France to boost its forces on NATO's eastern flank after Russian missile strikes on Ukraine

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By Euronews  with AFP
Ukrainian servicemen fire with a French self-propelled 155 mm/52-calibre gun Caesar towards Russian positions in the eastern Ukrainian Donbas region, June 15, 2022.
Ukrainian servicemen fire with a French self-propelled 155 mm/52-calibre gun Caesar towards Russian positions in the eastern Ukrainian Donbas region, June 15, 2022.   -   Copyright  ARIS MESSINIS / AFP

France says it will reinforce its military presence on NATO's eastern flank in the coming weeks with additional troops, tanks and weapons.

It comes as Russia escalated its war in Ukraine this week with massive missile strikes across the country, and follows an announcement by President Macron last week of a €100 million arms fund for Ukraine.

"In view of the situation on the eastern flank of NATO, in view of the violence of the fighting in Ukraine, in this war led by the Russian Federation, the President of the Republic has decided to raise our defensive posture on the eastern flank of Europe," French Defence Minister Sebastien Lecornu told a hearing of the Senate Defence Committee.

Paris, which is the framework nation of a NATO mission in Romania, currently has 350 French soldiers, as well as Belgians and Dutch, and plans to deploy a dozen armoured infantry vehicles (VBCI) and a dozen Leclerc tanks in the country in the next few weeks, Lecornu said.

This would mean Paris is doubling its forces in the area in November, a military source said. The defence minister said recently that France could increase its resources still further.

He also said that French forces would be strengthened in Lithuania, with the deployment of Rafale fighter jets, and Estonia where a reinforced light infantry company would be deployed with an additional 100 soldiers to add to the 300 already stationed there.

According to the ministry's estimates, the French budgetary effort to strengthen Nato's defensive posture in eastern Europe should cost between €600—700 million this year.

At the same time, Paris is more open about its efforts to help Kyiv defend itself, even if its room for manoeuvre remains limited, while some accuse it of not doing enough for Ukraine.

Emmanuel Macron announced on Friday the creation of a "special fund" of €100 million so that Ukraine can "buy directly from our manufacturers the equipment it needs most to support its war effort".

The French president confirmed that Paris was considering sending six additional Caesar guns to Ukraine, in addition to the 18 already delivered. These 155 mm guns, the flagship of French artillery, have a range of 40 kilometres.

In addition to the 18 Caesars, France has so far supplied anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, armoured front vehicles (VAB), fuel, individual equipment and some 15 155 mm TRF1 towed guns.

It is also studying the possibility of delivering 20 Bastion armoured vehicles to Kyiv.

On Wednesday, Ukraine's defence ministry tweeted its appreciation for the supply of French artillery and Caesar guns -- and called for more.

According to the Kiel Institute for the World economy, France is in 11th position for military support to Ukraine with €233 million of aid since the beginning of 2022, against €25 billion from the United States, €4 billion from the United Kingdom, €1.8 billion from Poland and €1.13 billion from Germany.