Macron and Scholz Endorse Strikes on Russian Military Bases

France and Germany Support Expanded Use of Weapons in Ukraine Conflict

by Faruk Imamovic
Macron and Scholz Endorse Strikes on Russian Military Bases
© Getty Images/Michele Tantussi

France and Germany have jointly advocated for a significant policy shift that allows Ukraine to use Western-supplied weapons to strike Russian launch sites from which attacks on Ukrainian territory are orchestrated. This marks a notable departure from the previously stringent restrictions that limited the use of these weapons to within Ukraine's borders.

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz made this announcement during a press conference at Schloss Meseberg in Brandenburg, Germany. Macron highlighted the necessity for Ukraine to defend itself against attacks originating from Russian soil. "Ukrainian soil is being attacked from bases in Russia," Macron stated. "How do we explain to the Ukrainians that we’re going to have to protect these towns if we tell them you are not allowed to hit the point from which the missiles are fired?"

Macron clarified that while targeting military bases in Russia is acceptable, Ukraine must avoid striking civilian or other non-military targets. Scholz reiterated this point, stressing that Ukraine’s actions must comply with international law and the conditions set by the countries providing the weapons, including the United States.

This shift in stance by two of Europe’s key players reflects a broader re-evaluation of the limits imposed on military aid to Ukraine. The evolving conflict dynamics and the persistent aggression from Russia have compelled Western allies to reconsider their strategies and support mechanisms.

Evolving US Position and Global Reactions

Historically, the United States, as Ukraine’s largest arms supplier, has been cautious about allowing its weapons to be used for strikes inside Russia, concerned about the potential for escalation. However, recent comments from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken suggest a possible shift in this stance. Blinken emphasized the need for the US to adapt its support in response to changing battlefield conditions, though he maintained that, for now, the US has not authorized Ukraine to use American-supplied weaponry to strike Russian territory.

"Another hallmark of our support for Ukraine over the last two years has been to adapt as the conditions have changed," Blinken said. "Battlefields change. As what Russia does has changed in terms of how it is pursuing its aggression escalation, we’ve adapted and adjusted too. And I am confident we will continue to do that."

Western allies have traditionally been wary of providing weapons that could be used to attack Russian soil, fearing such actions could provoke a broader conflict involving NATO. Despite this, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has persistently sought permission to use these weapons to counter attacks from within Russia.

Secretary Of State Blinken
Secretary Of State Blinken© Getty Images/Andrew Harnik

Strategic Military Aid and Considerations

The provision of advanced military aid to Ukraine has already seen previous limitations overcome. In early 2023, Western allies agreed to supply tanks, and by the summer, the provision of F-16 fighter jets was approved after intense diplomatic negotiations. France has supplied Ukraine with SCALP cruise missiles, similar to Britain’s Storm Shadow, both of which extend Ukraine’s strategic capabilities significantly.

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron affirmed that the decision on how to use these weapons lies with Ukraine. "In our view, it is their decision about how to use these weapons," Cameron stated. "They are defending their country, they were illegally invaded by Putin, and they must take those steps."

These developments underscore a robust support mechanism for Ukraine, albeit with significant risks. Russian President Vladimir Putin has cautioned that substantial NATO involvement, especially with advanced weaponry, could escalate the conflict into a global war. Putin pointed out the necessity of space-based reconnaissance for the effective use of long-range precision weapons, highlighting the complexity and potential NATO’s involvement in such operations.

"Long-range precision weapons cannot be used without space-based reconnaissance," Putin said. "Final target selection or launch mission for Western systems needs to be made by highly skilled specialists who rely on this reconnaissance data."

Continued Support from European Allies

Beyond France and Germany, other European nations have also stepped up their military aid to Ukraine. Belgium, for instance, has pledged to provide 30 F-16 fighter jets over the next four years as part of a comprehensive security agreement. This deal includes over $1 billion in military aid this year alone, illustrating Belgium’s long-term commitment to Ukraine’s defense.

Spain has similarly committed to a substantial weapons package, with Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announcing a $1.08 billion deal. These agreements are part of a larger coalition of European countries, including the United Kingdom, Italy, Denmark, Finland, and Canada, all of which have signed security agreements with Ukraine.

Belgium’s commitment was highlighted by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who praised the agreement as a guarantee of timely security assistance and support for Ukraine's air force, air defense needs, and military training.

These international efforts reflect a unified response to Russia’s aggression, with Western allies demonstrating a readiness to adjust their strategies and support in response to the evolving conflict. The coming months will be critical in determining how these policies and supplies will influence the battlefield dynamics and whether they will strengthen Ukraine’s defense without provoking further escalation.

Implications for Future Conflict Dynamics

The evolving support from Western allies represents a significant factor in the ongoing conflict. As Ukraine continues to push back against Russian aggression, the ability to target launch sites within Russia could provide a strategic advantage. However, this also raises concerns about the potential for wider conflict and the delicate balance that must be maintained to avoid a global escalation.

Western leaders, while supportive of Ukraine's right to defend itself, remain cautious about crossing thresholds that could lead to an uncontrollable spread of the war. The nuanced position of allowing strikes on military targets but not on civilian or other non-military sites reflects this delicate balance.

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