France's Macron urges allies not be cowardly on Ukraine

March 6, 2024 10:13 am

[Source: Reuters]

French President Emmanuel Macron told expats in Prague it was time for Ukraine’s allies to step up.

Adding that a moment was being approached “in our Europe where it will be appropriate not to be a coward.”

Macron has faced a backlash from many Western allies after he discussed the idea of sending Western troops to Ukraine at a Paris-based conference on Ukraine on Feb. 26.

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But during a visit to Prague on Tuesday, Macron said he stood by his comments, and that a “strategic leap” was necessary.

In a reference to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, 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.”

Macron’s Feb. 26 comments, made after he hosted a meeting of Western leaders to rally support for Ukraine, fit with his reputation as a diplomatic disruptor who likes to break taboos and challenge conventional thinking.

French officials later explained that Macron’s intention was to stimulate debate and that ideas under discussion involved non-combat troops in roles such as demining, border protection or training Ukrainian forces.

Macron also stressed on Tuesday his support for plans announced last month by the Czech Republic, 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.

Ukraine is critically short of artillery rounds as its troops try to hold back Russian forces who are again on the offensive in the east, two years after Moscow launched its full-scale invasion.

Macron did not say what France would contribute to the initiative, adding that ministers would work on that.

But he opened the door to using European funds for it.

One of the key issues for France has been financing of such an initiative, given it has long pushed for the EU to use European financing only for the European defence industry and opposed the idea of using European money to buy outside the bloc.

“We support this initiative and we are ready to contribute to it,” Macron said of the Czech plan.

Despite earlier misgivings on using EU funds to buy abroad, he said: “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.”

The Netherlands said last month it would contribute 100 million euros to the Czech initiative.