War in Ukraine: “All scenarios are possible,” said the chairman of the Defense Committee of the National Assembly

War in Ukraine: “All scenarios are possible,” said the chairman of the Defense Committee of the National Assembly

A few days before leaving for Ukraine with a French parliamentary delegation, the head of the Defense Committee of the National Assembly granted EURACTIV France an interview. In particular, he returns to Ukraine’s military support and the need to change Western reading frames when it comes to intelligence.

Thomas Gassilloud has been a Renaissance MP (ex-LREM) for the 10th constituency of the Rhône since 2017 and has chaired the National Assembly’s National Defense and Armed Forces Committee since June 2022.

EURACTIV. The President of the Republic often reiterates France‘s support for Ukraine, but according to various international estimates, we provide less aid than other countries [en % du PIB]. Is France‘s aid to Ukraine sufficient?

Thomas Gassilloud. First, the President addressed the diplomatic part [mardi 20 septembre] with an extremely clear speech to the UN denouncing Russian imperialism and reminding all countries of their responsibilities.

Regarding military aid to Ukraine, France has chosen, for strategic reasons, not to share the amount and type of equipment provided. The efforts made are nonetheless important and greatly appreciated by Ukrainians. Let’s not forget humanitarian aid or even the use of gendarmerie forces to conduct investigations.

The confrontation between Russian and Western will also includes sanctions, companies withdrawing from Russia, cancellation of sporting events in the country, etc. So many elements that help Russians to realize the seriousness of the situation.

I would also like to point out that the implementation of sanctions was not a matter of course from the start. But France has been very active during the French EU Presidency in ensuring that they are taken immediately.

In any case, we need to think about the concept of a war economy to increase production rates.

But in Germany, for example, there is real pressure on the government to increase support for Ukraine. However, according to several studies, Germany has provided more military and humanitarian aid than France. [en % du PIB]. how do you explain it

First of all, it’s a question of French confidence in their own security, they feel more protected than the Germans. Exposure to the East is greater in Germany than in France, and historically the population of the former East Germany has experienced the Russian presence.

We must also take into account the investments in their army, which have not been significant enough in recent years, and their energy dependence on the Russians. This is a price to pay for Germany, which was therefore reluctant to sever ties with Russia.

Another problem is that of temporality. The French reacted very quickly and delivered what was needed. The 18 Caesar cannons, for example, are already in use. While the Germans made indirect transfers of equipment, this obviously slowed the pace of German supplies.

As the Defense Committee, how are you involved in decision-making on arms sales to Ukraine?

Arms exports are an executive power exercised at the level of the Interministerial Commission for Investigating the Export of War Material [CIEEMG]which examines applications for export licences.

The National Assembly and Senate exercise ex post control over both the political direction of these exports and their nature. We have intensified this control procedure and will be hearing all the ministers concerned for the first time this year, namely the Federal Armed Forces Minister, the Foreign Minister and the Economics Minister.

As for Ukraine, although France did not provide direct funds, Parliament was involved the day after the Russian invasion thanks to a liaison committee set up by Prime Minister Jean Castex, which allows the government to inform the presidents of commissions and groups about the French action introduce to discuss with them.

We also have debates in the plenary, including one that will take place on October 3 at the initiative of Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne.

What is the content of the debates in the committee itself? Its members come from parties that sometimes have different views on important issues.

The Defense Committee is inherently representative of the balance of political power in the assembly. There are differences in historical sensitivities, for example in relation to NATO, but they remain in the minority.

Above all, there is a certain consensus on defense issues that characterizes our committee. Divergences, sometimes due to political strategies, are less visible because the essentials are at stake.

Do you think the political support for Ukraine at national and European level is sufficiently strong?

Yes, I think that’s him. Next week we’re going to Ukraine [avec la présidente de l’Assemblée nationale Yaël Braun-Pivet et d’autres parlementaires]. Many other parliamentarians have already been there in recent months.

Together with the sanctions, these are signs of strong political support.

Is public opinion more fragile?

Compared to other war zones, the population feels a kind of closeness to the Ukrainians, which gives them a different war awareness.

But Vladimir Poutine expects the support of Western opinion to collapse. Today he uses gas as leverage to undermine popular support. It also uses other means, including information and interference in political parties.

Everyone must rediscover that living free in this world has a price and that it is a constant struggle. For this, the effort of the population must be part of the duration.

Even before the February 24 invasion, when the Americans alerted us, were there errors in the Europeans’ assessment of the threat?

At the intelligence level, France could see what was going on from a military point of view. With the military programming law, France has evaluation autonomy, which is a first compared to previous conflicts such as the Gulf War.

Intelligence, on the other hand, is not an exact science. There is a difference between noticing troop movements and predicting enemy intent. Before February 24th we did it, putting ourselves in his shoes and telling ourselves that the cost of the war to the Russians would be too great.

Today we have to get out of our analytical grid of western democracies. Because the motivation for war is not necessarily rational and may be based on domestic issues rather than power issues.

After all, Vladimir Putin’s goal is above all to preserve his regime: Ukraine as a democracy that is permanently established at its borders and is developing economically will ultimately reveal the freedom gap between Ukrainians and Russians.

Their decisions are not in the interests of the Russian people and Russia as a country, but in the interests of the ruling oligarchy in Russia.

What does Vladimir Putin’s speech on Wednesday morning (September 21) change?

There is clearly a superiority between partial mobilization and the sweeping threat with the ability to use any weapon at its disposal.

All scenarios are possible in the coming months. What looks solid can turn out to be a house of cards and vice versa. The risk is that if he feels cornered too much, he will try to create a shock.

[Propos recueillis le 21 septembre 2022]

Reference: www.euractiv.fr

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