Russia's War and Victories of Ukraine's Armed Forces Changed French Perception of Ukraine

Wednesday, 22 March 2023

France's relations with Ukraine are finally being separated. Paris no longer sees Ukraine exclusively through its ties with Russia.

However, this does not mean that all "skeletons" have disappeared in bilateral relations or that the practical support from Paris is sufficient.

Read about France's attitude towards Ukraine and issues in our relations in the article by the director of the "New Europe" Center, Alyona Hetmanchuk (Paris-Kyiv) Moderate Russophobia in Paris: How France changing its opinion about Ukraine and its future (Ukr).

Conversations with political players in France show that their fear of escalation and "making Putin angry" is significantly less than in some other key European countries, like Germany.

The team of the "New Europe" Center, for example, during an advocacy visit to Paris in March, did not hear a single question at any meeting about Putin's use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

French experts explain this primarily due to nuclear weapons in France itself and the armed forces, which are quite powerful compared to other countries.

Even French society shows that. 78% of the French, according to the latest data, support military assistance to Ukraine. This approach allows Paris to take a progressive position on sending modern weapons.

Therefore, France is among the top 5 arms suppliers to Ukraine.

At the same time, even at the beginning of the Russian invasion, Paris desided that France would send assistance without publicity and PR - fundamentally different from the US or the UK.

Although Paris also does not want to hide its contribution to the victories of the Ukrainian army.

They proudly repeat in France that it was them to have unblocked tanks to Ukraine (in fact it was about light-wheeled tanks).

French politicians are currently very focused on the short-term perspective - namely on the spring counter-offensive - and strive to provide Ukraine with all the necessary means for its successful implementation.

Instead, French politicians see more opportunities for Russia than for Ukraine in the longer term. So the French will not insist on negotiations until Ukraine ends its counter-offensive. France is ready to increase military support right now for the spring actions of the Armed Forces. Ukraine should take advantage of this.

So Paris is ready to back a counter-offensive – but only one so far.

Perhaps the most optimistic military scenario for Paris is that the Armed Forces of Ukraine will liberate the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions by the end of the summer and deprive Russia of the land corridor to Crimea - no more.

Ukraine may be encouraged to look for ways to end the war, also using diplomacy, following the counteroffensive.

The French president's circle still includes people trying to impose one of the main Russian narratives in the West - Ukraine allegedly has no chance of defeating Russia with its several times larger population in the long term. So, they say, "we will have to negotiate" anyway.

Such thinkers exist in military intelligence, known for incorrect forecasts regarding Ukraine, and in the French General Staff.

Also, many French politicians will continue to share President Macron's vision of "not to humiliate Putin."

France is also proud of the country's role in granting Ukraine and Moldova EU candidacy under the French presidency. It was rumoured that Paris did not realise how strategically correct this decision was at that very moment.

Now it seems they do understand it.

Paris wants to see not "120% implementation" of the seven EU recommendations with the candidacy, but rather real progress on each of the points, without ambiguities in the perception of the implementation.

One of the pleasant surprises in Paris is the willingness to discuss Ukraine's NATO membership.

The subject of Ukraine's accession to NATO no longer causes such an allergy in France as before.

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