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NATO Boots on Ukraine - Macron’s Statements reflect a Bold New Strategy

The conflict in Ukraine is once again making headlines due to a string of statements by French President Emanuel Macron over the last few weeks in which he consistently suggested that the possibility of deploying NATO soldiers in Ukraine should not be ruled out.


Illustration of NATO and Europe in Ukraine

Illustration by The Geostrata


The French president hinted at deploying these soldiers for support roles, as he also urged the rest of Europe to remain brave in the face of adversity.

These statements were initially made at a conference for support to Ukraine, hosted in Paris, and have been reaffirmed by the President in recent interviews in light of meetings with the German chancellor and Polish Prime Minister. This new aggressive French stance, however, has brought to the surface much contradiction among different NATO members in Europe, as not all of them seem as enthusiastic to align with such plans. This situation can go one of two ways: either a unanimously ramped-up approach to Ukraine across Europe or signs of trouble and geopolitical divergence.

 

Earlier last month, there were signs of a more euro-centric approach within NATO. The Weimar Triangle is a strategic group comprising Poland, Germany, and France, and their meeting signified a potential policy convergence on security matters.

After all, it would be prudent to assume that all these nations aim for the de-Anglicization of Europe’s security strategy by shifting away from dependence on the USA. Particularly in the event of a Republican White House post-2024 elections, NATO can no longer look across the Atlantic for solutions.


In theory, at least, such a trilateral approach would be an efficient means of coordinating a united stand on Ukraine. The group met again this prior week to discuss a unanimous strategy for trade with Ukraine, and in theory, it looks like strategic cohesion in Europe is gradually coming together. However, the response to Macron’s comments paints a rather different picture. 

 

THE BLEAK PICTURE OF FRANCO-GERMAN DIVERGENCE

 

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz had put out a hasty statement affirming that “there will be no ground troops from European countries in NATO,"  even if defence supplies were to be ramped up. This is not entirely surprising given that Germany has consistently followed a cautious approach towards taking a staunch stance on the conflict.


In stark contrast to France, Germany has attempted to depict that it does not wish to threaten Russian sovereignty on multiple occasions.

The tipping point was their unwillingness to send the Taurus cruise missiles to Ukraine. The premise for this is two fold. Firstly, these missiles could have the range to strike Russian cities like Moscow, and secondly, they would require the supervision of German troops. In terms of optics (which is mainly what the issue boils down to), neither of these is aligned with Berlin’s stance of relative circumspection. 

 

The issue remains Russia’s strategic unpredictability. Following the statements of the French president, Putin was quick to announce that the mobilisation of European troops in Ukraine could push Russia to go nuclear.


Western aid to Ukraine has been drying up, due to which the Russian military has gained significant advantages in the war.

For any western action that could lead to a setback for Moscow, it is highly likely that the Kremlin would explore new options to deal with the threat. Recently, Russia tested its Yars intercontinental ballistic missile, which fuels speculation that Russia is exploring the nuclear option. Risking confrontation against a nuclear power, particularly one that has consistently gone against the conventional wisdom of interdependence-based international relations, is a step that most European nations are unwilling to take.


Indeed, Putin’s recent comments may just be sabre-rattling, but even the narrow chance that they constitute genuine retaliation on an extreme level renders a joint NATO/EU intervention unlikely. 

 

IS STRATEGIC RECONCILIATION ON THE CARDS?

 

So where does Europe go from here? Given the strong wording of German statements, which sought to unequivocally downplay France’s gallant enthusiasm on the matter, it remains unlikely that the key players can agree on anything that would radically change the events of the war.


One possibility is that France takes measures in tandem with the UK rather than seeking European approval.

However, this comes with its own bag of worms, given its role in leading the EU, which obliges France to align policy with other European countries to at least some degree.

Another possibility is that Macron’s resolute stance is merely a political ploy to help him regain support among the French population, particularly the sections that have criticised him for his inaction regarding the Israel-Palestine crisis

 

Realistically, a lot depends on how the next few weeks unfold and whether there can be tangible Franco-German reconciliation to collectively drive decisive EU and NATO measures in Ukraine. The Weimar triangle conference at this point seems like damage control for the earlier fallout, but it is nonetheless a step in the right direction to bridge the gap between Paris and Berlin.


The question now remains whether they can at the very least present a united and well-coordinated front rather than resorting to contradictory public statements that all but highlight cracks within mainland Europe.


 

BY DHRUV BANERJEE AND JATIN CHAWLA

TEAM GEOSTRATA

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2 Comments


well written

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Interesting to see how NATO's strategy plays out in Ukraine.

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