Germany rebuffs Macron on troops for Ukraine

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Germany’s deputy chancellor said there was “no chance” of sending ground troops to Ukraine and, in a rebuff to France, told Paris it should instead supply Kyiv with more weapons.

Robert Habeck rejected French President Emmanuel Macron’s suggestion this week that a troop deployment to Ukraine should not be ruled out, and central European leaders also rounded on the idea.

“I’m pleased that France is thinking about how to increase its support for Ukraine, but if I could give it a word of advice — supply more weapons,” Habeck said on Tuesday.

Asked by a reporter whether German troops could be sent to Ukraine, he said: “There is no chance of that.”

Habeck added that it had always been Berlin’s “clear policy” that “German soldiers won’t go to Ukraine”. Instead, he called on France to “do what you can now and give Ukraine the munitions and the tanks that can be supplied now”.

Olaf Scholz, German chancellor, also shot down the idea on Tuesday, a day after Macron’s comments, while Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said his country was “not considering sending our soldiers to Ukraine”.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk maintained that Warsaw “does not plan to send its troops to Ukraine”, adding that the focus should instead be “on supporting Ukraine as much as possible in its military effort”.

A Nato official said there were no plans for the alliance to put combat troops on the ground. “Ukraine has the right to self-defence, and we have the right to support them,” the official said. “That is what Nato allies are doing and will continue to do.”

But a senior European defence official said Macron’s statement was about creating deterrence and ambiguity towards Russia, adding: “Everyone knows there are western special forces in Ukraine — they’ve just not acknowledged it officially.”

French officials also said western troops could potentially be involved through limited missions such as demining, maintaining and repairing weapons systems, or helping to secure borders of other countries threatened by Russia, such as Moldova.

Macron made his suggestion at a meeting of 25 European leaders in Paris on Monday at which he said the option of sending western troops to Ukraine had been discussed.

While acknowledging that the summit had not reached consensus “for sending in ground troops, in an official and declared way”, the French president told reporters that “we will do everything needed so Russia cannot win the war”.

The Kremlin has said a conflict between Russia and Nato would be inevitable if the western alliance sent troops to fight in Ukraine.

“In that case, it wouldn’t be likely, but inevitable. That’s how we assess it,” Dmitry Peskov, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, told reporters on Tuesday.

Peskov said Nato countries should “ask themselves whether it’s in their and their citizens’ interests” after Macron said the idea “could not be ruled out”.

Additional reporting by Raphael Minder in Warsaw, Leila Abboud in Paris, Max Seddon in Riga and John Paul Rathbone in London

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