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Macron hoists Western govts by their own petard: China Daily editorial | Updated: 2024-02-28 20:25
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French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a press conference at the end of the conference in support of Ukraine, with European leaders and government representatives, at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, Feb 26, 2024. [Photo/Agencies]

French President Emmanuel Macron's statement on Monday that nothing was ruled out at a summit of Western countries on the Ukraine crisis, including putting European troops on the ground in support of Kyiv, has made a splash around the world.

The suggestion was instantly dismissed by other key members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, including the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany.

It is not only the brutality of the battlefield in Ukraine that has been displayed over the past more than two years, which deters them, but also the dire consequences that it would have — which Moscow has repeatedly warned of. Not to mention the problem these Western governments would have in selling such a move to the public at home, as more and more voices in these countries are asking why the money being spent on Ukraine is not being used to help the growing number of the homeless and destitute at home.

The intent behind Macron's words seems to have been to highlight how gung ho Western governments have become in pushing Ukraine to carry on fighting: "The people that said 'never ever' today were the same ones who said never ever planes, never ever long-range missiles, never ever trucks. They said all that two years ago."

Although that is certainly what has happened, it has been a tacit consensus among most Western leaders that as long as Russia does not go beyond Ukrainian borders to enter their territories, their troops will not get involved in the fighting.

Sending troops to Ukraine is still generally regarded as being a step too far, as that would signify an escalation of the Ukraine conflict from a regional one to a continent-wide war. They want to debilitate Russia without doing the same to themselves, and are quite happy for Ukraine to act as their proxy.

It should not be forgotten that while the Ukrainians are paying with their lives, Western countries are still haggling over which weapons should be provided for fear of angering Russia or overdrawing their own budget, and how the burden will be shared.

That's an important reason why the Ukrainians have always been in a fraught state in the conflict, even if the West has gradually increased its material support to levels unthinkable when the conflict began, as Kyiv is actually battling on two fronts — on the battlefield against Russia and in a PR war to squeeze ever more out of Ukraine's Western supporters.

With $60 billion worth of US funding for Ukraine held up by Republicans in Congress, the burden has now shifted to Europe to help arm Ukraine.

It is clear that Western governments are willing to bolster Ukraine's fighting abilities up to a point in order to keep Russia mired in the conflict and steadily weaken its strength. But it is also evident that they don't want to be swept from office by a growing wave of public discontent or what would be a rapidly growing number of body bags.

The Ukraine crisis has cost enough lives, it can and should be resolved through peace talks.

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