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The president of France is going all out to stand up to Vladimir Putin. A posture that raises as many questions as divisions in Europe.

Analysis | Russia, Ukraine and Macron's new doctrine | War in Ukraine< /p>Open in full screen mode

Meeting at the Kremlin between Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron on February 7, 2022.

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It was not a mistake or an impromptu outing as some initially believed. Emmanuel Macron's statement three weeks ago on the possible sending of ground troops to Ukraine was well and truly calculated. It came when a journalist asked him how far France was willing to go to prevent Russia from winning the war in Ukraine.

There is no consensus today to send, in an official and assertive manner, ground troops. But nothing should be excluded; we will do whatever it takes to ensure that Russia cannot win.

A quote from Emmanuel Macron, President of France

It was the first time that a Western leader had ventured so close to what is considered by Russia to be a line that should not be crossed without the risk of world or even nuclear war.

Apart from those of the three Baltic States, no head of state wanted to support such a scenario. However, the President of France persists and signs on all the platforms that have been offered to him since.

Two years ago, we said: "We will never send tanks." We did it. Two years ago, people said: "We will never send medium-range missiles." We did it. We said: "We will never send planes." Some are doing it. So, we have put too many limits in our vocabulary.

A quote from Emmanuel Macron, in an interview on TF1 and France 2

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In an interview with the most popular television news in France and with the daily Le Parisien, Emmanuel Macron toughened his tone, without regard to the discontent that his remarks fuel among his allies .

He now appears as the main defender of Ukraine and the one for whom red lines should no longer be set. p>

Perhaps at some point – I do not want it and I will not take the initiative – it will be necessary to have operations on the ground, whatever they may be, to counter Russian forces. The strength of France is that we can do it.

A quote from Emmanuel Macron, President of France

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French President Emmanuel Macron (right) shakes hands with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (left) during a press conference at the Élysée in Paris, on February 16.

When and how? President Macron is not saying, adding to the confusion over what kind of deployment he would consider. He insists that the security of all of Europe depends on it more than ever, with the re-election of Vladimir Putin and with its war economy running at full speed, 24 hours a day, in the manufacturing factories of weapons in Russia.

Fundamentally, Mr. Macron's position regarding the dangers facing Europe is based on a feeling shared by almost all the countries of the European Union, which have been financing Ukraine's response, for two years, to billions of euros.

But the specter of a deployment of troops on the ground in Ukraine, as mentioned by M . Macron weakens the message of unity that Europe is desperately trying to display at a time when American aid is in danger, blocked in Congress for weeks.

Since 2017, Emmanuel Macron has advocated European strategic autonomy. He presents himself today as the leader of those who want to build it, at the risk of offending his much more cautious partners, wrote analyst Pierre Haski in an opinion text.

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Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz do not see things the same way at all. (File photo)

At the risk, in particular, of displeasing Germany and its Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Although the two men met in Berlin last week, all smiles for the cameras, their differences remain over aid to Ukraine.

France criticizes Mr. Scholz, among other things, for not doing enough to meet Kiev's weapons needs, citing his refusal to send long-range Taurus-type missiles there.

According to the German chancellor, their use would require the intervention of soldiers, and this would risk a major escalation.

Germany, due to its heavy past, has always been and remains reluctant to any military engagement in Russia, although in two years it has become Ukraine's main European arms supplier.

Behind the scenes, she criticizes Emmanuel Macron for a cavalier and even hypocritical attitude, since the delivery of weapons from France has so far been timid. In one of his numerous interviews last weekend, President Macron admitted to having asked the French war industry to increase the pace. But it will take time.

If Emmanuel Macron's speech today attracts so much attention and raises so many questions, this is because it has evolved radically over the past two years.

At a time not so long ago, the French president presented himself as the emissary of choice to try to reason with Vladimir Putin by visiting him in the Kremlin. Personal contact he maintained for months, by telephone after the start of the large-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Mr. Macron even caused an outcry when he dared to say in front of the European Parliament that Vladimir Putin had to be spared: We must not humiliate Russia so that, the day the fighting stops, we can build a way out through diplomatic channels.

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French President Emmanuel Macron speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a video conference, January 2022.

Not only have the fighting continued, but according to the President of France, Vladimir Putin's war is today more perverse than ever, hence the need not to give in to the blackmail of the head of the Kremlin. Again this week, the president of Russia spoke of the risk of a Third World War.

When he saw that this war was continuing, he interrupted his contacts, and it was Putin's radicalization that pushed Macron to be more firm, Sylvie Bermann, former French ambassador to Russia, told the Public Sénat television channel.

According to her, Emmanuel Macron wants to make an impact today by showing that it is France which sets the line, except that the balance of power comes from the unity of Europeans and Westerners.

To try to understand Emmanuel Macron's increasingly harsh speech towards Russia, we cannot ignore the French political context either, a few months away European elections and the undeniable popularity of Marine Le Pen's far-right party.

The Macronists do not miss an opportunity to accuse the National Rally and its leader of showing complacency towards Russia and supporting Vladimir Putin, whom Marine Le Pen has previously openly admired and whose policies she has praised.

The National Rally also abstained from voting last week to ratify a security agreement between France and Ukraine, while the far left voted squarely against.

Voting against means telling our allies that France is turning its back on its commitment and its history and abstaining means to flee, to flee one's responsibilities in the face of history, declared Prime Minister Gabriel Attal in front of Parliament.

Furthermore, the warlike tone of the French president and his ministers does not seem to move popular opinion which, according to a survey, is 76% opposed to the deployment of Western troops in Ukraine.< /p>

Support Ukraine, yes. Blowing on the embers of a potential global conflict for electoral purposes, no, wrote the leader of the Les Républicains party, Eric Ciotti.

Is Emmanuel Macron opportunist, alarmist or sincere in his desire to wake up Europe to the risks of the war spreading?

Several Analysts agree that beyond nursing his ego and shining with his shattering declarations, the President of France is realistic when he warns: We live in a world where what we thought was unthinkable arrived. Here we are, the war is on European soil. This is not fiction.

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