19th April 2024
Pedro Sánchez and Emmanuel Macron
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Spain against sending EU troops to Ukraine, following Macron’s comments

Spain said on Tuesday that it was against any deployment of European troops in Ukraine after France’s Emmanuel Macron refused to rule out sending Western soldiers.

Macron had been speaking following a summit in Paris on Monday of top officials from more than 20 of Ukraine’s Western backers, and which Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez attended. Macron said that sending in Western ground troops should not be ‘ruled out’ in the future.

‘As to whether we are in favour of deploying European troops to Ukraine, we’ve already made our position clear and we do not agree,’ said Spanish government spokeswoman Pilar Alegría on Tuesday.

‘We must concentrate on the most urgent thing, which is to speed up the delivery of [military] equipment’ to Kyiv, she said, saying ‘unity’ was Europe’s ‘most effective weapon’ against Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

Macron triggered a shockwave late on Monday by refusing to rule out the dispatch of Western ground troops to Ukraine in its fight against the Russian invasion.

‘There is no consensus today to send ground troops … but nothing should be excluded. We will do whatever it takes to ensure that Russia cannot win this war,’ he said.

He refused to say more about France’s position, citing the need for ‘strategic ambiguity’, but saying the issue was mentioned among the options.

‘Many people who say “never, ever” today were the same people who said “never tanks, never planes, never long-range missiles” two years ago’ when Russia invaded, said Macron. ‘Let us have the humility to note that we have often been six to twelve months late.’

Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico has said his government is not planning to propose a deployment, but that some countries were weighing whether to strike bilateral deals to provide troops to help Ukraine fend off the Russian invasion.

Earlier, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also rejected the idea of European or NATO countries sending troops to Ukraine.

Scholz said ‘that there will be no ground troops, no soldiers on Ukrainian soil who are sent there by European states or NATO states’.

Scholz said there was also consensus ‘that soldiers operating in our countries also are not participating actively in the war themselves’.

At a meeting in Prague on Tuesday, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said, ‘Poland does not plan to send its troops to Ukraine.’

Prime Minister Petr Fiala of the Czech Republic insisted that his country ‘certainly doesn’t want to send its soldiers’.

The idea of sending troops has been taboo, particularly as NATO seeks to avoid being dragged into a wider war with nuclear-armed Russia. Nothing prevents NATO members from joining such an undertaking individually or in groups, but the organisation itself would only get involved if all 31 members agree.

The conference in Paris was held just after France, Germany and the UK each signed 10-year bilateral security agreements with Ukraine as its government works to shore up Western support.

European nations are worried the United States will reduce its support, as aid for Ukraine is held up in Congress. They also have concerns that former President Donald Trump might return to the White House and change the course of US policy on the continent.

The Kremlin, meanwhile, warned that a direct conflict between NATO and Russia would be inevitable if the alliance sends combat troops. ‘In this case, we need to talk not about probability, but about the inevitability (of conflict),’ Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Pedro Sánchez at the summit for Ukraine
Pedro Sánchez at the summit for Ukraine on 26 February 2024, in Paris. (Pool Moncloa / Fernando Calvo)

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Pedro Sánchez at the summit for Ukraine
Pedro Sánchez at the summit for Ukraine on 26 February 2024, in Paris. (Pool Moncloa / Fernando Calvo)

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