France builds alliance of countries open to possible Western troop deployment in Ukraine

Stéphane Séjourné
Stéphane Séjourné

French Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné backed the idea of sending foreign troops to Ukraine during his March 8 visit to Lithuania to meet with his Baltic and Ukrainian counterparts, Politico reported.

He repeatedly mentioned mine-clearing operations as a possibility, saying it "might mean having some personnel, [but] not to fight."

"Ukraine did not ask us to send troops. Ukraine is asking us to send ammunition at the moment," Séjourné said, adding that "we do not exclude anything for the coming months."

"It is not for Russia to tell us how we should help Ukraine in the coming months or years," he said at a meeting chaired by Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis and attended by his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba.

"It is not for Russia to organize how we deploy our actions, or to set red lines. So we decide it among ourselves."

The meeting comes as Ukraine suffers from a shortage of artillery ammunition, making it difficult to stop the onslaught of Russian attacks.

Baltic ministers praised France for "thinking outside the box."

French President Emmanuel Macon raised the possibility that Western soldiers may have to be sent to Ukraine after a conference in support of Kyiv held in Paris on Feb. 26. In response to Macron's statements, several NATO countries publicly rejected the idea of sending troops to Ukraine, including Poland, the United States, Germany, Czech Republic, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

However, the three Baltic countries — the most exposed to any Russian attack should Moscow succeed in its war against Ukraine — are much more open to the idea.

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas and Lithuanian Defense Minister Arvydas Anušauskas did not reject the possibility of sending troops but clarified that they will send them only for training missions. General Onno Eichelsheim, Chief of the General Staff of the Dutch Army, said that "all options should be kept open."

Warsaw is also shifting its position.

The AFP news agency quoted a source as saying that European NATO member states had been studying the possibility of sending NATO troops to Ukraine for weeks.

On Feb. 29, French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal explained that French troops could participate in the war on the side of Ukraine to protect certain borders, take part in exercises or ground air defense. He stated that there will be no participation of French soldiers in battles “directly on the front line.”

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