Ukraine Never Asked For Foreign Troops, White House Says After Macron Urges Allies Not To Be ‘Cowards’


(RFE/RL) — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has never asked for Western troops to fight Russia’s full-scale invasion, the White House said on March 5 after French President Emmanuel Macron reiterated that he would not rule out the idea.

“President Zelenskiy isn’t asking for that; he’s just asking for the tools and capabilities. He’s never asked for foreign troops to fight for his country,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters.

Macron earlier on March 5 said he “fully stood behind” remarks last week in which he did not rule out the deployment of Western troops to Ukraine, which sent a shockwave around Europe.

He also said Ukraine’s allies should avoid looking cowardly in supporting the country.

“We are surely approaching a moment for Europe in which it will be necessary not to be cowards,” Macron said on a visit to the Czech Republic. “And I believe that our two countries are aware of what is happening in Europe, that war has returned to our land.”

He added that the threat has become unstoppable and is spreading “every day” to European countries. 

“Is this or is it not our war? Can we look away in the belief that we can let things run their course?” Macron asked. “I don’t believe so, and therefore I called for a strategic surge and I fully stand behind that,” Macron said. 

Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) chief Sergei Naryshkin was quoted by state-run news agency RIA Novosti as saying Macron’s comments show the irresponsibility of Europe’s leaders and are moving the world to the brink of nuclear war.

Most European allies said they would not send troops to Ukraine after Macron said on February 26 that he would not rule out the deployment of Western troops to Ukraine. 

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

Any forces sent to Ukraine could be sent to back operations such as demining rather than fighting Russian forces, they said.

Germany’s defense minister said Macron’s quotes were not helpful.

“We don’t need really…discussions about boots on the ground or having more courage or less courage,” Boris Pistorius said at a press conference in Stockholm after meeting with his Swedish counterpart.

During his visit to Prague, Macron met with Czech President Petr Pavel, a former NATO general, who agreed that Ukraine’s allies should seek “new ways” to help but said the West would not cross “the imaginary red line” by getting involved in combat operations.

“We agree that the only option for us is to continue supporting Ukraine,” Pavel said. “We’ve agreed that Europe has to play a bigger role in helping Ukraine.”

Pavel suggested NATO countries could for instance train Ukrainian soldiers in Ukraine, which he said would not be a violation of international rules.

The presidents also commented on Prague’s plan to buy ammunition for Ukraine outside Europe. 

Around 15 nations have voiced support for the plan to buy 500,000 rounds of 155 mm ammunition and 300,000 122 mm shells worth about $1.5 billion. The Netherlands has already pledged to donate 100 million euros ($108.5 million).

Macron said France backed the plan but did not say how much it might contribute. France has long pushed for the EU to use European financing only for the European defense industry and opposed the idea of buying outside the bloc.


RFE/RL journalists report the news in 21 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established.

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