France’s Macron urges a green light for Ukraine to strike targets inside Russia with Western weapons

France’s Macron urges a green light for Ukraine to strike targets inside Russia with Western weapons

French President Emmanuel Macron has called for a significant policy shift that could alter the dynamics of the ongoing war in Ukraine. Macron advocates for allowing Kyiv to strike military bases inside Russia using sophisticated long-range weapons provided by Western allies. This contentious issue has been a point of debate since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine began on February 24, 2022.

Western leaders have been hesitant to take this step, fearing it could provoke Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin has repeatedly warned that such actions could escalate the conflict to a nuclear level. However, the tide of the war has recently favored Russia, as Kremlin forces have capitalized on Ukrainian shortages in troops and ammunition. Delays in U.S. military aid and Western Europe’s slow military production have further exacerbated the situation, hindering crucial deliveries to the battlefield.

Russian missiles and bombs have relentlessly targeted Ukrainian military positions and civilian areas, including the power grid. Ukraine is now facing its most challenging phase of the war. Allowing Ukraine to use long-range weapons could potentially turn the tide and disrupt the Kremlin’s plans.

Macron stated that France’s position is to enable Ukraine to neutralize Russian military sites from which missiles are launched. “If we tell the Ukrainians they do not have the right to reach the point from which the missiles are fired, we are essentially telling them that we are delivering weapons to you, but you cannot defend yourself,” Macron said during an official visit to Germany.

His comments came a day after NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg urged alliance members to lift some restrictions on Ukraine’s use of Western weapons. “The right to self-defense includes hitting legitimate targets outside Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said at a NATO meeting in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Earlier in May, U.K. Foreign Secretary David Cameron’s remark that Ukraine could use British long-range weapons, such as the Storm Shadow cruise missile, to strike back at Russia was interpreted as a threat by Moscow. This, along with Macron’s comments about not excluding the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine, prompted Russia to announce drills involving tactical nuclear weapons. Russia also warned the U.K. government that its decision could lead to retaliatory strikes on British military facilities and equipment on Ukrainian soil or elsewhere.

The leaders are treading carefully with their words. Macron emphasized that only Russian bases used to launch missiles against Ukraine should be considered legitimate targets, not other Russian bases or civilian infrastructure. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, speaking alongside Macron, was more guarded and noncommittal, noting that Ukraine “is allowed to defend itself” under international law. Scholz’s spokesperson, Steffen Hebestreit, clarified that Ukraine’s defense “isn’t limited to its territory” but declined to disclose the specifics of agreements on weapons supplied by Germany, citing confidentiality.

Scholz has been adamant about avoiding steps that could draw NATO into a direct confrontation with Russia. Other Western leaders share similar concerns about a high-stakes escalation. These concerns are echoed in Washington. Over the past two years, the U.S. has gradually acceded to Ukrainian requests for support, sending tanks and long-range missile systems, albeit with a caveat against targeting Russian soil.

During a visit to Moldova, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated that while Washington hasn’t given Kyiv the green light to use American weapons in cross-border strikes, it will continue to provide Ukraine with the means to defend itself effectively. “We haven’t encouraged or enabled strikes outside of Ukraine,” Blinken said. “Ukraine has to make its own decisions about the best way to effectively defend itself. We’re going to make sure that it has the equipment it needs to do that.”

Blinken noted that Ukraine’s Western allies have adapted to the changing combat situation to offer more effective support. “We’re always learning and making determinations about what’s necessary to ensure that Ukraine can continue to defend itself effectively,” he said.

Western leaders are keen to put pressure on Putin, whose forces have recently intensified their push against Ukrainian defenses in eastern and northeastern Ukraine. This week has seen a surge in European aid, with Belgium and Spain each pledging around 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) in new military support to Ukraine. Sweden announced it would donate aid worth 13 billion kronor ($1.23 billion), the largest package Sweden has donated so far, including air defense systems, artillery ammunition, and armored vehicles.

Ukraine has been under intense pressure from Russian attacks in the northeastern Kharkiv region and the partially occupied eastern Donetsk region. Putin has stated his intention to establish a “buffer zone” in Kharkiv to halt cross-border Ukrainian assaults. Analysts suggest that the Kharkiv push also aims to draw depleted Ukrainian forces away from Donetsk.

The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, reported that Russia’s Kharkiv push has slowed in recent days, with Kremlin forces probing the front line in Donetsk for weaknesses.

As the war continues, the debate over allowing Ukraine to strike targets inside Russia with Western weapons remains a critical and contentious issue. The potential policy shift advocated by Macron and supported by other Western leaders could significantly impact the course of the conflict.

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