French PM Suggests Populists Are Putin’s ‘Troops’ for Questioning Macron’s March to War Rhetoric

France's Prime Minister Gabriel Attal gestures as he speaks during a session of questions

French President Emmanuel Macron’s newest attack dog, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, vociferously defended his boss’s “belligerent” war rhetoric, going so far as to brand Marine Le Pen and her National Rally party as Putin’s “troops” for being against sending French troops to fight in Ukraine.

In what may be come to seen as the opening gambit of the French campaign for the European Parliament, two of the leading figures in the race, Marine Le Pen and Gabriel Attal, squared off in the National Assembly on Tuesday. Rather than the usual issues of campaign season, such as migration or the economy, this time it was President Macron’s warning that the soldiers of France may be called upon to fight in Ukraine against the Russians.

The suggestion from Macron that NATO troops would engage directly with the Russians — and potentially sparking a Third World War over relatively insignificant territories in the Donbas region — has not been received well, with Moscow threatening the potential of global annihilation, and allies backing away, with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz both rejecting the idea that NATO troops would be sent into Ukraine.

For her part, former presidential candidate Marine Le Pen said per Le Figaro: “The first duty of a country is to dispose of the lives of its soldiers only to defend its independence or to preserve its integrity or to commit itself, if, within the framework of an alliance, obligations [that] have been contracted .

“But there on external ground, we would have to intervene militarily with our soldiers? By affirming that sending ground troops was ‘not ruled out’ Emmanuel Macron took a further step towards co-belligerence, posing an existential risk to 70 million French people and more particularly to our armed forces.”

Responding directly to the leader of the National Rally in the French parliament, Gabriel Attal, who became France’s youngest and first openly gay prime minister last month after being appointed by Macron as an heir apparent, blasted Le Pen and suggested that she and her populist party were effectively traitors for the Russian government.

“You defended a military alliance with Russia… only two years ago, it was in your program for the presidential election,” he said. “If you had been elected Madame Le Pen, we would not be providing weapons to the Ukrainians to defend themselves, but we would be providing weapons to Russia to crush the Ukrainians.”

“There is reason to wonder if Vladimir Putin’s troops are not already in our country, I’m talking about you and your troops,” he added.

After the exchange, Le Pen left the National Assembly chamber, saying: “The Prime Minister responded with insult and with contempt. I hope that these French people will remember it when the time comes… I believe that my question was legitimate, that it was expressed in an extremely moderate, reasonable manner.”

Meanwhile, just nine per cent of the French public believe that Ukraine will likely win the war against Russia, and the country is about equally divided on whether to supply more weapons or to push Kyiv towards accepting a peace deal, according to a survey from the European Council of Foreign Relations.

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