European states dismiss French refusal to rule out sending troops to Ukraine

Kremlin says western soldiers fighting in Ukraine would make Russia-Nato conflict ‘inevitable’

European leaders have rushed to reject any prospect of sending troops to Ukraine after French president Emmanuel Macron refused to rule out the possibility, and the Kremlin said any such deployment would lead to direct conflict between Russia and Nato.

“There is no consensus at this send troops on the ground,” Mr Macron said after hosting about 20 European leaders for discussions on the Ukraine-Russia war on Monday evening. “Nothing should be ruled out. We will do whatever it takes to ensure that Russia cannot win this war.”

Amid a flurry of reaction on Tuesday, French foreign minister Stephane Sejourne insisted that Paris did not intend to send soldiers to fight Russia’s invasion force in Ukraine. “We must consider new actions to support Ukraine. These must respond to very specific needs, I am thinking in particular of mine clearance, cyber defence, the production of weapons on site, on Ukrainian territory.

“Some...actions could require a presence on Ukrainian territory without crossing the threshold of fighting. Nothing should be ruled out. This was and still is the position today of the president of the Republic.”


Before Mr Sejourne’s clarification countries including Germany, Britain, Sweden, Spain, Poland and the Czech Republic – as well as Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg – ruled out any possibility of sending western troops to fight in Ukraine.

“What was agreed from the beginning among ourselves…also applies to the future, namely that there will be no soldiers on Ukrainian soil sent there by European states or Nato states,” said German chancellor Olaf Scholz.

A spokesman for British prime minister Rishi Sunak said “the UK already has a small number of personnel in-country supporting the armed forces of Ukraine, including for medical training...We’ve got no plans to make a large-scale deployment.”

Ukraine is working on a new mobilisation law to draft more troops into its ranks after two years of all-out war with Russia amid concerns over slowing western arms supplies and a push by Moscow’s forces to take more territory in the east of the country.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that if Nato troops were deployed to Ukraine, “then we would need to talk not about the likelihood but the inevitability” of conflict. “That’s how we evaluate it. These countries must also evaluate and be aware of this, and ask themselves whether this corresponds to their interests and the interests of the citizens of their countries.”

Mr Macron said the West needed to make a “leap” in its approach that “takes into account the transformation of the threat from a military and strategic point of view”.

“Many people who say ‘never, never’ today were the same people who said ‘never tanks, never planes, never long-range missiles’ two years ago,” he added. “Let us have the humility to note that we have often been six to 12 months late. This was the objective of this evening’s discussion: everything is possible if it is useful to achieve our objective.”

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Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin is a contributor to The Irish Times from central and eastern Europe