A main and almost unique theme: war. Emmanuel Macron is the guest this Thursday on the 8 p.m. news on TF1 and France 2. Two months after his big press conference, he is once again speaking at prime time. But this time focusing on the situation in Ukraine. Questioned by Gilles Bouleau and Anne-Sophie Lapix, live from the Élysée, the head of state wants to make this interview, scheduled to last around half an hour, an explanation session on the conflict, which is also one of the key themes pushed by his camp in view of the European elections in June.

At the Élysée, this program is described as the logical outcome of a series of meetings devoted to Ukraine. First a support conference from allied countries organized in Paris at the end of February; then the consultations of former presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande as well as party leaders last week; finally the debates and votes on the Franco-Ukrainian security agreement, which were held in the National Assembly and the Senate on Tuesday and Wednesday. “The president is speaking directly to the French to characterize the moment we are experiencing, which is a tipping point and involves fairly strong strategic choices,” explains his entourage, who outlines “a moment of pedagogy, unity and truth “.

“He wants to repair the damage caused by the troops on the ground,” says a macronie executive much less solemnly. A reference to the words of the head of state who, on February 26, in response to a journalist’s question on the possible sending of Western troops to Ukraine, had estimated that “nothing should be excluded”, in the name of the “strategic ambiguity” that he claims against Russia. Remarks which, in France, attracted the disapproval of all oppositions and, internationally, were contradicted by the main allied countries. Which did not prevent Emmanuel Macron from persisting and subsequently signing. Last week, he called on kyiv’s allies to “not be cowardly” in the face of an “unstoppable” Russia, drawing the wrath of the German Defense Minister. Then, receiving the party leaders at the Élysée, he declared to them: “We cannot afford to set limits for ourselves in the face of an enemy who sets none.”

A credo taken up by Gabriel Attal in the National Assembly on Tuesday. “We do not exclude, in principle, any option,” said the Prime Minister during the debate on Ukraine, while refuting a “logic of escalation”. Not enough to change the opponents. Marine Le Pen castigated Emmanuel Macron’s “warlike announcements”, Fabien Roussel (Communist Party) denounced “go to war declarations”, while Arnaud Le Gall (speaker of La France insoumise) singled out “irresponsible” words.

Thursday evening, Emmanuel Macron will try to call as witness an opinion not ready to go to war head-on with Russia. 68% of French people disapprove of his position on the potential sending of ground troops, according to an Odoxa-Backbone Consulting survey published on February 29 by Le Figaro. The president therefore intends to explain himself precisely on this point. “He will decline his thoughts but by reassuring him, he is not going to go to war,” one of his interlocutors believes. “We are not talking about fighters with machine guns who we would send to die on the front line,” says a close friend of the head of state at the forefront of the issue, who rather refers to border surveillance or the deployment of political advisors .

The fact remains: the dramatization is there, while the Élysée has been worried for several weeks that the war in Ukraine has moved far away from the radar of public opinion since the start of the Russian invasion, two years ago years. However, “the weak signals show that all this can go wrong,” warns a minister. In the presidential camp, we are therefore stoking arguments about the direct consequences of a “collapse of Ukraine” for the daily lives of the French: a new crisis in purchasing power linked to increased control of wheat production by Russia , the influx of millions of Ukrainian refugees…

In this context, the Head of State’s comments on the ground troops could have served as a detonator. “We had to create an electric shock in the population,” agrees a Renaissance MP, who says that in his constituency, mothers came to ask him if their children were going to be mobilized…

While he has only visited Ukraine once since the start of the Russian invasion, Emmanuel Macron is preparing a new visit, but which keeps being postponed. He was initially scheduled to go there in February, then “before mid-March”. It will be “in the coming weeks”, people around him now say. “There is nothing blocking it, but the goal is to be as useful as possible,” we justify. The president would like to arrive in kyiv with announcements marking a rise in Western support. Which presupposes, first of all, convincing its allies, but also its compatriots, that the situation is more serious than ever.