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Questions & Answers: Ukraine aid: Scholz and Macron not in step

Questions & Answers: Ukraine aid: Scholz and Macron not in step

Where is Europe heading in support of Ukraine? And who sets the direction? The two most powerful leaders in the EU are at odds. That could become a problem.

The meeting of European heads of state and government on Monday evening in Paris was actually intended to send a signal of unity and unwavering solidarity with Ukraine. What remained in the end was massive irritation. The reason: A statement by French President Emmanuel Macron, who suddenly put the use of Western ground troops in Ukraine’s defense against Russia as an option: “Nothing can be ruled out in the dynamic. We will do everything necessary to achieve this “Russia cannot win this war,” he said. It didn’t take long before Macron received strong opposition – especially from Germany.

What does Macron want to achieve with his initiative?

France has recently found itself increasingly accused of only providing comparatively modest support to Ukraine, despite its size and military strength. So far, France has not delivered any tanks or fighter jets. While Germany puts its military aid provided or promised in two years at 28 billion euros, Macron only speaks of three billion euros for his country this year. If the president is now talking about ground troops, it looks like a rush forward. The fact that he organized the Ukraine meeting in Paris can be seen as such. A presidential adviser emphasized before the Paris aid conference that Macron was the leader on this issue.

Doesn’t Scholz also take on a leadership role?

In Germany things are seen completely differently. At the beginning of the year, Scholz launched an initiative to encourage European allies to provide more military aid. The background is the blockade of further aid to Ukraine in the US Congress. The Chancellor’s fear is that if US aid stops, the already sluggish supply of weapons and ammunition to Ukraine could collapse. The USA is Ukraine’s largest arms supplier, Germany is number two. Scholz’s advance was aimed at the other major European economies – above all France. This didn’t go down well in Paris.

What would the deployment of ground troops mean?

From Scholz’s point of view, this would mean direct participation in the war against Russia. In Paris things are seen differently. Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné said on Tuesday in the National Assembly that when sending soldiers he was primarily thinking about cyber defense, the production of weapons in Ukraine and mine clearance. “Some of these actions may require a presence on Ukrainian territory without reaching the belligerent threshold,” he said.

What is Germany’s position on the deployment of ground troops?

Immediately after Russia’s attack on Ukraine and after his promise to deliver arms to Kiev, Scholz drew a very clear red line at another point: No German soldiers in Ukraine, no participation in the war. He reiterated this position on Tuesday just a few hours after Macron’s statement – and not just for Germany. It was also unanimously agreed in Paris in the future “that there will be no ground troops, no soldiers on Ukrainian soil that will be sent there by European states or NATO states.” From his point of view, soldiers outside of Ukraine are not allowed to intervene in the war. This would be possible, for example, by programming guided missiles or controlling drones.

Are there other NATO allies considering deploying ground troops?

A few hours before the meeting in Paris, the left-wing nationalist Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico warned in alarming tones of a “dangerous escalation of tensions” with Russia. There are countries that are apparently prepared to send their own soldiers to Ukraine. That got the discussion rolling. However, Fico didn’t say who he meant. Since the beginning of the war, the Baltic states and Poland have pushed most strongly for the broadest possible support for Ukraine. Poland’s President Andrzej Duda remained cautious after the meeting in the Élysée Palace. “The most passionate discussion centered on the issue of sending troops to Ukraine, and here too there was absolutely no agreement,” he said. “Opinions differ,” he added. And: “There was no enthusiasm.”

Doesn’t anyone like Macron’s move?

The only benevolent reaction and even a concrete idea came from the Baltic states. Lithuania’s Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas said he could envisage sending soldiers for training purposes, but not to take part in combat operations.

What kind of support for Ukraine did the participants of the Paris conference agree on?

According to Macron, at the meeting it was decided to form a coalition that would provide Ukraine with medium and long-range missiles and bombs for strikes far behind Russian lines. This coalition is intended to complement the existing alliances in which various countries have joined forces to support Ukraine in certain branches of arms, for example Germany and France in the area of ​​artillery. Macron emphasized that France has already delivered to Ukraine a number of the Scalp-type cruise missiles designed for such deep strikes. “We will organize this coalition starting tonight to mobilize all those willing and states that have capacity that have begun or are ready to deliver new equipment.”

What role can Germany play in this?

This is also a difficult issue between Germany and France. Paris has been supplying its Scalp missiles with a range of a good 250 kilometers for a long time. Ukraine also wants the more powerful German Taurus cruise missiles. But Scholz is not ready to deliver them. The reason is ultimately the same as with the ground troops: he wants to avoid German involvement in the war.

Why could the delivery of Taurus lead to German participation in the war?

The rockets have a range of 500 kilometers and could theoretically hit the Kremlin in Moscow from Ukraine. If the cruise missiles reach Russian territory, Germany would be part of the war from the Chancellor’s point of view. To rule this out, control over target acquisition would have to remain in German hands. That means: German soldiers would have to program the missiles – from Germany or in Ukraine. According to the Chancellor, this in turn would also mean German participation in the war. “German soldiers must not be linked to the goals that this system achieves at any point or place. Not even in Germany,” said Scholz on Monday at a dpa event in Berlin.

Would it somehow work without German soldiers?

In principle yes. According to the manufacturer, the Taurus bases its approach to the target “in demanding contour flight” – i.e. following the terrain profile – essentially on several navigation sensors. On the German side, the programming could be carried out not only by the Bundeswehr, but also by the arms industry. In principle, Ukrainians can also be empowered to do this if they can be confident that agreed boundaries will be adhered to. A geographical limitation (“geofencing”) is feasible, but not certainly irreversible, said a military expert from the dpa. And restrictions could quickly undermine the weapon’s core military objective of destroying remote command posts and supply routes.

Source: Stern

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