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France and Germany say Ukraine should be able to use their weapons to strike inside Russia

France and Germany said Tuesday that Ukraine should be allowed to use their weapons against targets inside Russia from which Moscow attacks Ukraine.

Speaking at a news conference alongside German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron outlined that French weapons sent to Ukraine, including long-range missiles, were permitted to target bases inside Russia.

“Ukrainian soil is being attacked from bases in Russia,” Macron said during his visit to Schloss Meseberg in Brandenburg, Germany. “So how do we explain to the Ukrainians that we’re going to have to protect these towns and basically everything we’re seeing around Kharkiv at the moment, if we tell them you are not allowed to hit the point from which the missiles are fired?”

“We think that we should allow them to neutralize the military sites from which the missiles are fired and, basically, the military sites from which Ukraine is attacked,” Macron continued.

Macron added, however, that “we must not allow them to hit other targets in Russia,” including civilian or other military targets.

Germany’s Scholz echoed Macron’s comments and said that Ukraine was allowed to defend itself as long as it respected the conditions given by the countries that supplied the weapons – including the United States – and international law.

“Ukraine has every possibility under international law for what it is doing. That has to be said explicitly,” Scholz said. “I find it strange when some people argue that it should not be allowed to defend itself and take measures that are suitable for this.”

Western allies of Ukraine have long held the policy that donated weapons should be strictly limited to usage inside Ukrainian territory. The issue is a controversial one, with fears from Western leaders that if their weaponry is used to strike inside Russia, it would escalate the violence and trigger a wider war involving NATO.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly asked permission from his allies to expand the usage of the provided weapons to strike inside Russia.

The United States, the largest arms supplier to Ukraine, has previously forbidden Kyiv from firing its weapons inside Russian territory over escalation concerns.

However, in comments that appeared to hint at the possibility of a change in policy, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that the US would continue to “adapt and adjust” its support for Ukraine.

“Another hallmark of our support for Ukraine over the last two years has been to adapt as the conditions have changed. 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,” he said when asked about the possibility of allowing Ukraine to strike Russian soil.

But Blinken also reiterated that at present the US has not enabled Ukraine to strike beyond its borders into Russia with US weaponry.

“We haven’t encouraged or enabled strikes outside of Ukraine. Ukraine, as I’ve said before, has to make its own decisions about the best way to effectively defend itself. We’re going to make sure that it has the equipment that it needs to do that,” Blinken said.

When pressed on his remarks about adjusting and adapting, he added, “We’re always listening. We’re always learning, and we’re always making determinations about what’s necessary to make sure that Ukraine can effectively continue to defend itself.”

Shift in red lines?

Previous red lines drawn by Western leaders in their support for Ukraine have been crossed, including the provision of tanks, which was agreed in early 2023 to help Ukraine breach enemy defensive lines, and F-16 fighter jets, which European governments agreed to in the summer of 2023 after months of diplomatic pressure.

France has supplied Ukraine with an unknown number of SCALP cruise missiles, according to the French Defense Ministry’s website.

The SCALP missiles have a range of up to 155 kilometers (96 miles) and carry a 400-kilogram (881-pound) high-explosive penetration warhead, according to the Missile Threat project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The SCALP is the equivalent of Britain’s Storm Shadow, which has also been given to Ukraine, and which British Foreign Secretary David Cameron said earlier this month could be used at Kyiv’s discretion.

“In terms of what the Ukrainians do, in our view it is their decision about how to use these weapons, they are defending their country, they were illegally invaded by Putin and they must take those steps,” Cameron said during a visit to Kyiv. “We don’t discuss any caveats that we put on those things. But let’s be absolutely clear: Russia has launched an attack into Ukraine, and Ukraine absolutely has the right to strike back at Russia.”

France has also supplied Ukraine with a range of military weaponry, including Caesar self-propelled howitzers with a range of up to 42 kilometers.

Macron stressed that the French arms are to be used only against targets from which attacks are launched into Ukraine.

“We must not allow them to hit other targets in Russia,” including civilian or other military targets, the French leader said.

But Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed Ukraine could not use the long-range weapons without significant NATO support, and such involvement by the alliance could trigger “a global conflict.”

For instance, “long-range precision weapons cannot be used without space-based reconnaissance,” Putin said Tuesday during a state visit to Uzbekistan.

“Final target selection” or “launch mission” for Western systems need to be made by “highly skilled specialists who rely on this reconnaissance data,” Putin said.

“So, these officials from NATO countries, especially the ones based in Europe, particularly in small European countries, should be fully aware of what is at stake,” he emphasized.

“They should keep in mind that theirs are small and densely populated countries, which is a factor to reckon with before they start talking about striking deep into the Russian territory.”

Meanwhile, Ukraine got a key pledge of support on Tuesday from Belgium, which said it will supply Kyiv with 30 F-16 fighter jets in the next four years, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The deal was part of a bilateral security agreement signed between the two countries Tuesday in Brussels, according to the Ukrainian leader.

The agreement includes at least $1.06 billion in Belgian military aid to Ukraine this year, with Belgium offering its long-term commitment to support Ukraine over the next 10 years, Zelensky detailed in a post on X. The first F-16 jets from Belgium will be delivered this year.

“The agreement guarantees Belgium’s timely security assistance, modern armored vehicles, equipment to meet Ukraine’s air force and air defense needs, naval security, mine clearance, participation in the artillery ammunition coalition, and military training,” Zelensky said.

The meeting follows a similar agreement between Ukraine and Spain on Monday, with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announcing a $1.08 billion weapons deal for Ukraine.

Alongside Belgium and Spain, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Denmark, Finland and Canada have also signed security agreements.

This story and headline have been updated with additional developments.

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect that Macron made his comments on Tuesday.

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