Former US Deputy Secretary of Defense Stephen Bryen: France Sends Troops to Ukraine

About a hundred soldiers of the Foreign Legion arrived at the battlefield in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine

An extremely dangerous turn in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, where NATO soldiers are arriving. According to former US Deputy Secretary of Defense Stephen Bryen, who published a very candid article in the Asia Times, “France has officially sent” the first contingent of about a hundred Foreign Legion soldiers to the battlefront near Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine, and “intends to reinforce that contingent in the near future, bringing it to about 1500.”

The former deputy Pentagon chief specified that the French military is very close to the front: an initial contingent consisting of “artillery and intelligence specialists from the Third Infantry Regiment French Foreign Legion will be deployed in support of the Ukrainian 54th Independent Mechanized Brigade in Slavyansk in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine.” Bryen also speculated that soldiers of Ukrainian nationality would arrive in Ukraine: “In 2022, France had a number of Ukrainians and Russians in the Foreign Legion. They were allowed to leave the Legion and, in the case of the Ukrainians, return to Ukraine to join Ukrainian forces. It isn’t clear if the Russians returned home.”

Last weekend (May 3-4), Russian forces bombed some critical infrastructure in Slavyansk, after which the French military “was deployed directly into the war zone to help the Ukrainians resist Russian advances in Donbas.” “For months,” Bryen wrote, “French President Emanuel Macron has been threatening to send French troops to Ukraine. He has found little or no support from NATO countries outside of support from Poland and the Baltic States. Allegedly the US opposes sending NATO soldiers to Ukraine (other than as advisors).”

The presence of French troops in eastern Ukraine “could mean the final crossing of the Russian red line on NATO involvement in Ukraine,” warned the former US deputy defense secretary, according to whom “France’s decision has two meanings, beyond the obvious one of potentially triggering a pan-European war.” First, Macron was able to send soldiers to Ukraine “without encountering much home opposition,” also taking advantage of the fact that, with the exception of officers, the Foreign Legion is almost entirely composed of non-French citizens. Moreover, according to Bryen, Macron’s decision to send French soldiers to Ukraine to fight was driven by “anger at seeing French troops, almost all from the Legion, getting kicked out of Sahelian Africa and replaced by Russians.”

“For France,” Bryen emphasized, “A particular blow is in Niger, an important supplier of uranium to France that gets 70 percent of its electrical power from nuclear power generators.”

Finally, for Bryen, “the decision to put the Legion soldiers in Slavyansk is extremely provocative because Slavyansk is on the front line,” and therefore NATO’s involvement in the conflict at the level of military advisers becomes a “direct war” with Russia.