Macron woos Putin and plays a bigger role in Europe

PARIS — Until recently, French President Emmanuel Macron was able to get through the Ukrainian crisis with a certain know-how. His diplomatic efforts to prevent the Russian invasion and then, after Russia attacked, to bring about a truce failed. But they appeared to bolster his narrative of France as a natural mediator and bolstered his leadership credentials at home, helping him win re-election as president in April. And the European Union, currently under the French presidency, appeared more united than it had been in a long time, quickly agreeing to impose severe sanctions on Russia in response to the aggression.

But in the past two months, Macron has increasingly found himself the diplomatic punching bag of embittered allies, his international standing diminished by confusing messages about what exactly France’s plan is. The French leader’s repeated remarks that Russia “should not be humiliated”, in order to preserve the chances of a diplomatic solution, drew the ire of the Ukrainian government, along with Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. Tweeter that such appeals “humiliate France”.

Macron’s overtures and regular contacts with Russian President Vladimir Putin have also underscored a split between France and tougher Ukrainian supporters, including the US, UK, Poland and the Baltic states.

PARIS — Until recently, French President Emmanuel Macron was able to get through the Ukrainian crisis with a certain know-how. His diplomatic efforts to prevent the Russian invasion and then, after Russia attacked, to bring about a truce failed. But they appeared to bolster his narrative of France as a natural mediator and bolstered his leadership credentials at home, helping him win re-election as president in April. And the European Union, currently under the French presidency, appeared more united than it had been in a long time, quickly agreeing to impose severe sanctions on Russia in response to the aggression.

But in the past two months, Macron has increasingly found himself the diplomatic punching bag of embittered allies, his international standing diminished by confusing messages about what exactly France’s plan is. The French leader’s repeated remarks that Russia “should not be humiliated”, in order to preserve the chances of a diplomatic solution, drew the ire of the Ukrainian government, along with Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. Tweeter that such appeals “humiliate France”.

Macron’s overtures and regular contacts with Russian President Vladimir Putin have also underscored a split between France and tougher Ukrainian supporters, including the US, UK, Poland and the Baltic states.

“Did anyone talk like that with Adolf Hitler during World War II?” said Polish President Andrzej Duda in a recent interview. “Did someone say that Adolf Hitler had to save face? That we should proceed in such a way that it is not humiliating for Adolf Hitler? … I have not heard such voices.

Macron’s interest in appeasing Russia is manifold. On the one hand, he wants to secure a leading role in the peace negotiations that will eventually have to take place.

“It’s driven more by vanity than anything else,” said Eliot Cohen, a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. But “in a case like this, where you have a live war where thousands of people die, civilians are massacred and deported, cities are razed to the ground, etc., there is something really problematic to talk about this way,” he said.

Moreover, it is all but certain that Macron’s language actually boosts his credibility with Russia. “I doubt Russians will be happy with Macron’s choice of words,” said Jean de Gliniasty, a former French ambassador to Moscow and author of a recent book on Putin’s Russia. “They don’t necessarily see themselves as humiliated, but rather as unfairly treated.”

In a state television clip widely picked up by French news channels this month, two commentators mocked Macron’s repeated and painful pleas to the Russian president, which they called “unnecessary”.

But Macron’s insistence on maintaining a link with Putin also means that France is assuming a leadership role in a Europe that has surpassed the now deceased German Chancellor Angela Merkel and a tradition of French foreign policy that has always prided itself on to show its independence from Washington.

The French leader has engaged in dialogue with his Russian counterpart since becoming president, often drawing criticism from his Western allies. Just weeks after his election in 2017, Macron hosted Putin in the splendor of the Palace of Versailles for a “pragmatic” exchange on various issues, including the conflicts in eastern Ukraine and Syria. Several face-to-faces later, Macron remains convinced that “we will have to find rules for cohabitation with Russia” and not only on Ukraine but also on cyber, space and arms control, said Pierre Morcos of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

At the same time, France’s relative caution in its involvement in the war reflects a longstanding reluctance, dating back at least to the presidency of Charles de Gaulle in the 1950s and 1960s, to align itself too closely with the United States. . This “diplomacy of balance” consists of being “very close to our allies but always keeping our positions slightly different, in order to mark our independence”, declared Guillaume Devin, expert in international relations at Sciences Po in Paris.

