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How France’s Macron approaches the situation in Ukraine

PARIS – In 2019, Emmanuel Macron invited President Vladimir V. Putin to France’s summer presidential residence in Brégançon, declaring the need to recreate “a security structure” between the European Union and Russia, and later claimed that NATO experienced a “brain death.”

The French leader loves provocations. He hates intellectual laziness. But even by his standards, the clear rejection of the Western alliance and in favor of Moscow was startling. Poland, among other European countries with experience living within the Soviet framework, expressed alarm.

Now a crisis caused by Russian troops gather on Ukraine border have at the same time Galvanizing for a supposedly terrible NATO countering the Russian threat – the alliance’s original mission – and for Mr Macron, has shown the need for his own strong brand of Russian engagement in the 21st century.

“Dialogue with Russia is not a gamble, it’s an approach that meets the need,” said a senior official during the presidency, who spoke on condition of anonymity to be consistent with the announcement. regulations of the French government, said Friday after Mr. Macron and Mr. Putin talked on the phone for more than an hour.

Later in the day, Mr. Macron spoke with Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, a move that has put the French leader exactly where he sought before the presidential election in April: the fulcrum of crisis. diplomatic crisis for Europe’s future.

Mr. Macron is walking in a straight line. He wants to show that Europe has a central role to play in de-escalating the crisis, demonstrate his own European leadership to voters, and ensure that Germany and some skeptical European nations support it. its ambitious strategic vision and avoid letting the United States question its cause. commitment to NATO.

“He wants to create a special role for himself and for Europe, within NATO but on the side of the bloc,” said Nicole Bacharan, a research fellow at Sciences Po in Paris. “The case for modernizing European security arrangements in place since 1991 is very compelling. But do it with 130,000 Russian troops on the border of Ukraine is impossible. ”

So far, Mr. Macron seems to stick to the party line. Cooperation with the United States was very intense, and was welcome. The president, a senior diplomat said, was involved in drafting a tough US response to Russia’s demands that the West cut its military presence in Eastern Europe and ensure that Ukraine would not never joined NATO – a response the Kremlin judged as unsatisfactory. Mr. Macron made it clear to Mr. Putin that, as a sovereign state, Ukraine has an inviolable right to make its own choices about its strategic direction.

However, it is clear that Mr. Macron’s itch has emerged from the crisis to some restructuring of European security that takes more into account Russia’s concerns.

The French official spoke of the need for a “new European security order”, partly due to the decomposition of the old order provoked.

He suggested that various decisions by the US had caused “strategic confusion”, noting that there had been “doubt at a certain point about the quality of Article 5” – the key part of the NATO treaty says. that an attack on any member state would be “considered an attack against all.”

This is a clear reference to former President Donald J. Trump’s rejection of NATO, a position the Biden administration has worked hard to correct. For France, however, and to some extent, the lesson is that, either way, Europe must stand on its own two feet because its transatlantic partner could go on again. abroad, perhaps as early as 2024.

Mr. Putin and Mr. Macron have one thing in common: They both believe that Europe’s post-Cold War security architecture needs a revamp.

The Russian leader wants to undo the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, which he calls “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century”; push NATO away from the countries formerly controlled by the Soviet Union to where it was before expansion; and hold the idea of ​​a Russian sphere of influence that limits the independence of a country like Ukraine.

What Mr. Macron wants is less clear, but it includes the development of Europe’s strong defense capabilities and a new “stable order” involving Russia. As the French President said of this innovative deal in his address to the European Parliament this month: “We need to build it among Europeans, then share it with our allies. within the framework of NATO. And then we need to propose to Russia to negotiate.”

The idea of ​​Europe negotiating a strategic posture with Putin, who has threatened a neighboring country, part of which he has annexed, without any apparent Western provocation. West – causing European countries closer to the Russian border than France to worry.

When Mr. Macron visited Poland in early 2020 – after harsh comments about NATO and bland rhetoric towards Mr. Putin – he was attacked at a dinner for Polish intellectuals and artists. .

“You don’t know who you’re dealing with?” asked Adam Michnik, a prominent writer and historian repeatedly imprisoned by the former Communist regime, according to one person present. “Putin is a hero!”

Mr. Macron replied that he knows very well who he is dealing with, but with the US pivot to Asia, it is in Europe’s interest to develop dialogue with Russia and avoid a consolidated Russia-China partnership. . The Poles were not impressed.

Mr. Macron’s approach to Mr. Putin matches his relations with other powers. He interacted with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia – whose views on human rights and liberal democracy were far from his own – in the belief that he can bring them closer.

So far, the results have looked bland, like when he tried to forge a rapport with Mr. Trump that was short-lived.

The French president’s own views on the importance of the rule of law and respect for human rights have always been a constant element of his politics. His strong condemnation of the treatment Alexei A. Navalny, a Russian dissident was jailed, much to Putin’s annoyance. He made it clear that annexation of Crimea will never be accepted by France. Commitment doesn’t mean abandoning a principle, even if its endpoint is unclear.

Mr. Macron has also effectively lobbied to use the Normandy Format, a grouping of France, Germany, Ukraine and Russia, to fortify the truce the countries brokered in eastern Ukraine in 2015. The format This diplomacy made him more attractive. introduces Europeans trying to solve Europe’s problems. France’s goal in the crisis is clear: “de-escalation”, a word often repeated.

If the president can be seen as having played a central role in getting there, he will cement his position in the election, where he currently leads in the polls. In a recent book on France in the world, in a recent book on France in the world, the more Mr Macron does not get any significant results through dialogue, the more dialogue cuts through political capital. in the United States and in European countries against Russia. ”

However, Mr. Macron looks certain to persevere. He believed that Europe had to be remade to account for a changed world. A degree of mutual infatuation seems to bind him and Mr. Putin.

The senior French official commented that the Russian president had told Mr Macron that “he is the only one who can have such profound discussions and that he is committed to participating in the dialogue”.

It will be music to the ears of the French president.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/29/world/europe/macron-ukraine-russia-putin-nato-eu.html How France’s Macron approaches the situation in Ukraine

Fry Electronics Team

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