France: Macron says Europe must be ready for war if it wants peace

Paris: French President Emmanuel Macron said this week that Europe should prepare for war if it wants peace, calling President Vladimir Putin’s Russia an adversary that would not stop in Ukraine if it defeated Kyiv’s troops in the two-year-old conflict.

Mr Macron caused controversy in February after he said he could not rule out the deployment of ground troops in Ukraine in the future, with many leaders distancing themselves from that remark while others, especially in Eastern Europe, expressed support.

“If Russia wins this war, Europe’s credibility will be reduced to zero,” Mr Macron said in a television interview mostly directed at a domestic audience, after French opposition leaders criticised his comments as bellicose.

“If war spreads to Europe, Russia would be to blame,” he added. “But if we decided to be weak, if we decided today that we would not respond, it would be choosing defeat already. And I don’t want that.

“Our security is at stake in Ukraine,” he added.

He said it was important for Europe not to draw red lines, which would signal weakness to the Kremlin and encourage it to push on with its invasion of Ukraine.

He refused to give details on what a deployment to Ukraine might look like.

“I don’t want to do so. I want Russia to stop this war and retreat from its positions and allow peace,” he said. “I’m not going to give visibility to someone who is not giving me any. This is a question for President Putin.

“I have reasons not to be precise,” he said.

He said France would never initiate an offensive against Russia, and that Paris was not at war with Moscow, despite the fact that Russia had launched aggressive attacks against French interests in and outside France.

“The Kremlin regime is an adversary,” he said, declining to call Russia an enemy.

He also said Mr Putin making threats about nuclear strikes was “not appropriate”.

Mr Macron said Ukraine was in a “difficult” situation on the ground and that stronger support from allies was necessary.

“Peace does not mean the capitulation of Ukraine,” he said. “Wanting peace does not mean defeat. Wanting peace does not mean dropping Ukraine.”

He also said he hoped that the time would come one day to negotiate peace with a Russian president, “whoever it might be”, for the first time envisaging the possibility of President Putin no longer being in charge in Russia.

Mr Macron added that he had not cancelled a planned visit to Ukraine for security reasons. “That’s what Russia said. You shouldn’t believe them,” he said.