France falls behind European counterparts in arms aid to Ukraine — 'becoming irrelevant'


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Macron slammed as leader to dip France into Ukraine war

A senior French defence analyst has spoken out about his country’s low level of support for Ukrainians seeking to drive out Vladimir Putin’s invasion forces. A recent study puts France ninth in terms of the amount of equipment delivered to Ukraine, far behind the US and UK. Although the shortfall may initially have been due to Mr Macron favouring diplomacy, more recently France appears to have ran out of capacity to supply.

Mr Macron has sought to position himself as a mediator between the West and Putin ever since Russian troops began amassing at Ukraine’s borders.

Rather than follow the path taken by the US, UK and most NATO allies of condemnation and diplomatic breakdown, Mr Macron held frequent phone calls with his Russian opposite in a bid to broker a ceasefire.

After it became clear negotiation was no longer on the table, France slowly committed weapons to Ukraine, but now a senior French defence analyst is calling his Government’s contribution into question.

Speaking to the BBC, Francois Heisbourg of the International Institute for Strategic Studies said: “I was concerned about the reliability of the statistics which showed France low on the list of contributing countries. So I went out to the main distribution hub in Poland to see how much in tonnage was actually being delivered, rather than just promised.”

“Unfortunately the figures bore out my fears. France is way down the list – in ninth position.”

Emmanuel Macron and Caesar howitzers

French military aid to Ukraine lags behind that of the UK (Image: GETTY)

Aid to Ukraine as a proportion of GDP

The Baltic states sharing a border with Russia have committed significant amounts in aid to Ukraine (Image: EXPRESS)

According to a recent analysis of arms deliveries on the ground in Poland and Ukraine, France contributed less than two percent of the total – far behind the 49 percent from the US and trailing European countries such as Poland (22 percent) and Germany (nine percent). 

Since the beginning of the war, the US has been the largest supplier of military equipment to Ukraine by far, committing $25billion (£22.2billion) in aid, according to the latest figures from the Kiel Institute for the World Economy’s Ukraine Support Tracker.

The UK has consistently ranked in second place, having pledged £3.5billion. The think tank found Poland had committed £1.6billion, Germany £1billion and Canada £800million.

At the beginning of August, France’s Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Catherine Colonna suggested French assistance to Ukraine – including humanitarian and military assisstance – amounted to €2billion (£1.74billion).

According to the Ukraine Support Tracker, disclosed French military aid amounted to just €230million (£200million) at the time of recording.

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NATO forces mapped

NATO military deployments in Europe (Image: EXPRESS)

French Caesar howitzer in Mosul

French Caesar howitzers have been deployed all over the world, notably in Mosul, Iraq (Image: GETTY)

The French defence line pushed by officials has long been that quality matters more than quantity, but Mr Heisbourg worries France will be overlooked if it doesn’t step up.

He said: “When I was in Kyiv, everyone was very polite. I had no sense that the Ukrainians disapproved of us. In a way it was worse. I had the distinct feeling we were becoming irrelevant.”

The centrepieces of what France has supplied to Ukraine so far are 18 155mm Caesar self-propelled artillery howitzers, delivered from April 2022 onwards, with the latest batch of six announced during a visit to Kyiv by Mr Macron in June.

Taken from the French Army’s active stocks, the commitment represents a quarter of France’s entire mobile artillery – the country being unable to offer more without leaving itself vulnerable in ongoing operations in North Africa or the Indo-Pacific.

However, this week it was reported that France will divert a shipment of six to 12 Caesar guns bound for Denmark to Ukraine instead.

Paris has also pledged and supplied MILAN anti-tank guided missile systems and VAB armoured personnel carriers.

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Jens Stoltenberg and Antony Blinken

Jens Stoltenberg and Antony Blinken held a joint press conference after their meeting on September 9 (Image: GETTY)

The broader political danger of France’s perceived lack of help is that it undermines Mr Macron’s angling for French leadership in collective European defence.

Currently assured by the US-led NATO military alliance – of which most EU states are members – the French president has long called for the creation of an EU army. In a speech at Sorbonne University early into his first term, Mr Macron said: “Our objective must be Europe’s capacity for autonomous action, as a complement to NATO.”

As the energy and cost-of-living crises have come to dominate the attention of the public and politicians over the summer, data from the Kiel Institiute for the World Economy show fresh commitments of military aid have been waning – with the exception of the US.

France’s principal rival for European primacy, Germany, has also been in hot water over its perceived low level of support for Ukraine. Earlier this month, German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht lamented that although she would like to send more, her country’s stocks were depleted after years of underinvestment.

Despite incoming Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s dramatic increase in German military spending announced in the early days of the war, Ms Lambrecht claimed the country first needed time to rebuild its own forces.

This underlies a growing problem shared by Ukraine’s European and American suppliers of equipment — that peacetime military hardware production levels cannot keep up with the demands of full-scale conflict.

As the Ukrainian counteroffensive got underway in September, Josep Borrell, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, said: “The military stocks of most member states have been, I wouldn’t say exhausted, but depleted in a high proportion, because we have been providing a lot of capacity to the Ukrainians.”

On September 9, speaking alongside US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said he had two messages for NATO members. 

“We welcome the unprecedented support, we are calling for even more support, and we urge them to dig deeper into the inventories,” he said. The second, he added, “is of course to produce more.” 

Even the US has reportedly run out of stockpiled 155mm howitzers, and the Pentagon has ruled out sending units reserved for its own military operations.


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