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Macron vows “concrete decisions” for future Ukraine visit, details his shift from dove to hawk on Russia

Macron plans to visit Ukraine with “concrete” proposals for greater support against Russian aggression, outlining upcoming military aid to bolster Ukraine’s defenses, asserts that Russia must not win, is ready for possible escalation, and distinguishes between the Russian regime and its people.
President of France Emmanuel Macron during an interview in Paris, aired on Ukrainian TV on 16 March 2024. Screenshot from a Youtube video.
Macron vows “concrete decisions” for future Ukraine visit, details his shift from dove to hawk on Russia

In a wide-ranging interview aired on Ukrainian TV on 16 March, French President Emmanuel Macron said he plans to visit Ukraine with concrete proposals, has signaled France’s readiness to go further in supporting Ukraine against Russian aggression, discussed his past contacts with Russian President Vladimir Putin aimed at achieving peace but said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine marked a turning point, necessitating a shift in France’s position. Macron says Russia should not win in Ukraine, is ready to respond to escalation, will provide Ukraine with a clear outline of forthcoming military assistance to bolster its defenses, and distinguishes between the Russian regime and its people when considering the future.

Macron noted regarding his plans to visit Ukraine that his future visit “should be as useful as possible for Ukraine,” noting that first Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy came to Paris to sign a security agreement, then Macron organized a security conference with European leaders on 26 February, then he was going to meet with German leader Olaf Sholz and Polish PM Donald Tusk to discuss the allocation of “additional funds within the framework of the EU-level solidarity mechanism” (they met on 15 March in Berlin, the interview apparently took place before the visit).

“And that is why I will be able to come to Ukraine with concrete proposals, with concrete decisions, and when I physically come, it will mean that this will be a strong message and new directions of cooperation in the direction that we have outlined at the beginning of the year,” Macron added.

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Dove to hawk: “Russia should not and cannot win this war”

When asked what triggered his shift from maintaining phone contacts with Putin at the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion to considering the use of foreign troops in Ukraine, Emmanuel Macron attributed the change to Russian war crimes.

President Macron reflected on the shift in relations with Russia, stating,

“Indeed, two years have passed between these periods. There was a period in 2017-2022 when I had many conversations with President Putin, with the aim of achieving peace in Ukraine and upholding the Minsk agreements.”

He recalled the 2019 meeting between Putin and Zelenskyy at the Élysée Palace, emphasizing the initial goal of ensuring Europe’s security through dialogue.

However, Macron noted that “a new phase began with the annexation of Crimea in 2014, and then Putin tore up all the obligations under the Minsk format.” He highlighted that “after the scenes of mass war crimes, after Bucha, the war entered a new phase,” leading to a reevaluation of France’s strategic position and increased support for Ukraine, including immediate sanctions and budgetary support.

Macron stated that after reflection, he concluded the situation is challenging with heavy losses on both sides and Russia’s wartime economy. He emphasized the need for peace that ensures security for Ukraine and Europe amid international uncertainty.

“That is why this new European impetus was needed to accelerate assistance and do things differently. And if the enemy says that they have no limits, why should we say that we have these limits? We have a goal that Russia should not and cannot win this war. And that’s why we will continue to stand side by side with Ukraine, because there will be no peace in Europe if Ukraine has to capitulate. This means that this is our goal,” the French President said.

President Macron stated that if Putin calls, he would answer the phone as it is his responsibility to listen to any proposals, emphasizing France’s role in balancing the need to strengthen Ukraine’s defense capabilities with the goal of achieving a lasting, stable, and fair peace. Asked about the possibility of Putin’s arrest if he visits the Normandy landing anniversary, Macron dismissed the scenario, stating that it is not on the agenda and Putin is not planning to come.

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When asked about Putin’s threat that Russia will have no red lines for countries using troops in Ukraine, Macron confidently stated, “Yes, France is ready.”

Macron emphasized that France has always prioritized peace and negotiations over escalation, stating,

“In general, France has never gone for escalation because we are a power that always bets on peace.”

He identified Russia as the aggressor in the current situation, accusing it of starting a war under the guise of a special military operation and threatening everyone. Macron made it clear that the “off-the-rails” Kremlin regime, which he distinguishes from the Russian people, is responsible for escalating the situation.

He assured that France is prepared for any challenge and will respond to protect the security of Ukraine and Europeans if Russia escalates further.

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However, he firmly stated,

“France will never be the first to initiate any aggression,” and reiterated that in this situation, “the only aggressor is President Putin and his regime.”

Nuclear umbrella

The journalist reminded President Macron of Ukraine’s nuclear disarmament in 1994 and asked if France might provide a nuclear umbrella for Ukraine.

He did not explicitly rule out the possibility of France providing a “nuclear umbrella” for Ukraine, stating that new security guarantees must be given to Kyiv, but emphasized that “France has its position on nuclear deterrence,” and that the position has not changed, implying that the French nuclear doctrine doesn’t include Ukraine’s protection.

Macron noted that Russia has been inappropriately threatening with nuclear weapons from the start. He acknowledged that the war, which began with the annexation of Crimea and escalated with the invasion in February 2022, has created new conditions.

Macron highlighted the need to provide additional security guarantees to Ukraine, ensuring clear visibility of military assistance and a path to negotiations. He stressed that Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are fundamental values in any discussions about security guarantees.

No second front

The interviewer noted that it is impossible to negotiate with “a Hitler” and the Allies just opened the Second Front in WWII instead, to which Macron said he has “no naivety about the Kremlin regime,” but doesn’t like historical parallels because of their special contexts in each case. The French president reiterated his position, saying, “Russia cannot and must not win this war,” and outlined France’s goal to restore lasting peace in Europe, ensuring Ukraine’s sovereignty and security.

He highlighted that France aims to achieve this without escalating the conflict, but is prepared to respond based on Russia’s actions, emphasizing the importance of collective solidarity and Ukraine’s strong position for negotiations.

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Macron discusses concerns over potential US withdrawal from Ukraine support

When asked about the position of the United States and potential changes in its support for Ukraine, Macron emphasized that the American administration has been closely cooperating with Europe, which is in America’s long-term strategic interest to continue supporting Ukraine due to the implications for international law and liberal democracy.

He highlighted the need for Europe to prepare for different scenarios, as Ukraine’s fate is an existential issue for European security. Macron stressed the importance of European countries building their own defense and security policies, as the situation in Ukraine is crucial for Europe’s geopolitical and diplomatic influence.

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