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The stingy great power

France is one of the largest donors of European aid to Ukraine. However, the country is holding back when it comes to aid for the military – even though it sees itself as Europe’s first military power.

Carolin Dylla

French President Emmanuel Macron has often repeated his position: “Russia cannot and must not win the war. As long as it attacks, we must maintain the military support necessary for Ukraine’s future.”

However, his country has so far delivered significantly less military material than many others. For example, there have so far been no “Leclerc” main battle tanks for Ukraine. Macron commented on this question in January: “As far as the delivery of ‘Leclerc’ tanks is concerned: nothing is excluded.”

However, there are three prerequisites for this, said Macron. “Firstly, these deliveries must not contribute to an escalation and, secondly, they must be real and effective help for Ukraine. What is also crucial in this question is how expensive they are to maintain and how long it takes to train the Ukrainian army on them. And thirdly, deliveries must not endanger our own defense capability.”

Barely functioning Weapons left

And this is exactly where the problem lies: of the 400 “Leclercs” in the French army, only around half are operational, military experts estimate. The other half serves as a spare parts warehouse. France simply doesn’t have much left to give away.

This is also due to the way France has managed its stocks in recent years, explains military expert Léo Péria-Peigné in Médiapart magazine: “After the financial crisis of 2008/2009, there were a number of laws that froze or even reduced the military budget. That’s why “For cost reasons, we had to get rid of everything that wasn’t directly and immediately useful. What had previously been stored in order to be prepared for an intensive war was considered not to be immediately usable. So it was all thrown out.”

Nevertheless, France has delivered weapons and military material to Ukraine, including “Caesar” artillery, “Crotale” anti-aircraft systems and AMX reconnaissance tanks. According to military experts, the bottlenecks in certain areas are now so severe that France can no longer deliver.

Ukraine should buy French weapons

The country is pursuing a new strategy, just like other European countries: namely industrial partnerships with Ukraine. During a visit to Kiev at the end of September, Defense Minister Sébastien Lecornu said: “If we want to maintain support for Ukraine in the long term, then we have to be able to link French industry directly with the Ukrainian army, so to speak.”

This could also be of interest in the future, said the minister, because “if the war is over quickly, which I hope, then Ukraine will still have to be able to defend itself. And these are also opportunities for French industry Sorry to say it so directly – but we have to stand by it.”

That means: France produces new material – which Kiev then buys. As start-up financing, the French government is providing an extra 200 million euros through its Ukraine aid fund. In addition, President Macron is also relying on a major diplomatic appearance when it comes to Ukraine. Last year he organized an aid conference.

Little military aid from “Europe’s first military power”

More than one billion euros were raised in donations for energy and water supplies, medicine and food. Military aid remains comparatively low, says expert Péria-Peigné – and adds: France may have only had the title of “Europe’s first military power” because no one else had claimed it.

Carolin Dylla, ARD Paris, tagesschau, December 9th, 2023 4:18 p.m

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