Macron again declines to rule out Western troops in Ukraine, but says they’re not needed now

FILE - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, and French President Emmanuel Macron shake hands after a press conference, on Feb. 16, 2024 at the Elysee Palace in Paris. French President Emmanuel Macron is to speak on national television on Thursday March 14, 2024 evening about how to further support Ukraine and the challenges faced by Europe, after saying last month the possibility of sending Western troops in the war-torn country could not be ruled out. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, Pool, File)

FILE – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, and French President Emmanuel Macron shake hands after a press conference, on Feb. 16, 2024 at the Elysee Palace in Paris. French President Emmanuel Macron is to speak on national television on Thursday March 14, 2024 evening about how to further support Ukraine and the challenges faced by Europe, after saying last month the possibility of sending Western troops in the war-torn country could not be ruled out. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, Pool, File)

PARIS (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron warned Western powers against showing any signs of weakness to Russia as he reiterated his position Thursday that sending Western troops into Ukraine shouldn’t be ruled out, though he said today’s situation doesn’t require it.

In an interview on French national television TF1 and France 2, Macron was asked about the prospect of sending Western troops to Ukraine, which he publicly raised last month in comments that prompted pushback from other European leaders who stressed they had no plans to do so.

“We’re not in that situation today,” he said, but added that “all these options are possible.”

Macron, who is the commander-in-chief of the country’s armed forces, declined to describe in which situation France would be ready to send troops. He said the responsibility for prompting such a move would lie with Moscow — “It wouldn’t be us” — and said France would not lead an offensive into Ukraine against Russia.

But he also said,“Today, to have peace in Ukraine, we must not be weak.”

Macron described the Russia-Ukraine war as “existential” to France and Europe.

“If war was to spread to Europe, it would be Russia’s sole choice and sole responsibility. But for us to decide today to be weak, to decide today that we would not respond, is being defeated already. And I don’t want that,” he said.

Macron’s televised interview comes after the French parliament debated the country’s Ukraine strategy this week. Both the National Assembly and the Senate approved in symbolic votes the 10-year bilateral security agreement signed last month between Macron and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Macron said he will work on bringing further support to Ukraine at a meeting scheduled on Friday with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk in Berlin.

Last month, the French president appeared isolated on the European stage after his remarks at a Paris conference on Ukraine prompted an outcry from others leaders. Scholz, in particular, appeared to contradict Macron, saying participants had agreed there will be “no ground troops” on Ukrainian soil sent by European states.

French officials later sought to clarify Macron’s remarks and tamp down the backlash, while insisting on the need to send a clear signal to Russia that it cannot win in Ukraine.

Scholz on Wednesday appeared dismissive of any speculation of frictions between France and Germany, saying he has a “very good personal relationship” with Macron.

France, Germany and Poland will meet as the so-called Weimar Triangle, and the grouping is especially important now that “we are all so concerned about the terrible consequences of the Russian war of aggression on Ukraine,” Scholz said.

Supporting Ukraine “is a very concrete and very practical question of whether there is enough ammunition, enough artillery, enough air defense – many things that play a major role. And discussing and advancing this cooperation once again is what is needed right now,” Scholz said.

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AP writer Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin contributed to the story.

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Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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