Germany, NATO rule out sending troops to Ukraine as Russia rebukes Macron

Rebuttal of Macron’s remarks comes as Kremlin warns of conflict if West puts boots on ground in Ukraine.

French President Emmanuel Macron
French President Emmanuel Macron speaks at the end of a conference in support of Ukraine with European leaders and government representatives, held at the Elysee Palace in Paris, on February 26, 2024 [Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters]

Germany, Poland and NATO have ruled out sending ground troops to Ukraine, as the Kremlin warned such a move would mark a major escalation and result in direct conflict between Russia and the Western security alliance.

The statements on Tuesday came a day after French President Emmanuel Macron raised the prospect following a European leaders’ meeting on boosting support for Ukraine in its war against Russia.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said participants of the conference in Paris discussed the matter but had agreed “that there will be no ground troops, no soldiers on Ukrainian soil who are sent there by European states or NATO states”.

Scholz said there was also consensus “that soldiers operating in our countries also are not participating actively in the war themselves”.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala – two of Kyiv’s strongest supporters – meanwhile said they too were not considering sending troops.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also told The Associated Press news agency that while members of the alliance had provided “unprecedented support” to Ukraine, “there are no plans for NATO combat troops on the ground in Ukraine”.

The idea of sending troops has been taboo, particularly as NATO seeks to avoid being dragged into a wider war with nuclear-armed Russia. Nothing prevents NATO members from joining such an undertaking individually or in groups, but the organisation would get involved only if all 31 members agreed.

The Kremlin, meanwhile, warned that a direct conflict between NATO and Russia would be inevitable if the alliance sent combat troops.

“The very fact of discussing the possibility of sending certain contingents to Ukraine from NATO countries is a very important new element,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters, commenting on Macron’s remarks.

It is “absolutely not in the interests” of European members of NATO, Peskov said. “In that case, we would need to talk not about the probability, but about the inevitability [of direct conflict].”

With Macron increasingly looking isolated, his government subsequently sought to clarify his comments.

French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne said on Tuesday the president had in mind sending troops for specific tasks such as helping with mine clearance, production of weapons on site, and cyber-defence.

“[This] could require a [military] presence on Ukrainian territory, without crossing the threshold of fighting,” Sejourne told French lawmakers.

“It’s not sending troops to wage war against Russia,” the minister said.

The conference in Paris was held just after France, Germany and the UK each signed 10-year bilateral security agreements?with Ukraine as its government works to shore up Western support.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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