After the National Assembly and the Senate, the French. Emmanuel Macron owed them an explanation: yesterday he clarified his position vis-à-vis Russia and Ukraine. The president returned to his comments of February 26, which, by affirming the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine, had offended some of his European allies and worried some of the French.

The president’s interview with TF1 and France 2 first confirmed the radical change in his Russian policy. Emmanuel Macron, who, at the start of the war, persisted in calling Vladimir Putin to, he said, “bring him to his senses”, even if it meant being accused of “complacency” or “naivety”, became the one of the main representatives of the camp of firmness against the Kremlin. Alongside the countries of Central and Eastern Europe that he considered, just a year ago, as “go-to-war”.

The change of course, as well as the promise of additional European commitment, required an explanation of the text to the French. The war, explains Emmanuel Macron, is “existential” for Ukraine, but also for France. “The security of Europe and the French is at stake in Ukraine. If Russia wins, the lives of the French change and Europe’s credibility is reduced to zero. Who can think that Vladimir Putin will stop there?” insists the French president. He has Moldova in mind, in particular. And possible domino effects across the continent. “If Ukraine falls, all European security is threatened.” We must therefore “do whatever is necessary” to prevent it, without setting red lines or “giving visibility” to the adversary.

He who, at the start of the war, had played appeasement in the hope of curbing the imperialist ardor of the Kremlin, affirming that “Russia should not be humiliated”, is today convinced that the Kremlin “must not win” . But the escalation, if it ever happens, will not come from France. “If things degenerate, it will be Russia’s responsibility,” warns the president. It is she who, after having attacked or attempted to invade several of her neighbors, is increasing the attacks and threats towards Europe, and particularly France. “We will never lead an offensive or take a military initiative,” he assured. Deterrence, by re-establishing a balance of power, makes it possible to avoid being drawn into war.

Emmanuel Macron justified his change of tone and the need for additional commitment from France and Europe by recalling that Europeans live in a world “where everything we thought unthinkable happens”. The war “is on European soil”, but the states of the continent have put “too many limits in the vocabulary”, first refusing to send tanks, then planes, then missiles. The changing situation on the ground today requires a new approach.

“The Ukrainian counter-offensive did not go as planned,” recalls the president, highlighting the stagnation of the fronts, the lack of men and shells in the Ukrainian camp. At the same time, the Kremlin regime “has clearly hardened.” Inside, with the repression of opponents, in Ukraine with the consolidation of the Russian front thanks to the war economy and the support of the countries of the “Global South”. Abroad with the multiplication of acts of aggression against European countries, including France. This “change in context” explains why, according to him, “the start of 2024 must be a start”. “We decided to go further,” he said.

Because, “to have peace today in Ukraine, you must not be weak.” In the president’s mouth, the words have never been so clear since the start of the war. “There will be no lasting peace without a return to the sovereignty of Ukraine,” including Crimea, the president suggests. And “there will be no security for the French without peace in Ukraine. However, peace in Ukraine is neither the capitulation nor the amputation of Ukraine.”