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Europeans rule out sending troops to Ukraine as Russia rebukes Macron

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French President Emmanuel Macron opened the door on Monday to European nations sending troops to Ukraine, although he cautioned that there was no consensus at this stage

Germany, Britain and other European countries said on Tuesday they had no plans to send ground troops to Ukraine, after France hinted at the possibility, and the Kremlin warned that any such move would inevitably lead to conflict between Russia and NATO.

French President Emmanuel Macron had said on Monday that Western allies should exclude no options in seeking to avert a Russian victory in Ukraine, though he stressed there was no consensus at this stage.

“Nothing should be excluded. We will do everything that we must so that Russia does not win,” Macron told reporters at a hastily convened gathering of European leaders in Paris to mull how to bolster support for Ukraine against Russia‘s invasion.

Macron‘s comments come amid battlefield gains by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces in eastern Ukraine and growing shortages of ammunition and manpower on the Ukrainian side.

However, Germany, Britain, Spain, Poland and the Czech Republic distanced themselves on Tuesday from any suggestion they might commit ground troops to the Ukraine war, now in its third year.

“There will be no ground troops, no soldiers on Ukrainian soil sent there by European countries or NATO states,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on the sidelines of an event.

German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius was equally adamant.

“Boots on the ground is not an option for Germany,” he told reporters during a visit to Vienna.

“I’m glad if France is considering how to support Ukraine more strongly, but if I can make a suggestion, then send more weapons,” German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said.

“Do what you can do now and give Ukraine the ammunition and tanks that can be sent right now.”

After Monday’s talks, Scholz said European leaders now appeared willing to procure weapons from countries outside Europe as a way of speeding up military aid to Ukraine.

Germany has become the second biggest supplier of military aid to Kyiv since Russia launched its full-blown invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, but is extremely wary of steps that would draw the NATO alliance into direct conflict with Russia.

RUSSIAN REBUKE

The Kremlin issued a prompt warning about what was at stake.

“The very fact of discussing the possibility of sending certain contingents to Ukraine from NATO countries is a very important new element,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters when asked about Macron‘s remarks.

Asked about the risks if NATO members did send troops to fight in Ukraine, Peskov said: “In that case, we would need to talk not about the probability, but about the inevitability (of a direct conflict).”

He said Western countries should consider whether such a scenario was really in their interests.

Russia and the United States – the big power behind NATO – have the world’s largest arsenals of nuclear weapons. President Joe Biden has cautioned that a conflict between Russia and NATO could trigger World War Three.

A White House official told Reuters on Monday that the United States had no plans to send troops to fight in Ukraine, neither were there plans to send NATO troops to fight there.

Britain also has no plans for a large-scale deployment of troops to Ukraine, a spokesman for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Tuesday, while noting that it already has a small number of personnel in that country helping to support Kyiv’s forces.

Spain wants to limit aid to sending more weapons and other materiel to Kyiv, government spokesperson Pilar Alegria said.

In similar vein, the prime ministers of Poland and the Czech Republic, staunch supporters of Ukraine, said at a news conference in Prague on Tuesday that they wanted to provide more ammunition to Kyiv but had no plans to send troops.

The Czechs this month announced plans, backed by Canada, Denmark and others, to finance the rapid purchase of hundreds of thousands of ammunition rounds from third countries to dispatch to Ukraine.

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