Sirsky Confirms: French Military Instructors Arrive to Strengthen Ukraine's Defense

In a key development in Ukraine's defense strategy, Chief Oleksandr Sirsky officially confirmed the arrival of French military instructors. Will there be a turning point in the war and what will Russia's response be?

by Sededin Dedovic
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Sirsky Confirms: French Military Instructors Arrive to Strengthen Ukraine's Defense
© Alexey Furman / Getty Images

News from Ukraine indicates a possible turning point. According to reports, the commander of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Oleksandr Syrskyi, has signed papers concerning the presence of French military instructors. According to Syrskyi, they could arrive "soon" to inspect Ukrainian training centers.

In a social media post, Syrskyi described this as an "ambitious project" and expressed hope that other partners would follow France's example.

French Military Instructors for Ukraine

However, France has tempered this message, claiming that discussions are ongoing and nothing concrete has been planned yet.

Nevertheless, it appears that France might be the first NATO member to send its troops to Ukraine. In February, French President Emmanuel Macron sparked media buzz by stating he did not rule out sending French troops to Ukraine.

Until then, this was considered a red line in the war for both Moscow and the West. Russia has threatened to target Western soldiers in Ukraine. The debate has intensified in the West as Russia has increased its attacks on Ukraine in recent weeks.

A shortage of its own soldiers and bottlenecks in ammunition supplies from the U.S. have led the Russian military to occupy more Ukrainian areas in the north and east. Observers expect a Russian offensive this summer. Nicholas Tenzer, an expert on French foreign policy, told DW that sending military instructors to Ukraine is the first possible scenario.

"France is ready to do this as soon as possible." He explains that these soldiers could be stationed in Lviv or Kyiv.

French soldiers walk with a flag during the Scorpions Legacy 22 NATO exercise,© Andreea Campeanu / Getty Images

Jahara Matishak, a military expert at the U.S.

Naval War College, considers sending instructors a straightforward option: "A few thousand Western soldiers could easily be transferred to Lviv as part of a training mission," Matishak told DW. He explained that the European Union already has such a training mission and could relocate it to Ukraine.

This American expert called for a leading European role in this area as early as April.

Is Ukraine Allowed to Target Russia with Western Weapons?

He goes a step further, suggesting that the West deploy its forces along Ukraine's border, on the Ukrainian side, up to the right bank of the Dnieper.

"I think this would send a clear signal to [Russian President] Vladimir Putin. If Europeans did this, it would free up to 20 Ukrainian brigades that could then be moved closer to the front," said Matishak. Other red lines are also being questioned.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy almost daily pleads with Western partners to allow Ukraine to target Russia with Western weapons. Until now, most Western countries, especially the U.S. and Germany, have opposed this, citing the desire to avoid escalation.

Until recently, only the United Kingdom among the major NATO powers had supported this. During his visit to Germany this week, Macron also advocated for it. The NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Sofia this week also urged its members to allow the use of weapons they had sent to Ukraine against targets on Russian territory.

Jahara Matishak believes that without the option to strike Russian territory with Western weapons, Ukraine can barely defend cities near the Russian border like Kharkiv. Nicholas Tenzer criticizes Western restrictions and points to the United Nations Charter, which gives attacked Ukraine the right to defend itself.

If the West indeed sends its forces to Ukraine, it will also mean "more air defense" to protect those soldiers, says American military expert Jahara Matishak. This has recently been a taboo but is increasingly being questioned.

In Germany, some politicians advocate for shooting down Russian drones and missiles in western Ukraine from NATO territory. This would effectively create a limited no-fly zone to protect Ukrainian cities near the Polish border like Lviv.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz opposes NATO involvement and advocates for more air defense systems. Germany recently delivered two such systems – Patriot and IRIS-T – to Ukraine. Matishak says he understands Germany's restraint toward Russia for historical reasons.

However, he believes that the risk of escalation can be managed. According to him, shooting down Russian missiles and drones only over Ukraine, not over Russia or its ally Belarus, would be almost a "humanitarian mission." The goal would be to protect infrastructure and the population "from random attacks," DW reports.

The involvement of French military instructors could significantly affect the training and readiness of Ukrainian forces. As Ukraine faces increasing pressure from Russian offensives, the expertise and guidance of NATO member military personnel could offer a strategic advantage.

But what worries everyone the most is the potential deployment of Western forces in Ukraine could lead to heightened tensions and re-examination of NATO's role in the conflict. While the primary objective would be to strengthen Ukraine's defense capabilities, it also poses the risk of direct conflict with Russian forces.

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