French military chief backs Macron over possibility of sending troops to Ukraine

MAR 22, 2024 LISTEN

Russia should not expect the West to limit its support for Ukraine to supplying arms, says the chief of staff of France's armed forces, General Thierry Burkhard. His words echo President Emmanuel Macron's recent controversial suggestion that military intervention could not be ruled out.

"The war will end when Russia stops attacking," Burkhard told reporters on Thursday following talks in Paris with General Micael Byden – the armed forces chief of new NATO member Sweden.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had built his operation, he added, on the idea that the West would never go into Ukraine but simply supply arms.

"We have to show him that he will not be able to use this logic to go all the way, because this idea is not right," Burkhard said as he urged Europe to be prepared to take risks.

"The war in Ukraine affects us because we are impacted by its consequences. Europeans must therefore be capable of taking risks to ensure the security of Europe in the decade to come."

Smashing taboos

Burkhard's comments come after Macron recently smashed a major taboo by floating the possibility of sending Western troops to Ukraine.

While a number of EU states flatly rejected the idea, Macron hasrefused to back down, insisting his words were well thought through, and stressing that France would not follow the "logic of escalation" with Moscow.

"The president's intention is to make Vladimir Putin understand that we are aware of what is at stake in Ukraine," Burkhard said.

'Prepare for war'

While Germany and central European countries say they will not send forces to Ukraine, France has found an ally in Sweden.

Faced with an increasingly belligerent Russia, Sweden's army chief Byden in January urged his country to "mentally prepare for war".

Sweden's military has been boosting its preparedness since Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014. The country reintroduced limited conscription in 2017, and dropped two centuries of military non-alignment to join NATO in March.

"We have a war raging in Europe; we cannot let this become a normality," Byden said. "Sweden is ready to shoulder its responsibilities, deterrence and defence."

France and Sweden regularly conduct joint military exercises, while the Nordic nation also took part in the French-led Takuba task force of EU special forces in Mali.

Following Macron's visit to Sweden in January, the two countries reportedly plan to ramp up military cooperation, including in the Arctic region.

(with newswires)