Macron calls on Putin for a response that allows him to “avoid war” | International

Separated by a huge table -almost as big as the distance that today separates Moscow from NATO-, the presidents of Russia and France tried this Monday to find an answer to the Ukrainian hornet’s nest. Vladimir Putin acted as host and listened to Emmanuel Macron’s attempt to achieve a de-escalation that would remove the threat of war. “A useful response is one that allows us to avoid war and build elements of confidence and stability for the whole world,” Macron told his interlocutor at the beginning of the meeting.

“I know you have your own ideas on this matter,” the Russian president said. “We have a common concern about security in Europe, and I want to thank you that France has always taken a very active position in the main decisions,” Putin added, taking Macron on a first-name basis, as he did the previous week with the Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, one of its main allies in the European Union.

However, the visit began with some hostility towards the French delegation. Upon landing, no one came to greet Macron, who had to walk in bad weather to the Vnukovo airport terminal. Later, the French leader was greeted from afar, but effusively, by Putin, with whom he sat down to talk for hours.

After his visit to Moscow, Macron will travel to Kiev on Tuesday, where he will discuss the crisis with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Meanwhile, negotiations continue at all levels. A German government spokeswoman confirmed to the Interfax agency that this week advisors from the countries that make up the Normandy Format (Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France) will meet in search of progress in a peace process that has been stalled since 2015 .

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Macron already tried in 2019 to establish a direct dialogue with Putin in order to “anchor” Russia in Europe. The rapprochement, which ran into the incomprehension of some EU partners, did not bear fruit. This time, the President of the Republic has made an effort to make it clear that before speaking with Putin he had consulted with the main partners and allies of NATO and the EU. In particular, with the American Joe Biden and the European neighbors of Ukraine and Russia who could distrust the French initiative. It remains unclear, however, on whose behalf the president was speaking — France, the EU, NATO or the West — or what his exact mandate was. The Ukrainian crisis coincides with France’s rotating presidency of the EU and with the campaign for the presidential elections in April in which Macron will seek re-election.

Macron explained in an interview to Le Journal du Dimanche his view of the conflict. “Clearly, Russia’s current geopolitical objective is not Ukraine, but to clarify the rules of coexistence with NATO and the EU,” replied the French leader, a controversial statement given the massive Russian deployment around Ukraine and the growing alerts. Washington alarmists. This Monday, security adviser Jake Sullivan assured on the Fox network that the Russian attack is feasible “any day of these.”

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The Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, shared on Twitter that this will be “another intense diplomatic week” and wanted to make his country’s red lines clear: he will not make any territorial concessions to Russia or dialogue directly “with the Russian occupation administrations in Donetsk and Lugansk”, the regions where a war that has lasted almost eight years is prolonged.

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Meanwhile, the threat to Ukraine continues. Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko warned in an interview on a YouTube channel that his country and Russia will attack Ukraine together if Kiev, encouraged by the United States, tries to launch an offensive on the separatist zone of Donbas. The Belarusian and Russian armed forces are scheduled to carry out massive military exercises from February 9 to 20, although Lukashenko warned that they could alter their mission if something happens in Donbas. Also, several warships of the Baltic Fleet crossed the Strait of Gibraltar on Monday towards the Black Sea.

up the ante

All eyes are on next Monday. The Russian Parliament will debate on February 14, according to sources from the RIA Novosti agency, the possible recognition of the self-proclaimed separatist republics. In the opinion of Intigam Mamédov, deputy dean of the Faculty of Political Sciences at Lomonosov Moscow State University, the inclusion of this item in the State Duma for the first time “is a demonstration of Russia’s arsenal and its willingness to up the ante in the future”. The expert considers “very interesting” the resurrection in the political discourse of “assistance to the two republics.” “It is clear that the deputies of the State Duma will not act against the Kremlin’s policy,” he adds.

“Russia’s official position is based on the need to implement the Minsk agreements,” Mamedov stresses. This would imply that Kiev grants a special status to the Donbas region, something that the Ukrainian government rejects as long as Moscow does not withdraw from the area because, otherwise, it could block its domestic and foreign policy.

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Ukraine is one of the two axes of this crisis. The other is Russian demands for a new security system. “The US withdrew in 2019 from the treaty to eliminate medium and short-range missiles, and the last agreement in the field of strategic security, START III, was only signed thanks to the coming to power of Biden,” Mamédov remarks. .

This expert recalls that February 2 marked the 30th anniversary of the meeting at Camp David between George Bush Sr. and Boris Yeltsin, where the leaders announced the end of the Cold War and a new era of friendship. “The main threat is the lack of trust between the political elites in Russia and the US. The hysteria growing in Europe and Russia is the most dangerous. The impact of media and political hysteria on foreign policy decision-making should not be underestimated.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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