Macron doubles down on idea of using Nato troops in Ukraine

Macron doubles down on idea of using Nato troops in Ukraine
French President Emmanuel Macron: "We will have to live up to history and the courage that it requires." / Czech government office
By Robert Anderson in Prague March 6, 2024

French President Emmanuel Macron called for a "strategic leap" in Western thinking on help to Ukraine during an official visit to Prague on March 5, doubling down on his recent comments about sending Nato troops to help Kyiv.

Macron said that France and the Czech Republic were "well aware that war is back on our soil [in Europe], that some powers which have become unstoppable are 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," Reuters reported.

The French president called for Ukraine’s allies to increase their support and said that a moment was being approached "in our Europe where it will be appropriate not to be a coward".

Macron caused a strong backlash with his comments last month that Nato should not rule out sending troops to Ukraine. His officials later emphasised that he was not talking about combat troops but demining soldiers and trainers. Western special forces are already known to be active in Ukraine.

The Kremlin had reacted by saying that any such move could provoke "World War 3". Macron has defended his comments by stressing the need to show “strategic ambiguity” towards Moscow.

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala had initially reacted to Macron’s comments by rejecting sending any Czech troops but President Petr Pavel, a former top Nato general, said on March 5 that he saw no reason why trainers could not be sent.

"Ukraine, despite being attacked, is still a sovereign country, and even if a training mission were to operate on its territory, this is not a violation of any international rule," Pavel said, Czech news agency CTK reported.

The French president also repeated his support for a Czech plan to organise the purchase of some 800,000 rounds of ammunition for Ukraine from third countries outside Europe, and said EU funds could be used for this.

Previously Macron had insisted on purchases from European suppliers and he is still calling for this as a long-term policy, even though Kyiv’s desperate short-term shortages mean purchases outside the EU have to be made now.

"I think that in this context it could be done bilaterally, it could be done in cooperation with third parties, with bilateral financing or European funding, that of the European Peace Facility, which can be partly mobilised for this initiative," Macron said, according to Reuters.

According to Politico, the EU is considering issuing defence bonds to help finance aid to Ukraine, despite opposition from traditionally fiscally austere Germany,

A draft document issued by France, Estonia and Poland referred to the EU’s pandemic response as a model, Politico reported. “While defence products present an inherently different set of challenges, the risks of a defence industry ill equipped to meet the demands of the new security reality are no less strategic and no less deserving of a common response,” the document was quoted as saying.

In his meeting with Fiala the French president also discussed Czechia’s nuclear plans. France and Czechia are both strong backers of nuclear power having a key role in Europe’s energy mix as coal-based power stations are phased out.

French power company EDF is in a CZK160bn (€6.4bn) tender to build up to four new reactors in Czechia. In January US competitor Westinghouse was surprisingly disqualified from the tender by the usually very pro-US Czech government. The only other competitor remaining now is Korea’s KHNP.

In a deal concluded during Macron’s visit, French company Orano will provide uranium enrichment services to Dukovany nuclear power plant, Czech power company ČEZ, said on March 5. Orana already handles uranium enrichment for Czechia’s second nuclear power station, Temelín. French Framatome, together with Westinghouse, provides nuclear fuel to the Czech plants. Russia’s TVEL was previously responsible for uranium enrichment and Russia also supplied nuclear fuel.