Germany’s Scholz rules out Western ground troops for Ukraine

By Thomson Reuters Feb 27, 2024 | 6:15 AM

By Andreas Rinke and Matthias Williams

BERLIN (Reuters) – German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Tuesday ruled out suggestions that European countries and NATO alliance members would send ground troops to Ukraine, a day after French President Emmanuel Macron had raised the prospect that some might do so.

German lawmakers spoke out against the idea, which Macron floated at a hastily arranged meeting of European leaders in Paris on Monday. The Kremlin warned it would mark a major escalation.

“Once again, in a very good debate, it was discussed that what was agreed from the outset among ourselves and with each other also applies to the future, namely that there will be no ground troops, no soldiers on Ukrainian soil sent there by European countries or NATO states,” Scholz said on the sidelines of an event.

Scholz did, however, say that European leaders now appeared willing to procure weapons from third countries outside Europe as a way of speeding up military aid to Ukraine.

Germany has become Ukraine’s second-biggest supplier of military aid since the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022 but is extremely wary of steps that would draw the NATO alliance into direct conflict with Russia.

Scholz was already reluctant to supply Ukraine with long-range Taurus missiles, which have a reach of 500 km (310 miles), facing down calls from within his own coalition to send them.

Such missiles at this stage would likely require German troops to help operate them for precision targeting – a red line for Scholz.

It was not immediately clear how many other countries supported Macron’s suggestion, though the French leader had anyway emphasised that there was no consensus at this stage, even as allies agreed to boost efforts to supply munitions to Kyiv.

Some 20 European leaders gathered in Paris on Monday to send Russian President Vladimir Putin a message of European resolve on Ukraine and counter the Kremlin’s narrative that Russia is bound to win a war now in its third year.

The Kremlin warned on Tuesday that conflict between Russia and NATO would become inevitable if European members of NATO sent troops to fight in Ukraine.

Omid Nouripour, a Greens member of Scholz’s coalition, also said the idea of sending troops was not being discussed within Germany or with allies.

(Reporting by Andreas Rinke, Rachel More and Matthias Williams; writing by Matthias Williams, editing by Miranda Murray and Kevin Liffey)