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Stoltenberg’s rebuttal of Macron remarks comes as Kremlin warns of conflict if West puts boots on ground in Ukraine.

French President Emmanuel Macron
French President Emmanuel Macron speaks at the end of a conference in support of Ukraine with European leaders and government representatives, held at the Elysee Palace in Paris, on February 26, 2024 [Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters]
Published On 27 Feb 202427 Feb 2024

NATO’s secretary-general has said there are no plans to send troops to Ukraine, as Russia claimed it was ready to enter a direct conflict with the Western military alliance should it put boots on the ground.

Responding to remarks made by French President Emmanuel Macron the previous day, Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday denied that NATO countries were considering the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine amid the Russian invasion.
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There are “no plans for NATO combat troops on the ground in Ukraine”, the NATO chief said.

Macron told a meeting of European leaders on Monday that while “there’s no consensus today to send in an official, endorsed manner troops on the ground … nothing can be ruled out”.

Russia was quick to leap upon the French leader’s comments. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov called Macron’s suggestion that Western states could send ground troops to Ukraine “a very important new element”.

It is “absolutely not in the interests” of European members of NATO, he told reporters. “In that case, we would need to talk not about the probability, but about the inevitability [of direct conflict].”

While ruling out NATO military action, Stoltenberg again insisted that the alliance would continue to support Kyiv strongly.

“This is a war of aggression by Russia against Ukraine, blatantly violating international law,” he said. “According to international law, Ukraine of course has the right to self-defence, and we have the right to support them in upholding that right.”
‘Nothing ruled out’

Macron was hosting European leaders in Paris when he made his comments, seemingly seeking to position himself as a European champion of Ukraine’s cause at a time when US support is waning.

NATO provides Ukraine only non-lethal aid and support, but most alliance members have been sending weapons and ammunition bilaterally or in groups.
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Yet, any decision to send troops would require unanimous support from all member countries.

The French leader declined to give details on which nations were considering sending troops, speaking of “strategic ambiguity”.

“There’s no consensus today to send in an official, endorsed manner troops on the ground. But in terms of dynamics, nothing can be ruled out,” he said.

On Tuesday, French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal echoed the comments, saying, “You can’t rule anything out in a war.”

Ukraine welcomed the prospect. Presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said on Tuesday: “This shows, firstly, an absolute awareness of the risks posed to Europe by a militaristic, aggressive Russia.”

But other nations moved swiftly to try to de-escalate.

At a bilateral meeting, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala – two of Kyiv’s strongest supporters – said they were not considering sending troops.

Sweden, which is set to join NATO, said it did not envision sending ground troops to the war-torn country.

“It’s not on the cards at all for the moment,” Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson told Swedish public broadcaster SVT, the day after his country cleared the final obstacle to joining the transatlantic military alliance.
Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico also said his government is not planning to propose to send Slovak soldiers. However, the populist, who regularly employs pro-Russian rhetoric, confirmed that some countries are weighing whether to strike bilateral deals to help Ukraine fend off the Russian invasion.
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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