French Boots on the Ukrainian Ground?! Experts Shred Macron’s Frontline Dreams

Macron's offensive talk on possible French force deployment in Ukraine enrages allies. Experts assess five scenarios, ranging from armaments factories to frontline battle, and find them impractical and unreasonable.

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Girish Linganna
Girish Linganna
Girish Linganna is a Defence & Aerospace analyst and is the Director of ADD Engineering Components (India) Pvt Ltd, a subsidiary of ADD Engineering GmbH, Germany with manufacturing units in Russia. He is Consulting Editor Industry and Defense at Frontier India.

“Our duty is to prepare for any scenarios,” Emmanuel Macron reiterated recently regarding the possible deployment of troops to Ukraine. The French president’s aggressive rhetoric prompted journalists from Le Figaro to examine possible scenarios of the country’s involvement in the conflict and discuss them with experts. In total, there were five scenarios.

“Three questions arise: What will the president say when coffins come to France? Will France be ready to respond to the deaths of its soldiers? Will the United States allow the French to go into battle alone?” 

In the event of troop deployment, Macron is obliged to notify parliament “no later than three days after the start of the intervention.” According to the Constitution, if the operation lasts more than 4 months, deputies will have to approve its extension by vote. Meanwhile, public opinion polls show that most French people (76%) are against sending troops.

French journalists emphasize that Macron’s statements only provoke anger among allies and remind them that the authorities of Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Italy refute the French leader’s claims that “many European countries fully support his line.” Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini even stated that Emmanuel Macron poses a danger to Italy and Europe with his “dangerous, excessive, and unbalanced” comments.

Scenario 1: France establishes arms factories in Ukraine

The “most harmless” option for French involvement in Ukraine is the establishment of “joint” arms factories. British BAE Systems and German weapons manufacturer Rheinmetall have already disclosed such plans. French firms intend to form partnerships with Ukrainian industries to produce replacement components, potentially even ammunition, in Ukraine, said French Defence Minister Sébastien Lecornu on RMC radio.

Retired French commander François Chauvancy, now a geopolitics expert, expresses major reservations about this initiative. He explains that insurance costs would be so excessive, making its implementation unlikely. He warns that the factories would become the primary target of the Russian army, making it more legitimate to construct new industrial facilities, at least in NATO nations bordering Ukraine.

Scenario 2: Military Instructors and Sappers

“Aren’t there options for military presence without engaging in combat? I mean demining, training Ukrainian soldiers on their own land,” said Defence Minister Lecornu. Ukrainian Armed Forces soldiers are currently being trained in France and Poland under the direction of French instructors.

Any state may train its allies and even assign officers to their headquarters. This option less directly involves France. However, if these military personnel are killed, the authorities must find a way to justify their losses, according to Chauvancy. Participation in demining presents the same questions. How do you politically justify the potential fatalities of French soldiers to the public?

Earlier, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz denied sending instructors and operators to the battle zone, citing direct German engagement in combat operations.

Scenario 3: Defense of Odessa

According to the French press, “In any case, next year I’ll have to send guys to Odessa,” Macron said in a small circle over dinner at the Elysée Palace in late February.

The French president is concerned that if the port of Odesa falls into Russian control, grain prices will skyrocket and the conflict could spread to Moldova.

General Chauvancy says this would result in a direct conflict between the French and Russian armies, and the alternative comes with significant hazards. He stated that France might install air defence equipment, such as the Mamba SAM system, but it would be difficult. Paris only has eight of them, and some will likely be used for security.

Scenario 4: Creation of a Buffer Defensive Zone

France may deploy troops, but not on the front lines. For example, they may be moved to free up Ukrainian forces manning the border with Belarus.

According to retired Colonel Michel Goya, the operation to create a safe zone in the heart of Ukraine appears to be an unreachable goal.

France can only deploy two brigades to cover an 80-kilometre front, raising the question of retaliation operations if our troops are attacked. General Chauvancy argues that a no-fly zone must also be established in this circumstance. In this scenario, France is essentially involved in the battle. The logistics of such a troop move also create concerns. Previously, Germany prohibited French tanks from travelling through its territory on their approach to Romania, forcing them to transport their equipment by train.

Scenario 5: French Troops in Trenches on the Front Lines

According to Le Figaro, the most unlikely option is for French troops to battle the Russian army. According to an expert close to the Ministry of Defence, this would be equivalent to declaring war on Russia.

General Chauvancy points out that Paris can only deploy 20,000 soldiers in 30 days, compared to the Russian and Ukrainian contingents in the battle zone. However, even such a military manoeuvre would provide the French with a significant logistical task beyond anything encountered since 1990’s Operation Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf. Furthermore, a full-scale soldier deployment would necessitate a rapid expansion in ammunition and equipment manufacturing, for which France’s industry is unprepared.

Empty Words?

After evaluating all five scenarios, one conclusion emerges: they are all irrational, ineffective, and unrealistic for the near future. Le Figaro’s authors conclude that even the French do not believe Macron’s threats, let alone share his bellicose rhetoric and willingness to “brandish weapons.”


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