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French Regional Ambition Might Lead Europe to War

State of the Union: Both America and Germany should decline another French misadventure.
Credit: Mateusz Slodkowski/DeFodi Images News via Getty Images

It isn’t quite clear what benefit French military instructors or trainers would bring to Ukraine that couldn’t be realized by training Ukrainian soldiers on French soil. But according to reports, it has been decided already. 

Le Monde reports that France has decided to send troops to Ukraine, citing the Ukrainian army's chief of general staff, General Oleksandr Syrsky, who was said, “I am pleased to welcome France's initiative to send instructors to Ukraine to train Ukrainian servicemen. I have already signed the documents that will enable the first French instructors to visit our training centers shortly and familiarize themselves with their infrastructure and personnel.” The Wall Street Journal corroborated within a day that the news was correct. 


It is not easy to “process-trace” or be privy to the internal deliberations of the upper echelons of French strategic decision-making. It is also a French sovereign prerogative to send their troops to Ukraine. France has been smarting lately from being kicked out of their sphere of influence in Africa by Russian mercenaries, so it is understandable that they are seeking a pushback. It is not however, in American interest to be dragged to another European war. 

The Biden administration has been invertebrate regarding escalation risks in Europe. Trapped by their own manichean rhetoric about a grand struggle between democracy and autocracy in what is essentially a localized ethno-territorial dispute, the U.S. has been slowly giving in to every whims of European strategists. But this development might be a bridge too far. 

Consider that France did not join the Iraq War’s “coalition of the willing,” or the British-American naval patrols around Yemen. America is likewise not duty-bound to join a “coalition of willing” organized by the French. Recent French and British misadventures in Libya led us into a needless war, and in the process destroyed the bulwark of stability in the entire North African coastline. This, in turn, led to altered demographics and destabilization in North Africa and Europe. The stakes with a nuclear power like Russia are phenomenally higher than they were in Libya or Syria. 

But most importantly, the cynical view of this development is that France, for the first time in modern history, has found a way to wrest the EU strategic leadership away from the hands of Germany, and, by virtue of that, from the U.S.. By aligning with the Polish and the Balts, they have formed a militarily hyperactive bloc within. 

Once again, that’s fine—but these activities should not come under NATO protection. It is time for Germany, the U.S., and the other sensible northern and central European countries opposed to any further escalation in Ukraine to form a counter-bloc and declare that NATO Article 5 is a strictly defensive clause that won’t be invoked in an out of area operation when a French battalion of “trainers” are toasted by a stray Russian Iskander in Lvov.