PARIS (AP), — Diplomacy is still possible in the Ukrainian crisis. That’s at least the conviction of Emmanuel Macron, French President. He continues to push for dialogue between Russia and France despite warnings about war.
This is France’s post-World War II tradition, which has carved its own geopolitical paths, not following the U.S.
Macron will meet Vladimir Putin on Friday. On Wednesday, Macron hosted marathon talks between Russian and Ukrainian advisors at Macron’s presidential palace. This was the first such face to face negotiations since Russia recently deployed troops near Ukraine.
The talks between Russian, Ukrainian and French advisers on Wednesday seemed to give all sides more time as they agreed to meet again within two weeks. However, the U.S. and NATO are unable to unite against Russia because of France’s diplomatic-focused strategy. Experts are unsure if it will be enough for Ukraine to resist a Russian invasion.
Macron’s Friday morning call to Putin has two purposes, Gabriel Attal, spokesperson for the French government said that Macron wanted to continue dialogue with Putin and “push Russia to clarify their position and the goal of (military] maneuvering.”
Moscow denies that it is planning an attack, but it has moved around 100,000 troops near Ukraine over the past weeks and has been holding military drills in multiple Russian locations. This has caused the United States and NATO allies to prepare themselves for the worst.
Attal stated that Macron is “at the heart of efforts towards deescalation”; he will also speak with Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian President.
Dominique Moisi, a French expert on geopolitics, told The Associated Press Macron tried to reset relations between France and Russia since he came to power. He said that Macron did this by being open but firm. It is admirable. But did it work? It will it work this time? That’s the challenge.
European diplomacy has been a positive force in easing tensions. Wednesday’s talks were held in the “Normandy format”, which was used to reduce hostilities in 2015. It was a year after Putin ordered that Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula be annexed and Russia-backed insurgency began within eastern Ukraine.
Macron invited Putin to a meeting at the Palace of Versailles shortly after his election 2017. He let him be “very impressed” by France’s grandeur, according to the Russian president.
In rare honour, Macron invited Putin to his residence on the French Riviera at Fort de Bregancon. This was to boost peace talks with Ukraine in summer 2019.
Moisi stated that Macron had shown “extreme confidence in his abilities to seduce, charm world leaders and begin with them a dialog.”
It hasn’t always worked. It quickly soured his unlikely relationship with Donald Trump during their presidencies. Despite having similar world views, Macron’s relations with President Joe Biden were severely damaged by a secret U.S. Australia-U.K. submarine agreement last year. This deal pushed France out of the market, and undermined the 250-year old alliance between the U.S.A and France.
Macron stated that it was a good thing that the U.S. had resumed talks with Russia in recent weeks but noted that he didn’t see any concrete results. He said, “It’s because it’s always difficult to have a discussion with Russia,” and cited his own efforts in establishing a personal relationship.
Two questions remain about the French position: Moisi asked: “Will Macron have such power to seduce Putin?” and “Can France win support from many European countries?”
Former Soviet-influenced countries are especially concerned about Russia’s intentions towards Ukraine and seek a more tough line.
Macron and Angela Merkel, the former German Chancellor, tried to pressure EU leaders to host a summit with Putin last June. This plan was rejected by Poland and the Baltic countries, who were concerned about the possibility of meeting with Putin at a time when Europe’s relations are so bad with Moscow.
Macron, however, has renewed his call for such a high-level summit in recent days. He insisted it would not disrupt ongoing negotiations between NATO and the U.S.
He stated that each of these channels should be used until the end in order to get Russia into a de-escalation process, to obtain guarantees and to allow us to create a new (European), security and stability order.
Last week, he also demanded that the EU develop a new security plan to reduce tensions with Russia. Some EU partners were concerned that this would complicate matters and make it harder to cooperate with the U.S.
France’s presidency stressed that Paris works in close coordination with Washington, EU partners and Washington to be prepared for a joint response to any Russian offensive in Ukraine. Macron reiterated this week that in such a situation, “there will retaliation” and the Russian cost (for Russia will be very high.”
France expressed its willingness to send troops into Romania as part of the NATO force. France’s defense minister will be visiting Romania on Thursday, where he will discuss “deepening” its defense ties and “armaments cooperation.”
Jean-Yves Le Drian, French foreign minister, stated this week that nothing that affects European security can be discussed without the full participation of Europeans. “We are at your table. “We are more than just on the menu.”