Following a Feb. 26 European leaders conference in Paris about strengthening support for Ukraine, French President Emmanuel Macron told reporters that despite the lack of consensus on sending ground troops to Ukraine, “nothing could be ruled out.”

Other EU leaders promptly denied that any such plan was on the cards, including German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. However, Macron stands by his position.

Ukrainian member of parliament Oleksiy Honcharenko recently visited Paris as head of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) migration committee. In exclusive comments to Kyiv Post, he opened up on the topic.

“It's a completely new discussion, so a lot of people are really scared of it,” Honcharenko said.

“And it was Macron who removed the taboo from this topic, changing the boundaries of possible support for Ukraine. And everything always starts with one country.”

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Honcharenko voiced his endorsement of the French president’s initiative, stating that it is currently “in the process of implementation.” He added that when it comes to Western troops on Ukraine’s territory, the more “the better.”

“We need it from a practical standpoint as sending our own troops abroad is a very complex process in terms of logistics and time. But it also has a political significance, as the next step after the supply of weapons,” the politician explained.

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He added that a subsequent phase could entail the direct involvement of a foreign military contingent in hostilities.

“While this may not be feasible at present, the current initiative sets us on that trajectory,” he said.

Serious decision

Honcharenko is clear that when it comes to deploying Western troops on the territory of a country that is at full-scale war with a nuclear state, “this is a very serious decision that will have very serious consequences.”

He admits that many countries do not want to participate but suggested that several states are ready to join a coalition under the leadership of Paris.

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“France is forming a coalition of allies, which is expected to include Poland as well as the Baltic states. The search among other European countries is still ongoing,” Honcharenko said.

“I cannot confirm that there is a serious conversation about the deployment of French troops along the Dnipro River. In my opinion, there are just hypothetical scenarios… Regarding the Ukrainian-Belarusian border, this is what is really being discussed. We are talking about the deployment of a Western police mission to free Ukrainian military personnel from that direction. This would allow for the strengthening of the Eastern and Southern directions,” Honcharenko said.

French readiness to bolster military support for Ukraine

Macron's statement in late February launched a public discussion on the issue of Western boots on the ground in Ukraine by top officials and media commentators in France.

Le Monde published an opinion article by Pierre Schill, the French chief of army staff, titled “The French army is ready”, claiming that France “has the capacity to commit one division, i.e. around 20,000 men, to a coalition within 30 days.”

Paris is working on building an alliance of countries that are open to potentially sending Western troops to Ukraine to help in areas like demining, Politico reported.

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At a meeting in Lithuania with his Baltic and Ukrainian counterparts, French Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné said: “It is not for Russia to tell us how we should help Ukraine in the coming months or years. It is not for Russia to organize how we deploy our actions, or to set red lines. So we decide it among us.”

Meanwhile, Ambassador of France to Ukraine Gaël Veyssière said at the 16th annual Kyiv Security Forum (KSF) that Paris does not have any “red lines.”

“For us, this is a very powerful signal that we are strengthening our support for Ukraine. We will not hold ourselves back by any boundaries… This is not something agreed with our friends and partners.

That's what we think, but there are some countries that are interested in these ideas. This is being discussed,” the diplomat said.

Authority required

Honcharenko explained that the French president has the constitutional authority to make the decision on sending French troops to Ukraine. He also played down the idea that this would cause discontent among representatives of both executive and legislative power.

“The French government is formed by Macron, and he has a majority in the parliament,” Honcharenko made clear.

During his recent working trip to Paris, the politician met with his French colleagues to better understand President Macron's stance.

"There are different opinions among French parliamentarians, depending on their political affiliation... This is why Macron signed a security agreement with Ukraine that does not require ratification in parliament,” he said.

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Speaking about the division in French politics, Honcharenko confirmed that the far-left and far-right do not support the sending of French troops to Ukraine, even for training purposes.

“This is only their political stance, which currently has no impact on decision-making,” he added.

Ukraine’s position on direct western involvement

At a press conference earlier this month, Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba said that the entire range of training missions of Western countries operated on the territory of Ukraine in 2014-2022.

