French delivery of SCALP missiles to Ukraine marks shift in Western strategy

French President Emmanuel Macron announced on Tuesday that he will deliver SCALP missiles capable of long-range strikes against Russian forces to Ukraine. Western countries had previously been hesitant to meet Ukraine’s longstanding demands for the weapons, fearing an escalation of the conflict.


4 minutes

French President Emmanuel Macron caused quite a stir when he announced the delivery of long-range SCALP missiles to Ukraine after arriving at the NATO summit in Vilnius on Tuesday, July 11. “It’s a strong gesture,” said Guillaume Lasconjarias, a military historian at the Sorbonne University in Paris and a former NATO researcher. “France is enabling the Ukrainian air force to better support a counteroffensive. , and go deep inland.”

The air-launched cruise missile was jointly developed by France and the United Kingdom, which has been supplying Ukraine with its own version of the Storm Shadow missile since May. It has a range of more than 250 kilometers and will allow Kiev to reach Russian-controlled areas in the east of the country. A French military source told AFP that the “scalps” had arrived in Ukraine.

From Political Risk to Covert Operations

So far, NATO members, including France, have argued that long-range weapons could pose a “political risk,” said Swiss military expert Alexander Wotravers. “These weapons raise some questions because the Ukrainians could use them to bomb critical infrastructure on Russian soil,” Votravers said. “The West thinks that if the Ukrainians manage to target an air base, then they can target Hydroelectric dams, nuclear power plants and even Red Square in Moscow.”

But today, long-range missiles are viewed differently. Since the SCALP missile is standoff capable (meaning it can be launched from a safe distance), it is not dropped directly from the front lines. “We should not assume that these weapons will hit civilian infrastructure within 250 kilometers of Russian territory,” Votravers said. “Furthermore, Russian air defenses are so effective that Ukrainian aircraft are forced to drop weapons from 100 kilometers behind the front lines.”

This new weapon capability will help the Ukrainians continue their counteroffensive. This capability is “essential for Ukrainian forces to disrupt Russian logistics and command and control,” Ivan Klischc, a researcher at the Estonian Center for International Defense and Security, told AFP. In addition, Klitsch said the “scalp attack” could contribute to “Ukraine’s current practice of advancing slowly to protect its forces and minimize losses as much as possible.”

read more“A large part of Ukraine’s counteroffensive has yet to be put into action”

SCALP missiles can target bunkers and specific infrastructure behind Russian front lines because they are very accurate. They are also difficult to spot, which means that the probability of the missile hitting its target is very high.

Kiev has pledged to Paris not to use the missiles outside its internationally recognized borders. However, the French right and far-right political factions do not think this promise is enough.

Bringing Russia to the negotiating table

Macron has long been criticized for maintaining relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin in hopes of a quick end to the conflict, but since late 2022 there has been a marked shift in Macron’s stance. Votravers said he was “not at all surprised” by Macron’s statement, given the French president’s repeated voices of support for Kiev.

Nor is it the first time such a long-range cruise missile has been launched. The British government supplied Ukraine with Storm Shadow missiles in May, and Russia has announced that it has captured one but has not destroyed it. This means that Russian engineers are now trying to replicate its technology. Votravers believes the new missile deliveries are first and foremost a publicity stunt: “France, like many other countries, is under pressure. It’s a race to see who can help Ukraine the most.”

Jean-Pierre Morny, deputy director of the French Institute for International Strategic Affairs (IRIS), said the purpose of firing long-range missiles on Ukraine was to bring Russia back to the negotiating table. In an interview with France 24 TV, Morny said: “The West wants to provide Zelensky with all the means needed to ensure the success of the Ukrainian counteroffensive. They want to show Putin that this assistance will last for a long time and will provide firm support.” unwavering support, so Putin cannot win this war.”

According to sources, the French army’s inventory of SCALP missiles is estimated at 400 or less. According to the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI), the unit price is 850,000 euros. The number of missiles delivered to Ukraine has not been specified.The figure is “considerable, but puts French stocks well above what we need to defend France,” he said. military source.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov announced at a news conference that France’s move was a mistake” Russia will be forced to “take countermeasures” in the Ukraine war.

Read more analysis on the war in Ukraine © Médias Monde Graphic Studio, France

This article has been translated from the original French text.

Leave a Comment