The visit by French President Emmanuel Macron to Moscow and the long and substantial talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to defuse the Ukrainian crisis were both imaginative and risky.
The first paradox highlighted by Macron’s initiative – which Putin responded to – was that although the confrontation over Ukraine began at the level of the two largest nuclear powers, when it reached the point of threatening an armed conflict between the West and Russia, the initiative to defuse it was not taken by US President Joe Biden – the leader of the Western military coalition – but by the French president.
Another major paradox is that Macron did not hold talks with Putin as a messenger for the US, NATO or the EU, but as president of France. A classic expression of a French leader’s arrogance, some will say, but his Kremlin interlocutor does not seem to share that view. Their tete-a-tete meeting lasted more than five hours.
Nor is it any coincidence that on the eve of his visit to Moscow, a statement was issued by Macron, which deviated significantly from the stance held by Washington, NATO and some other Western leaders.
Russia’s geopolitical objective “is clearly not Ukraine, but to clarify the rules of cohabitation with NATO and the EU,” he told France’s Le Journal de Dimanche, noting that as early as January he had pointed out that the EU “has its own dialogue with Russia” rather than leaving it to Washington.
It is certainly not without interest that on the eve of the French president’s visit to Russia, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told Fox News that, “any day now, Russia could take military action against Ukraine, or it could be a couple of weeks from now.”
All this is interesting, of course, but the battle has not yet been decided. On the contrary, it is just beginning. Because it is doubtful whether Biden will rush to reconsider his options. What is certain is that we are entering uncharted waters.