January 31, 2023

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War in Ukraine: “F***, but it’s not true!”, how Macron annoys some allies about his strategy with Putin

Since the beginning of the conflict, Emmanuel Macron has been unwilling to break off dialogue with Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

The foreign ministers of NATO’s 30 member states met in Bucharest in late November to reaffirm and emphasize the alliance’s support. Ukraine And for regional countries that felt threatened by Russia, there was one notable absence: France.

French diplomatic chief Catherine Colonna was with him US President Emmanuel Macron during his state visit to the United States. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken was in Bucharest. For its European allies, especially those close to Russia, the absence of the French minister has given more reason to question France’s stance on the conflict in Ukraine. Western alliance supporting Q against Moscow.

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Two days after the meeting in Bucharest, Emmanuel Macron gave several interviews to French and American media in which he appeared to be delivering conflicting messages on Ukraine, adding to the increasingly open anger in some Eastern European capitals. Reaffirming that it is Ukraine who chooses the moment to negotiate with Russia, the French president once again ruled that it is necessary to provide Moscow with “security guarantees” when the moment for these negotiations comes. Russian news agency TASS posted the comments on Twitter.

Ukraine criticizes Macron

“Damn, but that’s not true!” Responding on Twitter, former Estonian President Toomas Ilves reflected a sentiment widely shared among many of France’s Eastern European allies. Ukraine’s reaction was swift and ambiguous. Mikhaïlo Podoliak, President Volodymyr Zelensky’s chief of staff, responded that the world needed security guarantees against Russia, not the other way around.

Emmanuel Macron has sparked anger and concern among Eastern European and Baltic states with his statements, diplomats and former politicians say, despite France’s substantial military and financial aid to Ukraine. This French position weakens Emmanuel Macron’s own political plan, which aims to give Europe “strategic autonomy” by uniting the countries of Eastern Europe for their own security in support of that of the United States.

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Emmanuel Macron has already “misunderstood” Russia once, according to an Eastern European diplomat, and there are now fears it will happen again. Asked by journalists about the criticism that followed his recent statements on Russia, Emmanuel Macron responded on Tuesday as he arrived at the EU-Western Balkans summit in Albania: “We should not make a big deal and try to create controversies where there are none.

France shows its support for Ukraine

“I always say the same thing, which is that, ultimately, in the peace talks, there will be regional topics about Ukraine, which belong to Ukrainians, and collective security topics across the region,” he said. The Elysee Palace did not immediately respond to Reuters’ requests on the matter.

French diplomats and the president’s representatives insist that France has never hesitated to offer political, military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, and that Emmanuel Macron has always made sure to consult Volodymyr Zelensky before speaking with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.

Nevertheless, there is a certain irritation among France’s closest Western allies following these announcements of “security guarantees” to Russia, whose invasion of Ukraine has killed tens of thousands of people and destroyed cities. Millions of people are plunged into cold and darkness as winter approaches.

“We don’t say everything we think publicly”

“In foreign policy, you don’t say everything you think in public. It’s not enough to be right. You also have to say it at the right time, otherwise you risk getting the opposite result you want. I’ll say it without chance . . . sigh”, former French ambassador to the US Gérard Arad recently tweeted Emmanuel. Macron wrote without mentioning his name.

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The latest criticism of Paris is a major disappointment for French diplomacy as Emmanuel Macron tries to reframe his message, having already sparked anger in Kiev and other Eastern European capitals by saying in the spring that Russia should not be “humiliated”. In September, the French president delivered a widely praised speech to the United Nations General Assembly in which he urged non-aligned countries to break with Ukraine or risk working with “a certain complicity in the cause of the new imperialism.”

France has also stepped up arms supplies to Ukraine and made it more visible. In a way, the balancing act that Emmanuel Macron seems to be engaging in is not surprising. Since his first election in 2017, the president’s foreign policy has consisted of launching initiatives and trying to shake things up. In his view, his statements about NATO being “brain dead” in 2019 have fueled debate within the alliance rather than unrest.

Russia? Macron’s fault

Emmanuel Macron rarely goes back on his past statements. He strives to explain, convince and demonstrate his successes on the international stage, say his collaborators, who salute his energy, his willingness to tackle complex problems and his ability to capture a good time. However, a growing number of critics and allies see Russia as its biggest diplomatic blunder.

They are raising their reservations in the face of what would appear to be a pure and simple military defeat for Russia, which has been retreating on the ground since the Ukrainian counteroffensive began at the end of the summer. For the Soviet Union’s former satellite states in Eastern Europe, where Russia clearly needs to be defeated so that it is no longer a threat, the French president, for his part, feels that a potential Russian defeat must be managed with finesse.

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It represents a view widely held in France – but disputed elsewhere – that the harsh financial and territorial sanctions imposed on Germany at the end of World War I under the Treaty of Versailles served as seeds of resentment. 20 years later. Some diplomats in Eastern Europe fear that Vladimir Putin, who sees the United States as the only real power in the Western bloc, will use Emmanuel Macron to sow discord within NATO and exploit the slight Franco-German divide.

Putin at Versailles

A senior Russian diplomat praised Emmanuel Macron’s vision and willingness to secure future ties between Russia and France, where others want to sever all ties. Since his first days as president in 2017, Emmanuel Macron has been keen to resume a strategic dialogue with Russia. Vladimir Putin at the Palace of Versailles. While the highlight of the meeting was praise for the Russian president, it did not lead to substantial progress.

In the first half of this year, when France was president of the Council of the European Union, the president of the republic indicated that he was keeping communication channels open with Vladimir Putin, and recently aimed at a possible creation of zone protection around the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, whose surroundings are frequently bombed. Again without concrete results.

Before heading to Washington, Emmanuel Macron said he would speak with his Russian counterpart “in the coming days.” This interview is not official yet.