Why Macron Is Thinking About Western Intervention in Ukraine

Emmanuel Macron, the President of France, initially took a more pragmatic approach to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Attempting to mitigate tensions, Macron’s numerous diplomatic approaches with Russian President Vladimir Putin resulted in substantial diplomatic equilibrium.

Over the past several weeks, France’s geopolitical stance has changed towards Russia, as Paris suggested that eventually, European troops will be needed in Ukraine to combat the Russian threat.

The growing resolve of Macron and the French Republic comes amidst turbulence in US politics, which is slowing military aid into Ukraine and a heightened sense of urgency as Putin continues to signal he will continue the war and his geopolitical ambitions for as long as possible.

Macron’s Growing Concerns

Ukraine is facing acute ammunition shortages, particularly from late 2023 into 2024. Russian forces took advantage of the shell hunger from the Ukrainian Armed Forces, overwhelming the defenses of Avdiivka early this year, giving Russia its first city captured since the fall of Bakhmut in May 2023.

Taking advantage of Western partners’ slow trickling of aid, Russia is banking on a wartime economy, hoping to outlast logistical supplies coming into Ukraine to either force a capitulation or negotiations on the Kremlin’s terms.

Meanwhile, Russia’s hybrid warfare in the South Caucasus and West Africa, where France’s overseas influence was once strong. Pro-Russian juntas are currently in power in Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, and the Central African Republic—all former colonial states of France.

The rise of juntas in West Africa and the presence of the Wagner Group, now rebranded as the ‘Africa Korps’, is a strategic blow to France and America. The US government, in tandem with African partners, was leading anti-terror operations with a significant drone base in Niger, which the junta plans on closing, despite the rise in attacks by ISIS and al-Qaeda.

France Steps Up Globally

During the winter of 2024, France’s foreign policy in the EU and NATO dramatically turned into a leadership role, as perhaps Macron realized the true Russian threat. A domino effect of autocrats who look to take advantage of appeasement policies and lack of will could ensue, and France looks to counter this.

In the winter, some of the first shipments of heavy French weaponry arrived in Armenia, which had felt betrayed by Russia’s lack of concern during the past wars against Azerbaijan. In March, France finalized a cooperative defense deal with Moldova to combat threats from the Russian separatists in the so-called “Transnistria.”

In a recent op-ed from Le Monde, French General Pierre Schill stated his country’s forces are ready for potential engagements if called upon. Preparing contingencies over a possible deployment to Ukraine if needed, France could command a force of 60,000 allied troops, 20,000 of which would be French.

Why Kyiv and Odesa Could be ‘Red Lines’

President Macron has stated a Russian advance towards Kyiv again, or even Odesa could initiate a military intervention.

Kyiv is Ukraine’s ancestral capital and the center of command and control. Along with the 4 million plus population that could face a mass slaughter, even worse than the carpet bombing of Mariupol makes the city a high priority to defend if foreign intervention is needed.

Odesa’s importance to Ukraine and the world cannot be underestimated. The historic city is a starting point for grain exports to various countries worldwide. Russia initially blocked this port, which exacerbated the global grain crisis until Ukraine’s attacks against the Black Sea Fleet lifted it.

Odesa is a crucial priority target for Moscow’s “Novorossiya” (New Russia) objectives in the ongoing ten-year war. If Russia were to take the city somehow, Ukraine could become permanently landlocked, and a large chunk of the world’s grain would be under Moscow’s foothold—crippling Kyiv’s economy and leaving the country and a more significant chunk of the global grain under the boot of the Kremlin.

The city can also be used as a staging point to link up with the pro-Russians of Transnistria in Moldova, which would fully allow the Kremlin to annex and resupply the separatists without interruption directly.

A Potential Domino Effect that France Recognizes

The Kremlin’s Novorossiya goals, particularly to seize Odesa and link with Transnistria, have far-reaching consequences that could lead to direct conflict with NATO.

Off Odesa’s shores are gas fields of Romania and Bulgaria that Russia could sabotage. Aside from Turkey and Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria also share the Black Sea. Though both latter countries supply Ukraine tremendously, they also have solid pro-Russian elements.

A Russian naval presence along Ukraine’s coast and freedom of movement towards the territorial waters of Bulgaria and Romania could enable acts of sabotage and destabilization, which in turn could prop up the vital pro-Russian elements inside those NATO countries.

Central Europe and the Balkans are ripe for destabilization and a domino effect from indecisions on a long-term supply of Ukraine. Bordering Romania is Hungary, largely considered the “Trojan horse” of both NATO and the EU.

A potential destabilization of Moldova, Romania, and Bulgaria could increase the pro-Russian bloc in the EU voting system and affect NATO’s operational planning. With Polish farmers blockading aid through Ukraine’s borders, Romania is an increasingly crucial alternative route.

Potentially losing Romania to pro-Russian influence could affect not only a logistical route to Ukraine but also the US standing in the country, significantly as the all-critical THAAD missile system, capable of intercepting nukes, could have tis deployment affected if a pro-Russian party were to want to end the presence of American troops and equipment.

Bulgaria also borders Greece, which, despite its growing ties to the US in the past few years, still has a heavy influence by the Russian Orthodox Church, post-schism. A pro-Russian government in Bulgaria could enable further destabilization into the Mediterranean, mitigating the growing American presence and enabling further Russian naval expansion.

By hoping to prop up pro-Russian governments in the Balkans and Central Europe, the Kremlin could isolate the Baltic states for a potential hybrid or conventional attack and have a land border chain of influenced governments. This chain would start from Moldova, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia, Hungary, Slovakia, and potentially the pro-Russian farmers of Poland, which would affect the current government’s policies.

Realizing stalled negotiations have faltered and Putin is even more emboldened by Western appeasement, France looks to take the lead while other NATO members remain gridlocked in indecision. Though the Kremlin’s ultimate goals remain far ahead of current capabilities, underestimating Vladimir Putin and a renewed imperial Russia for two decades brought the world close to a zero hour towards a potential global war.

[Photo by Kremlin.ru, via Wikimedia Commons]

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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