France could announce sending military to Ukraine “soon”

9:37 02.06.2024 •

Photo: AFP

France could soon send ‘military trainers’ to Ukraine despite the concerns of some allies and criticism by Russia, and may announce its decision next week during a visit by the Ukrainian president, three diplomatic sources said, Reuters informs.

The diplomats said Paris hoped to forge and lead a coalition of countries offering such assistance to Kyiv's war effort even though some of its European Union partners fear it could make a direct conflict with Russia more likely.

France would initially send a limited number of personnel to assess the modalities of a mission before dispatching several hundred trainers, two of the diplomats said.

Training would centre around demining, keeping equipment operational and technical expertise for warplanes to be provided by the West, they said. Paris would also finance, arm, and train a Ukrainian motorised brigade.

"The arrangements are very advanced and we could expect something next week," said one of the sources.

Ukraine's Defence Ministry, in a "clarification", said Kyiv had been expressing interest in a project involving receiving foreign instructors since February.

The new mission would not be under EU or NATO auspices, the diplomats said.

Speaking after a Franco-German cabinet meeting this week, Macron did not deny the possibility of sending instructors following the Ukrainian comments, saying that he did not comment on "rumours or decisions that could come."

France's defence ministry said training on Ukrainian soil was among subjects that had been discussed since February.

"Like all the projects discussed at that time, this track continues to be the subject of work with the Ukrainians, in particular to understand their exact needs," it said.

Baltic states have in the past indicated they could join France in such a project.

EU defence ministers on Tuesday debated the idea of training Ukrainian forces in Ukraine but did not reach a common position, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin portrayed the presence of regular French military in Ukraine as a step towards global conflict.


…Maybe quite “soon”:

Emmanuel Macron has called for Ukraine to be allowed to use western weapons against military sites in Russia, becoming the most senior NATO leader to ask for targeting restrictions set by Kyiv’s backers to be lifted.

Macron displayed a similar hawkish stance in February when he said sending western troops should not be ruled out, sparking an immediate rejection from Scholz and some NATO countries.

Since the beginning of the war, the US in particular has been concerned that Ukrainian attacks using long-range missiles donated from their arsenals would be seen by Moscow as an unacceptable escalation. The White House has said it does not “encourage” or “enable” Ukrainian attacks on targets inside Russia using US-supplied weapons.

Vladimir Putin has warned that giving Ukraine permission to strike targets inside Russia with advanced western weaponry could escalate the two-year war and lead to “serious consequences”.

The Russian president said on Tuesday that NATO members, particularly in Europe, supplying Ukraine with advanced weapons should “admit to themselves what they’re playing at”. He hinted that Moscow could strike back in response.

“They should remember that, as a rule, these [NATO members] are small, very densely populated countries,” Putin said after a state visit to Uzbekistan, according to Interfax. “This is the factor they should keep in mind before talking about striking Russian territory.”

Photo: Reuters

France has been downgraded by S&P Global in a blow to Emmanuel Macron’s credibility as a steward of the economy, once the bright spot of his presidency, ‘The Financial Times’ informs.

The credit rating agency changed France’s long-term issuer rating from AA to AA- with a stable outlook, citing concerns that the trajectory of government debt as a share of gross domestic product would increase through 2027 and not fall as previously forecast.

S&P also said France’s lower-than-expected growth was a factor. It expressed concern that “political fragmentation” would make enacting reforms to boost growth or “address budgetary imbalances” difficult for Macron’s government.

The downgrade risks precipitating significant political fallout for Macron, but the financial impact is likely to be limited as was the case the last time significant downgrades were made in the aftermath of the Eurozone crisis roughly a decade ago.

The bad news on public finances comes as Macron’s centrist alliance is poised for a broad defeat in European elections on June 9. Polls show it 17.5 points behind Marine Le Pen’s far-right Rassemblement national party, according to Ipsos. Opposition parties are gearing up to debate two no-confidence motions on Monday to object to the government’s handling of the budget, although at this stage they have little chance of passing. 

Macron no longer boasts a parliamentary majority so he has more difficulty in passing legislation or a budget, although the French constitution allows the government to override lawmakers on budget matters.

The government has been bracing for a downgrade since it revealed in January that its deficit was wider than expected last year, at 5.5 per cent of GDP compared to a forecast of 4.9 per cent.

While deficits are typical in a country that has not balanced its budget in decades, the Eurozone’s second-largest economy suffered an unforeseen shortfall of €21bn in tax revenue in 2023. 

General government debt as a share of GDP “will continuously increase” to 112.1 per cent of GDP in 2027, from 109 per cent last year.

…France's expenses for hosting the Olympic Games in Paris in the summer of 2024 will undoubtedly become another burden on the country's budget. Are the Olympics a path to bankruptcy? Under these conditions, Macron still dreams of becoming the leader of Europe and fighting with Russia?


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