN
AP - Gonzalo Fuentes

French President Emmanuel Macron has announced new steps to boost Ukraine in its fight against the Russian invasion, and has not ruled out sending Western ground troops. He said Europe's security and stability depended on Russia's defeat.

Hosting a meeting in Paris of two dozen European leaders, Macron painted a grim picture of a Russia whose positions he said were "hardening" both at home and on the battlefield.

Macron said that Ukraine's allies needed to jump-start their support as the war entered its third year.

"We are convinced that the defeat of Russia is indispensable to security and stability in Europe," he said.

Russia, he said, was showing a "more aggressive attitude not just in Ukraine but in general".

He gave the example of the death of President Vladimir Putin's top opponent Alexei Navalny earlier this month, but also in a hardening of Russia's positions on the frontlines, where he said it was planning new attacks.

Macron refused to say more about France's position, citing the need for "strategic ambiguity" but said the issue of Western troops in Ukraine was listed among the "options".

While there was "no consensus" on the sending of Western ground troops to Ukraine, "nothing should be excluded. We will do whatever it takes to ensure that Russia cannot win this war," he said.

Never say 'never'

"Many people who say 'never, ever' today were the same people who said 'never tanks, never planes, never long-range missiles' two years ago" when Russia invaded, said Macron. "Let us have the humility to note that we have often been six to twelve months late."

Macron said the new coalition would be set up to supply Ukraine with missiles and bombs of medium and long range to carry out deep strikes.

He added there was also a consensus to ramp up joint production of armaments with Ukraine and boost its own military industry.

Czech Premier Petr Fiala said there was "great support" for an initiative to help Ukraine buy munitions outside the EU. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said his country would contribute and others would follow.

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico was quoted as saying some EU and NATO members were weighing the option of sending troops.

'Imprudent' commitment

The conference signalled Macron's eagerness to present himself as a European champion of Ukraine's cause, amid growing fears that American support could wane in the coming months.

Western officials acknowledge that Russia risks gaining the upper hand in the conflict this year as Ukraine runs out of weapons and ammunition.

"Together we must ensure that Putin cannot destroy our achievements and cannot expand his aggression to other nations," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a brief video message to the conference.

Zelensky complained Ukraine only received 30 percent of a million shells the EU had promised. "It is clear that we did not have this million," Macron said, acknowledging an "imprudent commitment".

Ukrainian Defence Minister Rustem Umerov said Sunday that half of the Western military aid pledged to Kyiv is delivered late, noting that "commitment does not constitute delivery".

(with AFP)