President Macron's endless Russian diplomacy

PARIS — No one can accuse President Emmanuel Macron of sparing his efforts to avoid, defuse or stop Russia’s war in Ukraine. He recorde...

PARIS — No one can accuse President Emmanuel Macron of sparing his efforts to avoid, defuse or stop Russia’s war in Ukraine. He recorded 17 telephone conversations with President Vladimir V. Putin over the past four months, a personal meeting in Moscow and so many hours of discussion with his own assistants that he had little time for the small business of a presidential election in less than two weeks.

During the same period, he spoke 25 times with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and met him in Kyiv and Brussels. On February 25, he met twice in one day with the Ukrainian leader, which he also did with Mr. Putin on February 11. All this with the aim, says Mr. Macron, “of obtaining a ceasefire, then the total”. withdrawal of troops.

If diplomacy is measured by perseverance, Mr. Macron is a supreme diplomat. If measured by effective realism, the verdict appears less favorable. So far, on the face of it, he has achieved very little from his 42 calls and three meetings. The war is in its second month with countless deaths. More than 3.7 million Ukrainian refugees have fled to the west.

Mr. Zelensky, judging by a recent interview in The Economist, was disappointed. Asked about Mr Macron’s statement at a NATO meeting last week that delivering tanks to Ukraine represented a red line not to be crossed, Mr Zelensky said France had taken this position because “they are afraid of Russia. And that’s all.”

In relations with Russia, it is less fear that seems to inhabit Mr. Macron than a kind of amorous fascination for the country and its culture, as well as an intellectual conviction that Europe will not be stable as long as the Russia will not be integrated into a new security architecture. which reflects the end of the Cold War.

Mr. Macron returned to the theme of reinventing European security in an interview with France 3 on Sunday: “The United States and Russia structured the world during the Cold War. We are no longer in the Cold War,” he said. It is the Europeans, not the Americans, who “live next to Russia”, and therefore “we need a defense policy and we must define a security architecture for ourselves and not delegate this task” .

In some ways, the war in Ukraine has validated Mr. Macron’s long-held beliefs. In recent weeks, Germany has effectively gone from a post-war pacifist power to one ready to invest heavily in defense to reorganize its armed forces. This, in turn, means that a favorite phrase of Mr Macron – “Europe power” or “European power” – is no longer a pipe dream. Europe will be different if Germany really strengthens its military backbone.

The French seem to have little apprehension about Mr Macron’s diplomatic effort, despite the fact that he has devoted little time to the campaign and refused to debate with other candidates.

Rather, they see a leader taking responsibility on the world stage. France currently holds the rotating presidency of the 27-member European Union, giving Mr Macron a dual reason to lead Europe’s diplomatic efforts – a role the president says comes naturally to him given the exit of Britain from the European Union and Germany’s leadership transition.

Although he has fallen to around 28.5% of the vote in the latest polls, from 30% previously, Mr Macron is still up four percentage points from his pre-war average. Her main rival, Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Rally, recently jumped 20%, up 2.5% in a week, mainly at the expense of far-right upstart candidate Eric Zemmour, who is now at 11.5%. percent.

The election campaign was curiously low-key, absent Mr Macron’s participation in the debates, without a major political theme and with a widespread perception that the incumbent won. On the other hand, the process has been so opaque that Philippe Labro, an author and longtime observer of French politics, said in a brief conversation that “a surprise can still lurk.”

In all his diplomatic efforts, Mr. Macron has consulted closely with President Biden. There has been little daylight between them, with the French president appearing to play good cop to Mr Biden’s bad cop in his dealings with Mr Putin.

But Mr Biden’s off-the-cuff comment about Mr Putin at the end of a weekend speech in Poland – ‘For the love of God, this man can’t stay in power’ – seemed to open up some divisiveness .

“I wouldn’t use those kinds of words,” Macron said in Sunday’s interview, insisting he still hoped to secure a ceasefire and the withdrawal of Russian troops. “If we want to do this, we must not escalate, either in words or actions.”

Mr. Macron has sometimes been tough on Mr. Putin. After a call on March 3, when Mr Putin called Mr Zelensky’s government “Nazis”, Mr Macron replied that it was “lies”. He continues: “Either you are telling yourself stories, or you are looking for a pretext. What you say is not true.

At other times, Mr Macron seemed to struggle to face reality himself. As a former KGB officer, Mr. Putin was trained in the art of seduction, in persuading his interlocutors that he loved them, so that they reveal themselves more completely. Mr. Macron is also a man who likes to think his charm will win people over. He tried, for example, to approach President Trump to obtain concessions that were never granted.

On the plane returning from Moscow last month, the French president said he had obtained promises from Mr Putin that Russian troops would be withdrawn from Belarus after a planned military exercise, that nuclear weapons would not be there. would ever be positioned and that Russia would seriously engage with the Minsk peace process aimed at resolving the conflict over two separatist regions in eastern Ukraine.

Two weeks later, Mr Putin recognized the independence of the breakaway regions, using an “invitation” from them as a pretext for an invasion of Ukraine which he described as a “special military operation”. Russian troops have not been withdrawn from Belarus.

“Yes, there was duplicity,” Macron said on February 24, the day of the invasion.

Yet he and Mr. Putin have spoken seven times since then.

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Newsrust - US Top News: President Macron's endless Russian diplomacy
President Macron's endless Russian diplomacy
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