Le Pen’s Party Backs Arming Ukraine, Says ‘No French Troops’

(Bloomberg) -- Jordan Bardella, president of Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party, said he is in favor of providing Ukraine the ammunition it needs to defend itself but not equipment that might trigger a broader war, placing him relatively close to President Emmanuel Macron’s position on France’s role in the conflict.

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But unlike Macron, he said he’s opposed to sending French troops to the country.

Bardella, who may become prime minister if Le Pen’s party gets a resounding victory in France’s snap election, was speaking on the sidelines of the Eurosatory defense fair in Villepinte, on the outskirts of Paris, on Wednesday.

“I want Ukraine to have the ammunition and equipment it needs to hold up,” he said. “But my red line won’t change: no equipment that could have consequences...My red line is co-belligerence.”

Le Pen’s party’s ties to Russia had raised questions about its stance on arming Ukraine, and Bardella’s comments may alleviate concerns in some European Union capitals that a fresh push to support Ukraine would fall by the wayside if the National Rally forms a government after the July 7 vote. Macron has been one of Kyiv’s top cheerleaders, with his plan including dispatching army trainers to Ukraine.

On Wednesday, Bardella strolled through the fair, drawing huge crowds as he visited the booths of defense companies producing Caesar cannons, drones, and missiles that France has sent to Ukraine.

“I am opposed to sending French troops to Ukraine,” he said, dismissing an idea floated by Macron.

Macron’s Struggle Has Europe Fretting Over Defense, Ukraine

Macron dissolved the National Assembly and called for a new legislative vote after his party was trounced by Le Pen’s group in the European Parliament ballot this month. The French president had centered his EU campaign on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, portraying Le Pen as a Vladimir Putin ally and framing his party’s victory in the elections as crucial for Europe. Just two days before calling for early elections, Macron stood alongside Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Paris, pledging to send French Mirage 2000-5 fighter jets and build a coalition to support Ukraine.

Le Pen had countered by promoting herself as a peace advocate, criticizing Macron’s comments on sending troops as a cynical ploy to dramatize what was at stake in the EU elections.

Le Pen’s party’s financial ties to Russia have been under scrutiny after it took out a loan from a Russian bank, which the National Rally said it has since repaid. Last year, the National Rally abstained on a resolution in the European Parliament that condemned the imprisonment of Russian opponent Alexey Navalny, who died in an arctic jail earlier this year.

The party will likely face questions about its relationship with key allies like Qatar, a significant buyer of French arms, and Germany, with whom France is aiming to build a new-generation tank and fighter jet. Bardella has previously slammed Qatar for funding “terrorist movements like Hamas” and his party has criticized the country’s ownership of the Paris football club PSG. While not addressing these issues specifically, Bardella said he would honor commitments made by France if he becomes prime minister.

“I do not intend to call into question the commitments made by France on the international scene; there is an issue of credibility with regard to our European partners and our NATO allies,” he said, according to Agence France-Presse. In 2022, Le Pen, campaigning for the presidential election, had promised to “leave the integrated command” of NATO.

The French government remains a key customer and shareholder of the country’s defense industry, and Bardella said he would support the beefing up of the sector.

“I hope that France can continue its rearmament effort,” he said.

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