By backing membership for Ukraine, the French president is trying to court Eastern European support, the newspaper’s sources said French President Emmanuel Macron © Nicolas Economou / Getty Images

French President Emmanuel Macron realizes that Eastern European states are becoming more influential within NATO, and has shifted his rhetoric on the bloc to match them, Bloomberg reported on Saturday. Macron recently backed a “path” to NATO membership for Ukraine.

Before the conflict in Ukraine began, Macron was regarded as one of Europe’s most NATO-skeptic leaders. He proclaimed the bloc “brain dead” in 2019, and spent his first term in office repeatedly calling for the establishment of a “true European army” independent from the US. Even throughout the first year of the conflict, Macron stayed in phone contact with Russian President Vladimir Putin and distanced himself from “Anglo Saxon” leaders, whom he said seek to “annihilate” Russia.

However, his rhetoric has since changed. In May, Macron called on NATO leaders to offer Kiev a “path” to full membership in the bloc, and declared that the EU and NATO should expand their military cooperation “as quickly as possible.”

The shift was a calculated one, Bloomberg reported. Citing a diplomat from Eastern Europe, the newspaper explained that “positioning France alongside Ukraine’s fiercest supporters, Poland and the Baltic states, helps to fill the gap left by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s more cautious approach.”

A French diplomat framed Macron’s apparent conversion in more ideological terms, stating that the president “has understood he needs to be on the right side of history,” in Bloomberg’s words.

Keep Ukraine out of NATO, US experts argue Keep Ukraine out of NATO, US experts argue

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Keep Ukraine out of NATO, US experts argue

In order to convince NATO’s eastern members, Macron will need to back his words with actions, the newspaper claimed. Although France was one of the first NATO members to provide Kiev with armored vehicles, France will likely need to up its spending on Ukraine to beyond its current level of 0.3% of GDP, Bloomberg suggested.

However, anonymous French officials told the newspaper that Macron’s government is already examining how its nuclear arsenal could “contribute to Ukraine’s security guarantees.”

While offering to protect Ukraine with nuclear weapons would be a seriously escalatory step, some officials Bloomberg spoke to regarded Macron’s recent statement as “hot air.” With his attempts to dissuade Putin from sending troops to Ukraine failing last year and his offer to help China negotiate a peace deal languishing, one anonymous official explained that Macron is enthusiastically backing NATO expansion simply because everything else he has tried “hasn’t worked.” (RT)