Judy Asks: Are Europeans prepared to send troops to Ukraine?

Opinion piece (Carnegie Europe)
16 May 2024

Deploying troops to Ukraine, even for non-combat duties, entails risks most European countries are currently unwilling to take. The priority right now must be ramping up aid to Kyiv.

This is one of the easier questions Judy has asked us: most Europeans are clearly not prepared to send troops to Ukraine. That was obvious from the negative reactions of other European leaders when President Emmanuel Macron first raised the possibility of European boots on the ground—saying that “nothing should be excluded”—in February.

He has repeated his point since then, most recently setting it in the context of Russia possibly breaking through Ukrainian defenses. However unpopular it makes him, Macron is right. Europeans must understand what is at stake if Russia defeats Ukraine: the security of other states in Russia’s neighborhood would be severely threatened. Moldova is already vulnerable to Russian subversion but is protected against any more direct attack because it is separated from Russia by Ukraine. If Putin occupied Ukraine’s Black Sea coast and the port of Odesa, Moldova would be defenseless.

And Putin might draw the conclusion from the West’s failure to protect Ukraine adequately, despite its strategic significance, that NATO allies might back down rather than confront Russia if it attacked the Baltic states. Sending European troops to fight in Ukraine would be terrible; fighting Russian troops on NATO territory would be worse.

Ian Bon, deputy director, CER

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