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Germany’s Scholz defends decision not to send soldiers to Ukraine

Rome (dpa) – German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has defended his decision not to send soldiers to Ukraine, in comments made during a congress of the Party of European Socialists (PES) in Rome on Saturday.

“We will not send European soldiers to Ukraine. We don’t want the war between Russia and NATO, and we will do all we can to prevent this,” he said.

There was a realization among the Western partners that NATO and none of its countries should become a party to the war, he added.

The key to restoring peace in Europe was the West’s continued support for Ukraine in its defence against the Russian war, Scholz continued.

At the same time, he called for the EU to invest more in its own security and defence, meaning that narrow-minded self-interest must be put aside.

His comments come after French President Emmanuel Macron said he would not rule out a deployment of Western ground troops in Ukraine.

Many other leaders, including Germany, distanced themselves from the idea and Scholz said from a German perspective, there would be no deployment of ground troops.

Despite differing positions on support for Ukraine, French Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné said earlier that he saw no rift between France and Germany, in an interview ahead of talks with his counterpart.

“There is no Franco-German conflict, we agree on 80% of the issues,” said Séjourné in an interview with Le Monde newspaper on Saturday.

“There is a will to talk to each other,” he said, adding he had spoken to his German counterpart Annalena Baerbock, whom he is due to meet in Paris on Tuesday.

Both France and Germany are key backers of Ukraine in its attempt to fend off the full-scale Russian invasion launched in 2022. Kiev is heavily reliant on Western allies in its struggles, and has repeatedly called for more and heavier weapons to repel Moscow’s forces.

However, alongside opposing the sending of ground troops, Scholz continues to categorically rule out the delivery of Taurus cruise missiles.

France has already made SCALP missiles, which are similar, available to Kiev and says more will follow.

“I’ll be honest: everything we ruled out at one point in time, we did six months later because of the situation,” said Séjourné.

He noted that Germany and France supported Ukraine to different degrees, for example on the question of missiles. “This is not a drama, because we have the same goal of supporting Ukraine.”

What is needed, however, is more coherence in the European approach, the French diplomat said. “When you hear the German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius say two weeks before the meeting that we will probably be at war with Russia in the next five years, then we think we have to draw the consequences,” he added, saying Europe needs to discuss the issue.

Macron did not take the participants at the Ukraine aid conference in Paris by surprise, said Séjourné. “They knew very well what was on the agenda and that it was not about sending in fighting ground troops.”

It was about reversing the balance of power with Moscow, he said.

“It is necessary to have this debate among ourselves, even if there is still no consensus.” Essentially, everyone had the same analysis of the situation and the same goals of ensuring Russia does not succeed in its war on Ukraine, he said.

He also referred to another remark by Scholz, who caused anger and confusion with a comment suggesting Britain and France had soldiers in Ukraine to programme the cruise missiles they had supplied, which Germany could not do. London immediately denied this was the case.

Séjourné also denied that French soldiers are in Ukraine. “At the moment there is no military presence, only support in the form of material and weapons.”

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