Since when can we consider France a party to the fighting?

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the West has ramped up its armed aid to Kaif while being careful to avoid any direct intervention that would make them warring parties in Moscow’s eyes.

How far do you go? Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Western countries, including France, have been advancing on the summit line. All are stepping up their military assistance to KIF, taking care not to intervene directly on the ground at the risk of viewing Moscow as warring parties, increasing the risk of a third world war.

Thus, on April 30, Emmanuel Macron reiterated his military support for Volodymyr Zelensky, promising him in particular to strengthen the shipment of equipment to support his conquered country. To date, about 615 tons of equipment have been transferred from France to Ukraine, including food aid and emergency vehicles. The state officially handed over 100 million euros worth of military equipment to Kyiv.

What is a “warrior” state?

After the NATO meeting on March 24, Emmanuel Macron had already mentioned this idea. “The line remains the same for all allies (…) they continue to provide defensive and lethal weapons but with a red line not to take part in the fighting.”

A country is considered to be in a state of joint war when it is at war with another country against a common enemy. When France supplies Ukraine with Tsar guns and anti-tank missiles, can it therefore be considered a party to the fighting?

For, General Jerome Belestrandi, our antenna defense advisor, explains:

“Joint combat is not a legal concept in international law. There is no rule like the principle of declaring war, for example. It is above all a political concept at the discretion of the parties involved. The only person who can say today who is a belligerent: Vladimir Putin.”

Moreover, international law does not explicitly state whether supporting a country militarily means going to war with it. In fact, the main text on arms sales, the Conventional Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), adopted by the United Nations with the exception of China and Russia, legalizes above all the type of equipment sold, and to whom. Among other things, the sale of arms to a country with a high risk of genocide and war crimes, for example, is prohibited.

And the general adds: “As long as France has no troops on the ground, it is not at war with Russia, like other Western countries.”

Where is the point of no return?

In history, there are many precedents that recall the current Russian invasion of Ukraine. General Belistrandi, for example, recalls the conflict between the Soviets and the Americans during the Vietnam War (1955-1975). The Soviet Union aided North Vietnam through China without entering a direct war with the United States.

But what could drive countries that support Ukraine militarily to warring states? It all depends on Vladimir Putin. Even if Moscow warns its enemies for the time being not to cross two red lines.

Vladimir Putin made it clear at the beginning of March that “any country that tries to impose a no-fly zone in Ukrainian airspace will be considered a partner in the fighting.” In fact, if that were the case, that would mean shooting at Russian planes flying over Ukraine, which it would be de facto direct military intervention.

Another point of no return for the Kremlin strongman would be if permission was granted to a country neighboring Ukraine to take off Ukrainian planes to attack Russia. With regard to these elements, General Belistrandi also warns against the delivery of a certain type of weapon:

“Currently we mainly deliver tactical weapons such as artillery cannons at a range of 40 km. But if tomorrow we deliver cruise missiles that allow us to strike the Russian Air Force, this may be a reason for joint fighting of Vladimir Putin,” he added.

A number of “continuous equilibrium”

The countries that support Ukraine by sending weapons to Kyiv, whether neutral or belligerent, are not in a constant state of equilibrium. “Everyone supports a sovereign state that is under attack at home,” argues Jerome Belistrandi.

However, are we not afraid of a fire if all countries continue to finance Ukraine in this way? For defense consultant BFMTV, the question to ask is the following:

“If we don’t transfer arms to Ukraine, what will happen? Russia can move forward, and we would be in an even worse situation than today, Ukraine being torn apart by Moscow. Not doing anything can inspire other countries as well.”

“Russia is a dictatorship. So it is legitimate for European countries that feel threatened to defend themselves,” the specialist continues to judge. “This does not mean that they will go to war with Russia.”

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