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No plans to send troops to Ukraine: NATO as Russia warns of wider confrontation

Slovakian PM Robert Fico said some countries are weighing on sending troops to Ukraine and French President Emmanuel Macron said it cannot be 'ruled out'. The Kremlin warned that a direct conflict between NATO and Russia would be inevitable if the alliance sent combat troops.

Aveek Banerjee Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Brussels Published on: February 27, 2024 21:13 IST
NATO, Russia Ukraine war, military troops
Image Source : AP NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg

Brussels: North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday said the 31-member military alliance has no plans to send combat troops into Ukraine amid reports that some Western countries may be considering putting boots on the ground in the war-ravaged country. The reports were flouted by Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico, although he denied sending troops himself.

Ahead of a trip to Paris on Monday, where top officials from over 20 countries discussed options to increase help for Ukraine, Fico said that some countries are weighing whether to strike bilateral deals to send troops to Ukraine to help it fend off the Russian invasion. He did not provide details about what countries might be considering such deals, or what the troops would do in Ukraine.

Stoltenberg told the Associated Press that “NATO allies are providing unprecedented support to Ukraine. We have done that since 2014 and stepped up after the full-scale invasion. But there are no plans for NATO combat troops on the ground in Ukraine”. However, he accused Russia of blatantly violating international law and Ukraine has the right to self-defence.

NATO as an alliance provides Ukraine only non-lethal aid and support like medical supplies, uniforms and winter equipment, but some members send weapons and ammunition bilaterally or in groups. Any decision to send troops would require unanimous support from all member countries.

Kremlin warns NATO

Meanwhile, the Kremlin warned on Tuesday that the conflict between Russia and the US-led NATO would be inevitable if European members of NATO sent troops to fight in Ukraine. French President Emmanuel Macron opened the door on Monday to European nations sending troops to Ukraine, although he cautioned that there was no consensus at this stage.

"The very fact of discussing the possibility of sending certain contingents to Ukraine from NATO countries is a very important new element," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters when asked about Macron's remarks. "In that case, we would need to talk not about the probability, but about the inevitability (of a direct conflict)," he said when asked on what would happen if NATO members sent their troops to Ukraine.

Macron said that nothing should be excluded as the West looked for a strategy to counter Russia, which controls just under a fifth of territory recognised as Ukraine. "Nothing should be excluded. We will do everything that we must so that Russia does not win," Macron said.

The war in Ukraine has triggered the worst crisis in Russia's relations with the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and President Vladimir Putin has previously warned of the dangers of a direct confrontation between NATO and Russia. Talks about a confrontation underscore the dangers of an escalation as the West grapples with a resurgent Russia 32 years after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Countries don't have plans to send troops

A White House official told Reuters that the United States had no plans to send troops to fight in Ukraine, neither were there plans to send NATO troops to fight in Ukraine. The US and the European Union are piling new sanctions on Russia on the eve of the second anniversary of its invasion of Ukraine and in retaliation for the death of noted Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny last week in an Arctic penal colony. 

European military heavyweights Germany and Poland affirmed on Tuesday that they would not be sending troops to Ukraine. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said the participants had agreed “that there will be no ground troops, no soldiers on Ukrainian soil who are sent there by European states or NATO states”.

Czech Republic's Prime Minister Petr Fiala insisted that his country “certainly doesn't want to send its soldiers”. European nations are worried the US will reduce its support, as aid for Ukraine is held up in Congress. They also have concerns that former President Donald Trump might return to the White House and change the course of US policy on the continent.

(with inputs from agencies)

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