The French president, Emmanuel Macron, meets this Monday in Moscow with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, in a meeting with more expectations than the previous diplomatic attempts. Macron has said that he will seek “at least a sign of de-escalation” from his interlocutor to avoid a war in Ukraine, and has even spoken of the possibility of finding “historic solutions” beyond this crisis in an interview with Le Journal de Dimanche (JDD).
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“I have always had a deep dialogue with President Putin. Our responsibility is to build historic solutions. I think President Putin is willing,” Macron says in the interview.
The French president has been on a frantic diplomatic agenda for days, which has led him to meet by telephone with the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson; NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg; and with Krisjanis Karins, the prime minister of Latvia, a former Soviet republic bordering Russia.
“As long as we Europeans delegate dialogue (…) we will not be able to resolve any conflict, because if we let others speak for us, we will not be able to contribute to our collective security”, the French president told JDD.
Macron, who will also act as a kind of European representative, since his country presides over the European Union this semester, will personally meet Putin on Russian soil almost four years after the last time, in May 2018, near Saint Petersburg. .
Hand to hand
According to Elysee sources, the meeting is expected to start around noon local time. It will only have both presidents, who will be accompanied by their respective translators and perhaps assistants who take only notes. There will be no ministers or advisers present.
This “tete à tete” conversation aims to take advantage of the “flexibility” gap shown by Putin and create an environment conducive to “avoid a deterioration of the current situation.” Currently, around 130,000 Russian soldiers are already deployed on the border with Ukraine.
Elíseo assumes, however, that this visit will not resolve the conflict by itself, although it believes that it could be an excellent starting point.
Macron and Putin have spoken by phone at least four times since the conflict on the Russian-Ukrainian border flared up two months ago. Last week, the French leader had prepared the ground by sending his special emissary to Russia, Pierre Vimont.
The French Presidency is aware that one of the triggers for this crisis is Ukraine’s possible entry into NATO, the military alliance that includes the United States, Canada and a good part of the European states. Russia does not want to see that scenario, not even in the paint, nor does it want to see a future accession of Ukraine to the EU.
“Ukraine only has eyes for the EU”
Macron hopes to bring hopeful signs to the Ukrainian head of state, Volodymyr Zelensky, with whom he will meet in Kiev on Tuesday. It will be the first visit by the French president in his fifth year in office.
French MEP Nathalie Loiseau, president of the European Security and Defense subcommittee, has congratulated the diplomatic maneuvers of the French leader, who has just returned from a visit to Kiev.
“You will find a country (Ukraine) that only has eyes for the EU,” Loiseau said, in a forum also published in JDD.
Macron’s intense international agenda this week may culminate with an interview with the German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, and with a meeting with the Polish Head of State, Andrzej Duda.
“Poland has a special sensitivity, which must be respected and the suspicion regarding Soviet times must be taken into account,” the Elysée sources point out.
The French presidency has ruled out the United States entering the so-called Normandy quartet, a group created in 2014 to address the crisis in Donbas and which brings together Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany.
“We do not have a priori problem for the United States to enter, but Russia must not like the presence of Washington in that group,” says the Elysee. Meanwhile, the Americans have decided to increase their military presence on NATO’s eastern flank by 3,000 men.
The French president has also spoken with Biden again this Sunday about “diplomatic and dissuasive efforts” with Moscow in the face of the concentration of Russian troops on the border with Ukraine and growing fears of a Russian invasion.
“The leaders discussed diplomatic and deterrence efforts underway in response to the continued Russian military build-up on the border with Ukraine,” the White House said in a brief statement.
Biden and Macron have also reaffirmed the “support for the sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine”. Finally, the two leaders have stressed that “they will keep in touch and continue their consultations with allies and partners, including Ukraine.”
Scholz in Washington
This Monday it will be the German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, who will meet with Biden in Washington. On the eve of this meeting, Scholz has assured that his diplomatic efforts regarding the Ukraine crisis are aimed at “avoiding a war in Europe”.
The purpose of the meeting, according to the foreign minister in an interview with the public broadcaster ARD, is to “specify” details of a double strategy that involves making a military aggression by Russia “at a high cost” and at the same time promote “to talk again”, something that according to what he said “has worked”.
It is now a question of “promoting” the negotiations in the various formats “until concrete results come out of them”, he stated, and admitted that until now “they are still marked by mutual reproaches”.
Asked about the criticism of the supposed German complacency with respect to Moscow, the chancellor stated that this is “a false perception that does not dominate in Washington” and defended his policy of not supplying weapons to conflict zones.
“Most Germans see it the same as me, the government and my predecessor as well,” he said, referring to former Chancellor Angela Merkel, adding that it is his “responsibility” to act “in the interest of the German people.”
Regarding the possible sanctions against Russia, the chancellor has once again refused to make explicit reference to a possible suspension of the permits for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, now paralyzed, although he has stressed that the potential punishment would be “wide-ranging and very harsh”. “.
“We have studied each of the measures separately and there is nothing that is excluded. It is clear that Russia knows, that it can imagine what it could be, but it is possibly much more than that,” he said.
The “strength” of the Western response is that it is coordinated through NATO, the European Union and bilaterally with Washington, it has ensured, instead of “each one doing one thing, brush strokes, for wanting to present something in their Parliament”.
Scholz has also defended himself against criticism from the opposition, which accuses him of having been little present and of a lack of leadership in times of crisis. “It is not a question of saying something every day, but of doing something every day in order to ensure peace in Europe”, he said.