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Russia could attack Nato states if west fails to support Ukraine, Macron says

<span>Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, and French president, Emmanuel Macron, shake hands at a press conference earlier this month.</span><span>Photograph: Thibault Camus/AP</span>
Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, and French president, Emmanuel Macron, shake hands at a press conference earlier this month.Photograph: Thibault Camus/AP

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, has called for western countries to step up their support for Ukraine, warning that Moscow’s actions in recent weeks signal that Russia could attack Nato states in the next few years.

Speaking at the opening of a hastily convened conference of 20 mainly European leaders in Paris designed to speed up the supply of weapons and financial aid to Ukraine, Macron said Russia “must not and cannot win this war” and that Europe’s own security was at stake.

“We are in the process of ensuring our collective security, for today and tomorrow,” he said.

Those attending the summit on Monday included the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, the British foreign secretary, David Cameron, and the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, who is tipped to become the next Nato secretary general.

Macron pointed to the death of the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny as a sign of the hardening of Moscow’s position.

In a short video address, the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said: “Together we have already saved millions of lives, and together we must ensure that Putin cannot destroy what we have achieved and cannot extend his aggression to other countries.”

At a press conference in Kyiv, Zelenskiy addressed one of the central issues facing the Paris meeting: the west’s inability to meet its promises to supply ammunition in the quantities required. He said: “Out of a million shells that the European Union promised us, it was not 50% but unfortunately 30% that were delivered.”

The EU promised last year to send Ukraine 1m artillery shells before the end of March 2024, but then said it would only be able to deliver just over 50% of that amount. Zelenskiy implied that the EU had not been able to meet even its reduced target.

Ukraine has blamed the deficit in shells for its failure to hold positions let alone make advances, something most European powers rule out in 2024.

Before the conference the populist Slovakian prime minister, Robert Fico, said several EU and Nato member states were considering sending troops to Ukraine on a bilateral basis, a claim that looked as if it was designed to create fears of an escalation – an outcome Macron specifically ruled out in his remarks opening the conference.

Macron was, however, unusually clear that a consensus existed that Russia would seek to attack other countries in a few years.

Ukrainian troops on Monday pulled out of a village close to Avdiivka, which was captured by Russian forces this month, as Ukraine has said a lack of ammunition is hindering its ability to fight.

Macron did not attend the Munich security conference eight days ago, a major gathering of western political and military figures, or join the G7 chair, Giorgia Meloni, the Italian prime minister, on a G7 video call from Kyiv.

Macron’s aides said they felt the Munich conference engendered an excessive atmosphere of gloom about the prospects of Ukraine being able to defeat Putin or force him to negotiate.

Related: ‘Not losing’ is not enough: it’s time for Europe to finally get serious about a Ukrainian victory | Timothy Garton Ash

Macron is a strong supporter of greater European autonomy and would like to see European powers, including the UK, think more strategically about how to help Ukraine in the event that Donald Trump is elected as US president and pulls out of Nato or ends military support for Ukraine.

More Atlanticist leaders such as Meloni, Scholz and Lord Cameron recognise that Europe has to prove to Republican voters that it is pulling its weight in Ukraine but do not want to plan on the basis that the US will desert Europe, arguing that even with Trump in power it will be possible to keep the transatlantic alliance alive.

French officials insist there is no scenario in which Putin wins and the west does not lose.

One difficulty is that there is no single body responsible for coordinating Ukraine’s request for weapons, and that the meetings in Ramstein, Germany, attended by Ukraine’s backers are not serviced by a single secretariat.

Officials acknowledge there needs to be a qualitative increase in the speed with which military ammunition reaches Ukraine, and in the short term they want to identify factories that could boost production, as well as in the medium term send out a clear message to the European defence industry that guaranteed orders will be placed for the foreseeable future.

Different countries have various schemes to buy ammunition. The Estonian prime minister, Kaja Kallas, has proposed issuing €100bn (£86bn) in eurobonds to kickstart Europe’s defence industry, an idea she has promoted for nearly a year and that has gained the support of Macron.

Mutualised debt is opposed by Germany and the Netherlands. The Czech Republic has been promoting the purchase of ammunition from third countries.

One official said roughly 10% of each country’s defence budget needed to be devoted to Ukraine for Kyiv to win, but that figure would rise closer to 20% if there was no further US military aid.

“We want to send Putin a very clear message that he won’t win in Ukraine,” one of Macron’s advisers told reporters in a briefing. “Our goal is to crush this idea he wants us to believe that he would be somehow winning.”

French officials said they were not expecting new military orders at the Paris meeting. France, Germany and Italy have recently signed bilateral arms support for Ukraine.

Aid commitments by EU countries and institutions amount to almost $150bn (£118bn), more than twice the amount pledged by the US, according to the Keil Institute for the World Economy, a research organisation specialising in estimating western contributions to the Ukraine war effort.

Some of those advising the Ukrainian government said there remained a fundamental mismatch between the US and Europe over whether Ukraine should eventually be required to negotiate with Russia, with Washington still convinced a deal can be struck.