Is France ready to fight Russia?

13:52 04.04.2024 •

Paris. Graffiti: “Lord, thank you that there is Russia, which we can blame for all the France problems.”

Macron’s comments about boots on the ground may hold more than meets the eye, notes ‘The American Conservative’.

Russia’s “Fundamentals of the State Policy of the Russian Federation in the Area of Nuclear Deterrence,” a high-level strategic document, says that Russia “hypothetically” could allow the use of nuclear weapons only “in response to aggression using WMD [weapons of mass destruction]” or if there is “aggression using conventional weapons, when the very existence of the state is threatened.”

Responding to France’s President Emmanuel Macron’s February 6 statement that “no option should be discarded” in ensuring the defeat of Russia, including “troops on the ground” in Ukraine, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said that “we are ready to use any weapon, including [tactical nuclear weapons], when it comes to the existence of the Russian state and harm to our sovereignty and independence. Everything is spelt out in our strategy, we have not changed it.”

Macron replied that France is also a nuclear power. “We must first and foremost feel protected,” Macron said, “because we are a nuclear power.” He then added, “We are ready; we have a doctrine [for the use of nuclear weapons].”

France is ready to send troops into Ukraine “to counter the Russian forces” and even to prepare for nuclear war. In a March 19 opinion piece in the French paper Le Monde, General Pierre Schill, Chief of the French Army Staff, declares that “nuclear deterrence safeguards France’s vital interests.” Reminding the world of France’s “international responsibilities” and “interests” and “defense agreements,” he says that “the French army is preparing for the toughest engagements, making this known and demonstrating it.”

But what do the French really mean by saying they are “preparing for the toughest engagement” and that Europe must be “ready” to have “troops on the ground” in Ukraine?

Macron has said that NATO must not discard the option of “troops on the ground” to ensure that “Russia does not win.” But win what? Does Macron want to ensure that Russia does not defeat Ukraine for Ukraine’s sake, or does he mean that Russia should not win in Ukraine for the subsequent defense of Europe?

Macron said that the time was coming “in our Europe where it will be appropriate not to be a coward” and that it is time for a “strategic leap.” He pressed Germany to send their long-range Taurus missiles, reminding them that they once said, “‘Never, never tanks; never, never planes; never, never long-range missiles’… I remind you that two years ago, many around this table said: ‘We will offer sleeping bags and helmets.’”  

But, against all these apparent narrow references to Ukraine, Macron’s subsequent discussions of the threshold for troops sounded more as if they were about the defense of Europe than of Ukraine. He said that “war is back on our [i.e. Europe’s] soil” and that Russia is “extending every day their threat of attacking us even more, and that we will have to live up to history and the courage that it requires.”

It is of course impossible to know Macron’s mind, so any analysis is speculative. But there are at least three possibilities.

The first is that the intended target of his comments is not Russia at all, but the U.S. and Germany. With American war funding struggling against a congressional dam and Germany refusing to send Taurus long-range missiles, Macron may be trying to apply psychological pressure to his allies to send Ukraine more money and weapons assuming they would find that option more palatable than going even further and sending troops.

The second is that the intended target of his comments is Russia. In this possibility, the goal is to create “strategic ambiguity.” The purpose would be, as explained by one French diplomat, so that Russia, as it advances west in Ukraine, cannot rely on the assumption “that none of Ukraine’s partner countries will ever be deployed” to Ukraine.  

The French newspaper Le Monde reports that “Macron’s office explained that the aim is to restore the West’s ‘strategic ambiguity.’ After the failure of the Ukrainian 2023 counter-offensive, the French president believes that promising tens of billions of euros in aid and delivering — delayed — military equipment to Kyiv is no longer enough. Especially if Putin is convinced that the West has permanently ruled out mobilizing its forces.”

The third possibility is that the intended target of his comments is Europe. Europe must prepare for the possibility of a Trump administration weakening its commitment to Europe and NATO. That would leave Europe with more responsibility for the defense of Ukraine and of itself. While Germany has been the economic leader of Europe, France has seen itself as the security leader.

Macron has opened the door to the discussion of Western troops on the ground in Ukraine. With the risks that come with opening that door, it will be important for everyone to clarify both Macron’s threshold and his motivation for sending troops to Ukraine.


Simple question – does Europe really want war with Russia?


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