French Ambassador to U.S.: For NATO Countries Bordering Russia, ‘Real War is Possible’

February 21, 2024 6:50 PM
U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to Task Force Voit, 3rd Battalion, 27th Field Artillery Regiment, 18th Field Artillery Brigade, XVIII Airborne Corps, supporting 3rd Infantry Division, demonstrate the M142 High-Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) to multinational troops from NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group Estonia during a live-fire exercise at the Central Training Area​​ near Camp Tapa, Estonia, Dec. 22, 2023. US Army Photo

The French ambassador to the U.S. warned a “real war is possible” for NATO countries on the border with Russia.
Laurent Bili, speaking during a Washington Post online event Tuesday, connected the deterrence NATO provides in the current war between Russia and Ukraine to how the alliance deterred Soviet aggression after governments like Czechoslovakia and Poland during the Cold War.

Members “on the front line” bordering Russia or Ukraine, and France and Germany believe “real war is possible” in Europe again. For France, that means putting the nation on “a war footing” in defense spending and revitalizing its industrial base, he said.

The ambassador noted both Paris and Berlin signed new agreements with Ukraine boosting military support and civilian governmental aid. For France, Bili said it was €3 billion over the was €50 billion the European Union has pledged to send to Kyiv over the next five years. Paris “is responding in real time to Ukraine’s demands.” He added that means quickly sending Caesar self-propelled artillery systems and 155 mm munitions and more air defense systems to overcome shortages in front-line combat units and stepped-up Russian drone, missile and manned bombing attacks on cities and other civilian targets.

“We’ve been able to cut production time” to manufacture needed munitions, Bili added. “But we can’t do it without support from the U.S. …[It] has the only industrial base that can deliver at speed” to prevent a Russian victory.

When asked if he had a message to Republicans in the House of Representatives who are holding up additional American aid to Ukraine, as well as Israel and the Into-Pacific, Bili said. There’s “no scenario in that war where Russia wins and the U.S. doesn’t lose,” he said.

France “certainly” supports Ukraine’s membership in both the EU and NATO. Membership in NATO “is a bit more tricky” than joining the EU for two reasons. Membership requires the approval of all treaty partners and the Kremlin’s disinformation campaign that it’s fighting the war to block enlarging NATO has had success “in the Global South.”

Bili called the fighting in Ukraine “the challenge of our generation” and compared it to those faced “by the greatest generation,” who fought and won World War II.

The “world is an era of competition” where powers like Moscow and Beijing want to end the rules-based order that followed that war, he said. As an example, he said he did not expect Chinese President Xi Jinping to back away from bringing Taiwan under Beijing’s control.

But like the United States, France reminds the Chinese leadership it wants a status quo situation, Bili, formerly an ambassador to Beijing, said. To reinforce that point, Paris has sent a frigate through the Taiwan Strait, demonstrating its commitment to freedom of navigation in international waters.

As for lingering tensions between Washington and Paris over the Australia-United Kingdom-United States agreement to build nuclear-powered submarines, Bili said, “it’s time to turn the page and look to the future.” He added, “we’ve been allies for 250 years and [expect] to extend that into the future.”

When the agreement was announced in 2021, France recalled its ambassadors to Australia and United States. Paris and Canberra had previously agreed to building conventionally-powered submarines together.

John Grady

John Grady

John Grady, a former managing editor of Navy Times, retired as director of communications for the Association of the United States Army. His reporting on national defense and national security has appeared on Breaking Defense,,,, Government Executive and USNI News.

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