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Ukraine support could go beyond arms supplies: French army chief

Russia, Mali to strengthen counterterrorism efforts
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Russia should not expect the West to limit its support for Ukraine to arms supplies only, the chief of staff of France’s armed forces, General Thierry Burkhard, said on Thursday.

His comments came after French President Emmanuel Macron in late February smashed a major taboo by floating the possibility of sending Western troops to Ukraine.

“The war will end when Russia stops attacking,” Burkhard told reporters following talks in Paris with the armed forces chief of new NATO member Sweden, General Micael Byden.

Russian President Vladimir Putin “has built his operation on the idea that the West will never go into Ukraine but will simply supply arms,” Burkhard said.

“We have to show him that he will not be able to use this logic to go all the way, because this idea is not right,” he added.

“The war in Ukraine concerns us because we are involved in its consequences. Europeans must therefore be capable of taking risks to ensure the security of Europe in the decade to come.”

Despite the controversy over his remarks, Macron has refused to back down, insisting his statements were well thought out, but also stressing that France would not follow the “logic of escalation” with Moscow.

“The president’s intention is to make Vladimir Putin understand that we are aware of what is at stake in Ukraine”, said Burkhard.

Faced with an increasingly belligerent Russia, Sweden’s army chief Byden also alarmed many of his compatriots in January when he urged them to consider their own preparedness.

“Swedes have to mentally prepare for war,” he said.

Sweden’s military has been boosting its preparedness since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. The country reintroduced limited conscription in 2017, and most significantly, Sweden dropped two centuries of military non-alignment to join NATO in March.

“We have a war raging in Europe, we cannot let this become a normality,” Byden said on Thursday.

“Sweden is ready to shoulder its responsibilities, deterrence and defence.”

But he added: “We indeed live in challenging times, we should not despair.”

The Nordic country and France regularly conduct joint military exercises.

Sweden also took part in the French-led Takuba task force of EU special forces in Mali.

Following Macron’s visit to Sweden in late January, the two countries plan to ramp up military cooperation including combat in the Arctic region, according to the French military.

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Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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