“I sincerely don’t understand why the issue of training missions in Ukraine is causing so much difficulty and discussion. Between 2014 and 2022, the entire spectrum of training missions worked very effectively in Ukraine. I see no reason why this cannot continue. Bring back your training missions, put your air defense to protect the training centers,” Kuleba said.

Honcharenko explained that a vote of the Verkhovna Rada would be required to approve a full-fledged military base in Ukraine or where large foreign units would be deployed. Under that scenario, he believes the majority “will definitely support such steps.”

However, if inviting individual instructors, he clarified that such approval would not be required as that would be decided at the level of the president, commanders-in-chief of the armed forces, as well as general staff of both countries. “The military can also be involved as advisers or instructors within a certain military mission,” Honcharenko explained.

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Next steps

Macron made clear in an interview with “1+1” and “We – Ukraine” TV channels that his upcoming trip to Ukraine will include “concrete proposals and decisions.”

In the meantime, President Volodymyr Zelensky claimed that the visit of his French counterpart “will take place in the near future.” He stressed that despite Russian attacks on Ukraine, “the visit is not canceled and it will definitely take place.”

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Comments (7)

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Gavan Duffy
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European troops in Ukraine is a must if Ukraine is to survive.It should have been done two years ago.Ukraine is fighting Europe's war alone.

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Edlund
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With French troops comes western equipment. Maintenance also comes. Training comes, of Ukrainians by the French on western weapons and of the French by Ukrainians in massed drone warfare. And most importantly, a no-fly zone comes. That means the west starts dismantling Putin's terror bombing of Ukraine. This would be a game changer. It would stop Putin and put an end to this imperial project. This could prevent WWIII. Because Putin doesn't want a war with NATO. He will have his head handed to him if he starts that.

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John
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Marcon holds a majority in France's parliament. The putinrump led MRGA GOP aid delays we see in the USA would not apply there. If Macron decides to do more to aid Ukraine, it can quickly happen. They have tremendous weapons manufacturing capacity and unlike in russia, no sanctions to slow that down.

As of 2023, while the USA commands the role of the worlds largest weapons exporter ( 40.9% of global), France comes second at a very respectable 10.9%. Besides edging out russia (10.9%) they double that of either Germany or Italy (China's weapons exports representing 5.8% of global total).

Adding in the other top 2 EU weapons exporters (UK, Spain) just those handful of European allies represent >25% of global weapons supply. Meanwhile exports from putin' allied weapons providers (IRAN, NK) was too low to even show on the Statista.com chart I was referencing. They all have sanctions on them. Technically the allies even in the absence of further US support could out weaponize russian forces.

Still "many hands make lighter work", so USA support remains greatly appreciated. Its unique weapons capabilities are also key to a cleaner / quicker defeat of putin's criminally invading military. Interestingly the USA sales of weapons to Ukraine's allies last year went up 56% to $238 billion...trickle down benefits to their economy further dwarfs even that. Perhaps France wants a bigger piece of the pie as USA' stays in MRGA stalling limbo.

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Mark Rockford
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They would not need boots on the ground to push Russia out. A very short air campaign would likely be enough to make Russia collapse. Striking Russia’s strongholds, any positions currently out of reach to Ukraine’s forces, and rendering the bridge to Crimea inoperable would not only push Russia out of Ukraine, but lead to the downfall of Putin, and eventual collapse of the Russian Federation.

Jack Griphen
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@Mark Rockford, like Libya. No talk, just do it . Ukraine need Mirage 2000, Griphen fighters. Homegrown EU birds. Down the road some smuck from the other side of the pond will say no more parts for the F16, or something similar. ICBM for every friendly country in the EU. Nuclear of course, that will keep the orcs in a row. Fkrs

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Jack Griffen 2
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Its going to happen , better be sooner than later. The year is 2024 , so should maybe be arount 2034 ish . Thats if half of Europe could agree to put their dolls and knitting needles down.

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Sasha
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I think it's simple, Putin wants war, so he will have it!

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Will
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What about a no fly zone or air power to protect the ground forces. Mirage 2000’s?

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