Emmanuel Macron’s Debate for Western Troops Deployment in Ukraine

June 2024

Vitalii Rishko

THRI Fellow 

As the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine unfolds, the international landscape is in a state of turmoil. From this chaos challenges regarding security issues are multiplying, and new initiatives to address them are emerging. This is a time of significant change and with global crises and conflicts stacking on another as seen with the Russia-Ukraine war, Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Houthis’ blockade in the Red Sea as some examples. Despite the intensifying tension between the United States andChina, the two major powers are consumed by domestic instability.

The US is preoccupied with its presidential elections, and China is dealing with the economic consequences of COVID-19. Against this backdrop, when two leading powers are drawn into their domestic affairs, it amplifies the impetus for other regional powers to act independently, especially given the dangerous context in which they can find themselves. That is why distinct EU member states attempt to find solutions to mitigate risks regarding regional concerns posed by the war against Ukraine.With a leading example of said solutions; French President Emmanuel Macron’s statement about the possible deployment of troops to Ukraine amid a troubling international environment has sparked intense debates, which could signify a significant shift in French and European policies towards Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (Chastand et al, 2024).

As a result of all of the stacked global crises the International audience has arguably split into two different camps. One of the key proponents of the first camp have stated that there is a need for recalibration of the various European approaches to The Russian-Ukraine conflict and specifically with Macrons initiatives regarding the conflict. The second camp believe that Macron’s words should not be taken seriously, stating that the EU/NATO are not ready to have such a direct conflict with Russia. The reality is more complicated than these two perspectives. Further research of looking into the current phase of Russia’s war against Ukraine and of its short-to-long-term risks, within an international context would give a more well-rounded comprehension of Macron’s decision making as of late. Furthermore, one must consider Macron’s political ambitions plus France’s own relationship with other EU member states, and its ties even further with its relationship with the United States.

Dynamic Frontlines: Assessing the Current State of the Russia-Ukraine War and International Aid Efforts

The current developments concerning the frontlines in Ukraine suggest a multi-faceted picture. Military and international experts’ views diverge significantly. Some contend this could be Ukraine’s most pivotal and dangerous moment since 2022. They suggest that even after suffering substantial losses, Russia, having seized Avdiivka, may still manage to penetrate and breach additional frontlines, yielding more significant territorial gains (Massicot, 2024). All of this is possible because of the weakened support for Ukraine, especially from its major security contributor, the United States. This is thus a favourable situation for the Kremlin, this weakened international support may allow more positive tactical results for Russia.

Others reckon that overall frontline dynamics demonstrate that the war is facing a stalemate stage when neither side can obtain significant operational territorial gains. Ukraine has already resorted to active defence. However, this can change by the end of 2024 (Barry, 2024). Russia faces significant limitations in the longevity and reliability of its military capabilities. Approximately 80% of its tanks and other armoured vehicles are not newly produced but are modernized from Russia’s old war stocks (Watling and Reynolds, 2024). While Russia can maintain a consistent output through 2024, it will soon encounter the need for more profound upgrades of its vehicles (Watling, 2024).

The ability of Russia to sustain manpower in this respect will remain essential but not as decisive as before. Given that Ukraine is poised to fortify its current positions and that Russia’s air superiority is likely to deteriorate with the arrival of several dozen F-16 fighter jets, these factors add to the complexity of Russia’s campaign in 2024. The thirdscenario for Ukraine suggests that Ukrainian defence lines will collapse at several points, allowing Russia to achieve operational success and capitalize immensely.

Based on the scenarios mentioned above, the EU has already stepped up in this critical situation and approved the Ukraine Facility with its €50 billion of assistance to Ukraine. Consequently, the EU and France expect the US to do the same and fulfil its commitment. It is vital to remember that the US’s aid to Ukraine has been frozen for several months, the bill’s fate is still unclear, and the EU has already surpassed the United States regarding financial support to Ukraine (Trebesch and Rauck, 2024).

The politicization of Ukraine aid in the US certainly causes anxiety in the European capitals, including Paris, which has been historically cautious concerning the United States and often questioned its reliability. Furthermore, the current state of affairs with military aid from Washington to Kyiv being limited and frozen has demonstrated that a European centric NATO strategic autonomy could be achievable without the US’s involvement based on the US position being unreliable, That is precisely why the French President’s statement on sending troops to Ukraine could be framed as a potential step to reinforce the EU’s autonomy and role as a defense and security decision maker.

When analyzing Macron’s statement, one may conclude that by sending soldiers to Ukraine and even potentially engaging directly with Russia, France wants to pressure the United States over its bill to Ukraine. It is well known that from the onset of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the United States and NATO have taken a firm stance aiming to distance themselves from the war to avoid a direct clash between Russia and NATO. Most importantly, the US is reluctant to engage with two rivals simultaneously – Russia in Europe and China in the Indo-Pacific (Vergun, 2023). The probability of China’s invasion of Taiwan and its potential aggressive actions against its neighbors concerning the conflict in the South China Sea could have disastrous consequences for the United States and would require a significant political, military, and economic response. Maintaining coherence in this response amidst ongoing war in Europe would pose a considerable challenge.

