Russia warns against NATO ground intervention in Ukraine


A provocative comment by President Emmanuel Macron of France about the possibility of sending troops from NATO countries to Ukraine prompted a warning from the Kremlin and hastened efforts by European leaders to distance themselves from the suggestion.

The fractured message underscores how Ukraine’s allies are struggling to agree on new ways to help Kiev as resolve weakens in the United States and Russia advances on the battlefield.

The Kremlin warned Tuesday that a ground intervention by any NATO country would lead to a direct clash between the Western military alliance and Russian forces, fraught with potential dangers, calling open discussion of such a step “a new element.” very important”.

“Of course, this is not in the interests of these countries,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitri S. Peskov said in comments to reporters.

The warning came a day after Macron said “nothing should be ruled out” regarding the possibility of a NATO country sending troops to Ukraine, although he said there was no consensus on the matter.

“Everything is possible if it is useful to achieve our goal,” Macron said, speaking after a meeting with European leaders in Paris about future support for kyiv. Reminding leaders that the West was doing things they did not imagine two years ago, such as sending sophisticated missiles and tanks, he said the goal was to ensure that “Russia cannot win this war.”

Poland, Germany, Sweden, Spain, Italy and the Czech Republic were quick to emphasize that they were not considering sending troops on the ground in Ukraine. NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg also told The Associated Press that the alliance itself had no such plans.

France clarified that Macron was trying to emphasize how Europe must consider new actions to support Ukraine.

French Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné said that new assistance to Ukraine in the areas of mine clearance, cyber defense and weapons production “could require a presence on Ukrainian territory, without crossing the threshold of fighting.”

“Nothing should be ruled out,” Séjourné said. “This was and continues to be the position of the President of the Republic today.”

The back-and-forth highlighted how NATO, despite becoming more powerful with the approval of Finland and Sweden as new members, has found itself looking to Ukraine for solutions.

Western nations have several options other than inserting ground troops into the conflict zone. Ukraine has ordered more fighter jets, long-range missiles, ammunition and air defenses, as its troops defend a Russian advance that led kyiv to withdraw from the city of Avdiivka this month.

Acrimonious exchanges between Russia and the West have become common during the two years of war. The Kremlin has often responded to Western actions with provocative threats of confrontation, including periodically reminding its adversaries of its nuclear arsenal. But despite those bellicose warnings, it has refrained from carrying out attacks against Ukraine’s Western allies, including sites involved in supplying weapons to Ukraine.

Discussion of a possible ground intervention in Ukraine by a NATO member country – considered unlikely by most analysts – overshadowed more pressing questions about the material shortfalls Ukraine is experiencing on the front. Europe’s withering defense industry is struggling to meet existing munitions promises, let alone offset those of the United States.

The European Union has acknowledged that it will not meet its goal of providing one million ammunition to Ukraine by March 1. Macron said Monday that it was “probably a reckless commitment,” noting that Europe does not have enough stocks or production. ability to meet this objective.

“Talk about possible deployments of NATO member countries in Ukraine is something of a red herring,” said Andrew S. Weiss, vice president of studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “The really decisive question is what the Europeans can do to compensate for the lack of American military support.”

Macron said on Monday he was open to European nations buying ammunition for Ukraine from places outside the European Union. The Czech Republic has been pushing for those purchases to help with immediate shortages, as Republicans in Congress delay providing new U.S. military aid.

“The Europeans have now had two years to act together and mobilize their industrial base,” Weiss said. “Everything else is just a shiny object to distract from that deficiency.”

Since Moscow launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine two years ago, the United States and most of its European allies have categorically ruled out the possibility of direct intervention by NATO troops in the conflict, warning that such a step could lead to a nuclear war. .

President Biden openly said that no US troops would be deployed to Ukraine in the weeks before the invasion and has reiterated that position in the days since. On Tuesday, a White House spokesman, John Kirby, added: “President Biden has been very clear from the beginning of this conflict: there would be no American troops on the ground with a combat role there.”

The issue of a NATO country sending troops on the ground initially received renewed attention on Monday, ahead of the Paris summit, when Kremlin-friendly Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico said other NATO countries NATO were discussing bilateral agreements to insert ground forces into Ukraine, a step he said Slovakia would not take.

Macron made his comments that same day, calling Moscow’s defeat “indispensable” for European security. He declined to say which nations might consider sending ground troops, arguing that “strategic ambiguity” was necessary to keep Russia on edge.

But the swift denial from his fellow European leaders raised confusion about the unity of the alliance and questions about whether his comments amounted to an empty threat.

“One thing is clear: there will be no ground troops from European NATO states” in Ukraine, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz wrote in Xthe social platform formerly known as Twitter.

At a news conference in Prague, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and his Czech counterpart Petr Fialia also said they were not considering the option. Sweden, which on Monday cleared its final hurdle to becoming a NATO member, also ruled out sending ground troops. Spain too.

A European military official with knowledge of the Paris talks said that “some Nordic and Baltic countries” had supported the option of sending troops to Ukraine. The official, who did not identify the countries, spoke on condition of anonymity. And Kestutis Budrys, national security adviser to the Lithuanian president, said his country was considering deploying military personnel to train Ukrainian troops, according to local news reports.

Kremlin spokesman Peskov highlighted the “rich variety of opinions on this issue” within the Western alliance and the lack of consensus on the matter.

“A large number of participants in this event in Paris maintain a sufficiently sober assessment of the potential dangers of such actions and the potential dangers of direct participation in a hot conflict – participation on the battlefield,” Peskov said.

Still, Peskov said that the fact that direct intervention by NATO troops on the ground was being discussed “is of course a very important new element” that was noted by the Kremlin.

David E. Sanger and Erica Green contributed reporting.

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