French President Emanuel Macron has been attracting attention for his new-found belief that Paris should be playing a more aggressive, central role in achieving a Ukrainian victory. While his new stance has been cheered by Ukraine’s supporters, they were not well-received across the board.

In fact, Macron’s recent comments, regarding the possibility of sending Western troops to Ukraine, created a backlash among some NATO member states; and Russia’s spy chief, Sergey Naryshkin, went as far as to “announce” that there were plans to ship 2,000 French troops to Ukraine – something to which the French defense ministry coyly responded to as “disinformation.”

Undeterred, Macron has reiterated his position: Sending French troops to Ukraine, if needed, should not be ruled out. He also urged European leaders to not be weak in the face of the current “existential” war. Not limiting himself to Ukraine, Macron has also reiterated “unwavering support” for Ukraine’s neighbor, Moldova.

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French politicians seem to comprehend that Russia’s war is about more than just Ukraine. The French parliament recently passed a security agreement, albeit largely symbolic, to support Ukraine. Reflecting broader French sentiment, rival politician Marine Le Pen, known for her Russian-friendly sentiments, stated that her parliamentary bloc would abstain from voting against the measure as a gesture of solidarity with Ukraine’s plight.

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However, not all French are as excited about Macron’s hawkish views. A poll, conducted by Odoxa, found that 68 percent of French citizens believed that Macron was “wrong” in his insistence that it might be necessary to deploy Western troops to Ukraine. Despite domestic criticism, Macron has vigorously declined to rule out Western troops in Ukraine.

Macron’s current tough talk on Russia marks a significant shift from his earlier promotion of engagement with Moscow, which saw the leader cultivating personal ties with Putin. Despite criticism at the time for his dovish strategy, Macron went so far as to argue that it was key to “not humiliate Russia so that the day when the fighting stops we can build an exit ramp through diplomatic means.”

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Perhaps better late than never, Macron now recognizes that “if Russia were to win, the lives of French people would change,” adding: “We would no longer have security in Europe.”

On one hand, Macron’s change can be understood in the context of Paris’ perennial competition with Berlin, now under the leadership of Olaf Scholz, over whether France can lead Europe. Germany has held the leadership role for decades, so some have interpreted Macron’s remarks that Europeans cannot be “cowards” – specifically referencing skepticism about providing Ukraine with military aid in the past – as being a swipe at Scholz.

There are also legitimate good reasons for Macron to have developed a more proactive view towards regional conflict: France’s burgeoning arms industry is now the second largest in the world, creating 400,000 jobs in France, and has surpassed Russia as the second largest producer of armaments. Future European arms deals for Ukraine will continue to include large purchases from French suppliers.

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Internationally, Russia has been curtailing the influence of France abroad, with the alleged involvement of Russian special services or Wagner in Francophone Africa. Additionally, in Latin America, Venezuela’s threats to roll into neighboring Guyana also alarm Macron as it neighbors France’s largest overseas department: French Guiana.

Macron, undoubtedly keeping an eye on his legacy before his second and final term expires in 2027, has turned out to be a wild card. Decisive steps now, to lead Europe against a revanchist Russia, will undoubtedly fuel how the history books remember his leadership.

The views expressed in this opinion article are the author’s and not necessarily those of Kyiv Post. 

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Comments (4)

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David Steel
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Driving through France a little over 30 years ago on my way to Bruges, Belgium. I was pulled over by two French cops late in the evening (they carry guns btw).

They saw my British number plate and couldn't resist it. They walked around my car which was in great condition and one of them smashed the brake light, they then issued an on the spot fine.

This was before they adopted the Euro currency and I remember paying them in Francs. I then set off to find somewhere to stop for the night and get my light fixed in the morning. About 20 miles further I stopped and went into this bar.

There were a few cops inside (not my cops, others) sitting at the bar in uniform drinking beer. If you are not European that may surprise you but it was acceptable back then. However I also realised the guys who pulled me over earlier had done so only to tap me for some beer money.

Long story short, I'm willing to forgive the French if Macron is true to his word and supports Ukraine, I might even sing the Marseillaise. Vive La Ukraine!

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John
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It's a fair article noting both Macrons initial failure to as significantly support Ukraine as at least 30 other EU nations and Canada and the US. So stepping up has always been hoped for by its allies. Interestingly the authors indicated France's weapons industry is now the second largest in the world having displaced russia. It's estimated impacted workforce of 400,000 was probably wondering why its leadership was not throwing them a bigger bone.

Over 75% of France's contribution to date has been towards supporting refugee costs. The French electorate thus being quite exposed to the human impact of putin's crimes and its empathy growing. In humanitarian crisis it is always best to eliminate / mitigate the source of the problem before the crisis worsens. In this situation that requires a physical defeat of putin's invading forces and that requires weapons.

France ramping up its weapon shipments and growingly be open to its forces physically being in Ukraine is good news for Ukraine and its other allies.

Thanks Mr. Macron or shifting tact. Let's hope Marion Le Pen, putin's French equivalent to his putinrump plant, never ends up at France leadership helm.

zenko
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@John, Canada hasn't given what it anniubced. Trudeau trash talk

John
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@zenko, Not sure what you are trying to say (spelling error above?).

According to Kiel Institute's Ukraine aid tracker, as of January 15th, 2024 Canada was tied with the USA in 31st place for its 0.32% GDP contribution ($5.4 billion) in contributions to Ukraine. In total 75 nations are providing Ukraine support to some extent.

As far as I'm concerned our contributions were too low, and I continue to prompt my government to provide more. In February, 2024 they announced another $3.2 Billion in aid for 2024, or about a 60% increase over the total to date. Well that would puts it well at ahead of the USA on a % GDP basis presently I am hoping that will change. For that to happen the USA will need to get past putinrump's MRGA minion's stalling and contribute the additional $60 billion Biden. Apparently this is a few weeks off still.

Europe continues to far, far outpace the aid from North America. Now edging towards 4X that in monetary amount. Some EU nations having contributed over 4% of their GDP. Their citizens have a lot to be proud of in continuing to support Ukraine in its just fight at those levels.

Ukraine and its allies should be fully compensated from seized Russian assets at wars end.

Which nation do you represent?

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Mark Rockford
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Talk is cheap. Macron needs to back it up with some actions now. They don’t need boots on the ground to start making a big impact.

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Jack Griffan 1
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And when is the frenchies having a election. Just asking for a friend. Good about turn around here from Macron. Maybe putler called him a name, use to be so close at one stage. If he pushes for boots on the ground for Kyiv. Then very sorry for the rude names i called you. 110% support then. Just need that Canadian person to grow some muscle as well... or not. Dont think theres any hope from the US entertainers soon. FREE UKRAINE !

db
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@Jack Griffan 1, I gotta say, Jack, you support Ukraine. I FIGHT WITH YOU.

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