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Sending western troops to Ukraine cannot be ruled out, says Macron

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French President Emmanuel Macron said sending western troops to fight in Ukraine “could not be ruled out” and that Paris would drop its long-standing opposition to purchasing emergency artillery supplies for Ukraine from outside the EU.

Arguing that Russia’s defeat was necessary to ensure “Europe’s collective security”, Macron said that a meeting of 25 European leaders in Paris on Monday had underscored a new depth of western resolve to help Ukraine, after more than two years of full-scale war in the country.

“We will do everything needed so Russia cannot win the war,” he told reporters.

Asked if sending western troops to Ukraine was an option, Macron said the matter had been discussed at the conference.

“There’s no consensus today to send in an official manner troops on the ground. But in terms of options, nothing can be ruled out,” he added, without providing details on which countries were considering such a step.

Macron said leaders had agreed to set up a “coalition” of countries who would discuss providing Ukraine with long-range missiles and bombs.

France and the UK last year donated scores of Storm Shadow and Scalp cruise missiles, and similar coalitions have already been established for artillery, air defence and maritime warfare.

The more aggressive stance follows pleas from Ukraine for a step-up in western support, to help stem an increasing barrage of Russian attacks that have seen Moscow gain territory in the country’s east after months of stalemate on the battlefield.

European countries are also increasingly worried about the risk that former US president Donald Trump’s possible return to the White House could result in the curtailing of Washington’s support to Ukraine and a weakening of America’s defence pact with Europe.

There is also a sense in European capitals that Russia poses a broader threat, not just in Ukraine, and that it could even invade Nato member states in eastern Europe.

Macron voiced these concerns to open the conference attended by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, and Estonian leader Kaja Kallas, among others.

“I have noted that more or less all the countries represented around this table have said . . . that the common consensus was that we should be ready in a few years’ time, for Russia to attack these countries,” Macron said.

The French U-turn on artillery purchases is a sign of how events on the battlefield have forced a rethink of policies.

Kyiv’s forces have started rationing the use of artillery due to limited western supplies. US aid is held up by congressional infighting and European arms manufacturers are unable to ramp up production fast enough to cover the gap.

Macron said France would join an initiative led by the Czech Republic to make emergency purchases of artillery shells for Ukraine from non-EU countries.

The policy shift signals France will lift its previous objections to using shared EU funds to buy artillery from suppliers outside the bloc, unlocking hundreds of millions of euros in additional finance.

Paris had previously demanded that any EU cash spent on arming Ukraine should be invested into European defence production, in order to simultaneously expand the continent’s limited manufacturing capabilities. Decisions on spending shared EU funds on weaponry require unanimity among the bloc’s member states.

Referring to securing more munitions, Macron admitted that Europe simply could not produce enough of them at the speed needed, so would turn to other countries.

“We will mobilise bilateral financing as well as multilateral,” he said.

Under its initiative, the Czech Republic has identified about 800,000 artillery shells that could be purchased immediately from outside the EU, and has offered to acquire, ship and deliver them to Ukraine if it can raise the necessary funding.

Prague is seeking up to $1.5bn for the scheme, officials have told the Financial Times, In recent days the Czechs approached Brussels officials to see if up to €300mn of unspent EU funds earmarked for artillery purchases for Ukraine could be contributed, but were rebuffed on the grounds of France’s previous objections.

Separately, Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said after the conference that about 15 countries had shown interest in contributing to the initiative, without naming them.

“A number of states in the midst of the negotiations signed up to the initiative,” he told reporters.

Rutte confirmed the Netherlands was one, and would contribute €100mn to the proposal. “I hope other countries will follow,” he said.

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