French share of arms deliveries to Ukraine is less than 2%, yet France intends to play its part

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Analysis conducted on the ground in Poland and Ukraine shows that the French share of foreign arms deliveries is less than 2%, way behind the US on 49%, but also behind Poland (22%) and Germany (9%). Hugh Schofield explained on BBC what these figures actually mean.

“I was concerned about the reliability of the statistics which showed France low on the list of contributing countries,” says François Heisbourg, who is perhaps France’s most influential defence analyst.

First, defence officials say the true measure of military help is quality not quantity. Some countries are delivering masses of outdated equipment. France has given 18 Caesar self-propelled artillery units, which are now celebrated along the Ukrainian front-line.

Ukraine’s Caesars are fully one quarter of France’s entire mobile artillery. It cannot offer much more without making itself vulnerable in regions where it is already committed, like the Sahel and the Indo-Pacific.

“It might look like we are behind other countries, but France has every intention of playing its part,” says Gen Jérome Pellistrandi, editor of the National Defence Review. These arguments are not without merit, says Mr Heisbourg. The problem is that by not being more present in theatre, France risks writing itself out of the plot.

For Heisbourg the equation is simple. Ukraine will talk to countries who it knows are likely to deliver the weapons it needs. France at the moment is not one of them.

Pierre Haroche, who lectures on international security at Queen Mary University of London, views that France should beef up its contribution as early as possible, in order to reassure eastern European countries like Poland that “we are all on the same page”.

Dr Haroche is calling for France to send 50 Leclerc main battle tanks. Mr Heisbourg would prefer air defence systems, which he says Ukraine is more in need of.

“It is like a fire extinguisher,” says Dr Haroche. “If there is a fire in a neighbour’s house it is better to offer your extinguisher straightaway, and not wait till the fire reaches your own home. “It’s not just generosity. It’s also for your own protection.”

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