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France Halting Free Arm Transfers to Ukraine is Sign of Europe's Exhaustion

© AFP 2023 / LIONEL BONAVENTUREThis photograph on April 4, 2023, shows shells at the workshop of the "Forges de Tarbes" which produces 155mm shells, the munition for French Caesar artillery guns in use by the Ukrainian armed forces, in Tarbes, southwestern France.
This photograph on April 4, 2023, shows shells at the workshop of the Forges de Tarbes which produces 155mm shells, the munition for French Caesar artillery guns in use by the Ukrainian armed forces, in Tarbes, southwestern France.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 13.11.2023
France will stop providing Ukraine with arms from its arsenals, so Kiev has started buying new weapons from French companies using money from a special fund, as per French Minister of the Armed Forces Sebastien Lecornu.
Paris has allocated €200 million to a fund designed to finance Ukraine's direct purchases from French arms manufacturers. French Minister of Armed Forces Lecornu announced on Sunday, that France would no longer transfer weapons from its arsenals, encouraging Kiev to buy them. To date, France's military aid to Kiev has totaled €3.2 billion, according to a parliamentary report for the French Assemblee Nationale's Defense and Armed Forces Committee.

Lecornu's statement has not come like a bolt from the blue: in late September he visited Kiev accompanied by around 20 defense manufacturers. "[Free] transfers cannot be made indefinitely," the French minister told journalists at the time.

In an exclusive interview with Franceinfo on September 29 Lecornu explained that Paris managed to get rid of plenty of old weapons by transferring them to Ukraine and now Kiev would have to maintain direct business ties with French arm-makers. What's behind the move?
"In France, like several of the other NATO countries, and the US, the stockpiles are depleted," Earl Rasmussen, a retired lieutenant colonel with over 20 years in the US Army and International Consultant, told Sputnik. "They're dangerously low. They really cannot defend themselves. And the funds are continuing to flow. It's like a black hole into Ukraine. So you're penalizing your own public as well if they're to their security to provide limitless funding and arms to Ukraine. And I would agree with the French defense minister that these free handouts cannot continue indefinitely. And he's on record for saying that."
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Per Rasmussen, Ukrainians obviously benefitted from French arms supplies especially given the fact that some of those weapons apparently went to black markets. "If you get it for free, why purchase it," he noted.
According to the French parliamentary report, the Kiev regime has particularly got 30 Caesar cannons; several dozen of AMX-10 RC armored reconnaissance vehicles and armored personnel carriers (VAB); 15 TRF1 howitzers; nearly a hundred Mistral surface-to-air missiles; two Crotale anti-aircraft missile batteries; around 50 SCALP/Storm Shadow air-surface missiles; Milan anti-tank guided missiles; Zodiac Futura boats, among other weapons.
"The Ukrainians say they want investments in their country, obviously they want armament manufacturers to put up the money entirely to build factories in their country," the expert said. "Of course, how do they buy the arms? Because they don't have any real revenue or any real economy. And once you start building a factory in Ukraine, that's a fair game target for Russia. I think there needs to be a realization. I mean, Ukraine… The problem is that they probably don't want to do it because the arms seem to be disappearing into the black market and the money seems to be disappearing as well. Who knows what?"
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West Has Dug Itself Into a Hole

Against this backdrop, Germany's Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock's statement that the West would not only sustain the same level of support to Ukraine in the future but would increase it does not hold water, according to Rasmussen.
"They cannot. The bottom line is they cannot," the expert stressed. "My own view is they're delusional. They're living in an alternative reality. They just cannot deliver. I’ve been reading an article the other day on something was supposed to be delivered in 2024 from the US to Ukraine. But we don't have the chemicals or the supplies or the capability to… even if our factories could produce it, we don't have the supplies necessary to produce the ammunition and the weapons that are needed."
Per Rasmussen, the supply chain issue is a problem too: most of Europe does not get their minerals and other raw materials internally, but get them from external supplies.
"And so who's the major supplier? Russia," the expert emphasized. "So they have to turn to alternate sources."
One of these sources is China, and one needs to bear in mind that the US and its allies currently have tense relations with the People's Republic as well, Rasmussen remarked.
To complicate matters further, Western countries have got other contracts as well, he continued. "Now you've got the conflict in the Middle East heating up. And so where do their priorities go? The US seems to be clear that their priority is Israel."
"So the West has dug themselves into a really, really bad hole and it's not good for the West," Rasmussen pointed out.
The retired lieutenant colonel believes that the only step in the right direction is a profound political change in the West.
"My view is the only way out of this is political leadership change across many of the Western countries or their leaders come to reality and actually realistically come to a settlement to stop the conflict and stop the killing. I mean, that's just the only way out. Otherwise, we're going to see further escalation. And who knows where that could go. And then at the same time, we've got a potentially multi-faceted conflict going on between Europe, the Middle East and perhaps Asia as well. So it's not a good situation," Rasmussen concluded.
In this image released by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office on May 1, 2022, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky arrives for his meeting with then-US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, April 30, 2022. - Sputnik International, 1920, 09.11.2023
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