Washington’s push for European strategic autonomy has been a long-running battle by Macron and one that has already been hampered by the White House’s shift from an erratic Donald Trump to a much more reliable Joe Biden. Now, the Russian-Ukrainian war may be the final nail in the coffin of Macron’s grand scheme.

France’s position betrays a “desire to have the geopolitical center of gravity somewhere between Paris and Berlin, but that’s just not the case anymore,” Cohen said. “The combination of the United States, Eastern European states, Britain and, to some extent, Canada forms a larger and in many ways more important bloc in all of this.”

French officials insist that Paris stands firmly with Ukraine, is committed to restoring its territorial integrity and speaks to the Kremlin only after coordination with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. While France’s military support in Kyiv pales in comparison to what is provided by the United States and Britain, Macron has sent heavy weapons to Ukraine, including MILAN anti-tank missiles and Caesar self-propelled howitzers. Paris has also been one of the strongest advocates for reducing Europe’s dependence on Russian energy sources, and it is largely thanks to French pressure that EU members have managed to agree on a partial ban on Russian oil at the end of May.

Sciences Po’s Devin describes the French approach as “limited engagement”, combining active support for Ukraine with efforts to prevent the conflict from escalating. While Kyiv’s staunchest allies think Ukraine can win on the battlefield and Russia must lose – and decisively – countries like France, Germany and Italy don’t see no clear military end to the conflict, he said.

“Their idea is to make life hard for Russia but without losing face, which would crush any chance of negotiation and accelerate military escalation,” Devin said.

In some ways, the gap between Paris and Washington is narrower than it looks. The American position has hardly been monolithic itself. In late April, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said Washington wanted “to see Russia weakened to the point that it cannot do the kinds of things it did by invading Ukraine”. But in a recent editorial in New York TimesBiden, while emphasizing that “every negotiation reflects the facts on the ground,” acknowledged that the conflict “will only be definitively ended through diplomacy,” citing Zelensky.

CSIS’s Morcos said the Biden administration realizes that Ukraine cannot recover all of its lost territory through military means alone. Disagreements within the pro-Ukrainian camp are about the right time to start talking with Russia, Morcos said, with more hawkish governments opposed to opening the door to negotiations too quickly, especially given recent Ukrainian advances in certain areas and the accumulation of evidence of war. crimes committed by Russian forces.

The dream of strategic autonomy dies hard. During a trip to Romania this week, Macron insisted that if France supports Ukraine “without any indulgence” towards Moscow, “at some point, when we will have done everything to help Ukraine resist , when Ukraine has prevailed, as I hope, and especially when the fighting has stopped, it will be necessary to negotiate. The Ukrainian president… will have to negotiate with Russia, and we Europeans will be at this table.

France, Germany and Italy want to build a “framework of peace and security in Europe, which means maintaining separate European communication channels with the Russians, separate from American channels,” said de Gliniasty, l former ambassador. But other EU members such as Poland and the Baltic states are unwilling to maintain a separate dialogue with the Kremlin and believe that when the time comes talks should be led by the US, he said. declared.

Since the start of the invasion, “the concept of strategic autonomy has taken a back seat; it is the alliance with the United States that matters in these times of conflict,” de Gliniasty said.

While France and its Western European partners struggle to remain relevant in Ukraine, the most bellicose approach prevails on the ground. Western military involvement grew slowly but steadily. In recent weeks, the United States and Britain have both approved sending long-range missiles to Ukraine. While Kyiv promised not to use such weapons to strike Russian territory, Putin reacted angrily to the new arms shipments, threatening “to hit targets we hadn’t hit before”.

Macron may be right to say that the time for negotiations will come sooner or later. But as the battle rages on, too many on the pro-Ukrainian front are still determined not to show any signs of fatigue that Russia could exploit. On Wednesday, Western countries approved new arms shipments to keep Kyiv in the fight. Macron seems to have missed the timing of his “humiliating” remarks.

“France may have spoken too early,” Morcos said.

About Thomas Brown

Check Also

Warner Music Group appoints new CEO

Read more: Los Angeles-Based Human Resources Manager: My Top 3 Priorities When Starting a New …