The military aid to Ukraine has also been significantly limited because of this fear of escalation. Macron’s strategy could be seen as putting pressure on the USto force them to take action before the possibility of NATO approving enlisting US soldiers and more financial aid towards the conflict.

Redrawing Red Lines: Rethinking Western Strategies for Dealing with Russia

From the very onset of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Kremlin had voiced its “red lines” about the potential involvement of the West. Back then, the Kremlin strongarmed the international community with its placement of nuclear weapons into high readiness and claimed that any interference would mean Moscow was free to use all means available to get their desired results. That would certainly be unwise to completely disregard Russia’s intentions with the looming threat of nuclear warfare.

However, Russia inciting fear through the West over its terms of no interference throughout the conflict has indeed impacted the amount and setbacks of Western military aid to Ukraine. From this standpoint, Macron’s idea of not ruling out sending troops to Ukraine can be seen as France’s own act of drawing a red line before Russia and reinforcing its position against Russia’s occupation in Ukraine.

It is essential to understand these red lines, Macron described them as Russia’s operational success for leading to further offensives on crucial cities like Kyiv or Odesa (Kyiv Post, 2024). The necessity of crafting a new containment strategy against Russia is a popular topic for discussion (Bronk, 2023). It could be said that the French President wants to make sure Russia will be held accountable for its war of aggression.

Having to wait for the US to make a decision could be seen as Russia exploiting a weakness that comes hand-in-hand with a democratic decision making process. Therefore, sending troops to Ukraine, and with it being supported by NATO’s Eastern Flank members, such as Poland, can be seen as a move towards the revaluation of Western deterrence and its credibility.

the US is reluctant to engage with two rivals simultaneously – Russia in Europe and China in the Indo-Pacific

European Union’s Role in Defense and Security: Pursuing Strategic Autonomy, Managing Internal Competition, and France’s Leadership

While the concept of strategic autonomy is not novel, it does encounter various challenges, such as reluctance and scepticism from EU member states (Zandee et al., 2020); Germany is a state which heavily prioritizes transatlantic relations, for example. Additionally, can the EU assert itself as an example of a robust defence actor in the face of crises whilst remaining significantly dependent on the United States for security and within its nuclear umbrella?

By accelerating the EU’s shift towards being independent in the realms of its security and defence matters and by spreading the idea of Western troops in Ukraine, Macron will probably try to revive and revitalize the internal European discussion on the need to be able to act independently from the United States. France sees the EU’s dependence on the US and NATO as a political and strategic weakness (Chivvis and Droin, 2022). Furthermore, Macron has previously stated that the EU would not follow and support the US in conflict with China over Taiwan, indicating that the Union isn’t completely under the US’s thumb (Tierney, 2023).

Against this backdrop, to reinforce the idea of strategic autonomy, France, first and foremost, has to convince Germany as one of the prominent powers in the EU. But relations between Paris and Berlin have been uneasy, especially in diverging views on Russia’s war against Ukraine (Caulcutt, 2024). Germany’s hesitance to provide tanks, for instance, linked to the US transfer of M1A1 Abrams and the UK’s transfer of Challanger-2 tanks, was one of the issues that caused frustration in Paris. For example, various government sources in Germany claimed that Berlin would only send its battle tanks to Ukraine after Washington provided its Abrams tanks to Kyiv.

Later, as a result, the leaders of the United States and Germany simultaneously announced tank supplies to Ukraine. These delays and bargaining certainly benefited neither side, especially Ukraine. Another recent debate is one of the German TAURUS cruise missiles, which Berlin is unwilling to supply, voiced by Olaf Scholz. At the same time, the UK and France have already provided SCALP/Storm Shadow equivalents of long-range missiles. Regardless of these challenges, France, with Macron, seems willing to align more with Eastern European states who have often criticized the so-called “Old Europe” for its close relations with Russia. Such rapprochement has already occurred with the Baltic states, but others must be convinced (Lau, 2024). Macron’s political ambitions of uniting European nations and promoting strategic autonomy have gained a new impetus based on the US’s instability and have been further amplified by Russia’s continuing invasion of Ukraine.


While debates on the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine are ongoing, the mere fact of its discussion is a genuine indicator demonstrating a potential change in Europeans united approaches towards transcontinental interferences. If such a change goes forth, the current EU approach to building security policies and strategies with Russia will end. Instead, European security would evolve around balancing power, reinforcing deterrence and actions to establish its position as a credible force.

Although France has some supporters of such an initiative, it would have to convince the whole of the EU or NATO. It is doubtful that many states would wish to confront Russia directly, especially as of late, but one cannot rule out that it could be an option, especially if the United States is showing signs of lagging behind with expected support. Arguably, the ability to use military force is essential within a crisis, and the EU’s ability to be able to wield it would be perceived as a formidable move.



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