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In Chicago, French ambassador warns freedom at stake in stalemate over Ukraine aid


A continued stalemate led by congressional Republicans over U.S. aid to Ukraine in fighting its war with Russia fails to take into account that freedom around the world is at stake, the French ambassador to the U.S. said Monday.

Ambassador Laurent Bili, making his first visit to Chicago since being appointed to the post more than a year ago, also said Russia President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to blame Ukraine for a deadly Islamic State attack at a concert venue outside Moscow coincides with a stepped up Russian disinformation campaign being waged in France.

French President Emanuel Macron on Sunday elevated that nation’s security alert status to its highest level in the wake of the attack that killed at least 137 people on Friday and said his country had foiled two attempted attacks. The Islamic State, or ISIS, claimed credit for the attack and U.S. officials have tied the attack to the Islamic State in Khorasan, an ISIS affiliate operating in central Asia, and had provided warnings to Russia.

“When all the evidence is pointing out (ISIS) in a very obvious direction, that idea to try to put the blame on Ukraine doesn’t make much sense,” Bili said of Putin’s insistence with no proof that Ukraine is to blame. “But we know all the propaganda machine work. And we have also been seeing this last month that Russia has really been beefing up its disinformation attacks in France.”

France, with a “tradition of freedom and willingness to live together” has been targeted by terrorist attacks for many years. Bili said.

“We know that we are a target and have been beefing up for years with preparation, especially with the situation with the Olympics, the situation with Gaza,”  he said of the Summer Olympics in Paris in July as well as unrest over Israel’s war with Hamas.

“ISIS in Khorasan is also one of the movements that is rising up. We are stepping up cooperation and we enjoy a great degree of cooperation with the intelligence community in the U.S,” he said.

Macron has been hawkish in wanting to see Russia prosecuted for its invasion and war with Ukraine. And Bili said that lost in the discussion over Republican efforts to block U.S. aid to Ukraine is that “Europeans are spending much more than the U.S.” in assistance and have significantly increased contributions to NATO.

“I think it’s important to realize what is at stake. For me, I grew up with that memory about the legacy of the Greatest Generation, that we have been living in peace for 75 years,” he said of the World War II generation of Americans who liberated an occupied France from Nazi Germany.

“Russia is breaking the rule based on international order,” he said, “and if we don’t face that challenge, we will pay in Europe or elsewhere.”

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