Tuesday, May 24

Why it matters. Ukraine/Russia: a week under high diplomatic tension for Emmanuel Macron

A diplomatically charged week opens for Emmanuel Macron. The French head of state is going to Moscow on Monday to meet his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. The next day, he will fly to Ukraine for a one-on-one with President Volodymyr Zelensky.

why it matters

For several weeks, telephone conversations between Vladimir Putin and Western leaders have followed one another, without result. Emmanuel Macron will “go into contact, initiate negotiations in the clearest possible terms,” ​​the French presidency said on Friday. “It is not a question of solving everything” but of moving towards a “de-escalation”.

France expects from Russia that it “demonstrates” that it “has no offensive intention” and does not undertake “any incursion into Ukraine”, according to an adviser to the Élysée. A challenge difficult to achieve when Vladimir Putin has already massed some 110,000 soldiers on its borders. According to US Intelligence, Russia is even stepping up preparations for a large-scale invasion of Ukraine, and it already has 70% of the necessary equipment for such an operation. An offensive could thus be launched within two weeks.

What role can France play?

At the head of the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union, France is currently establishing itself as the leader and mediator of Europe. “In Germany, the new coalition has not yet taken its bearings. So Macron is the voice of Europe in the dialogue with Putin ”, summarizes with AFP Tatiana Kastouéva-Jean, of the French Institute of International Relations (Ifri).

Vladimir Putin also holds his French counterpart in esteem. “I’m waiting for you, I want to have a substantive conversation with you, I want to get to the bottom of things, you are a quality interlocutor,” he said during their telephone conversation last Thursday, according to the Élysée. .

An esteem that the Head of State wishes to give him. The organization of this diplomatic trip was thus thought out in detail. Emmanuel Macron goes first to Russia because “the problem must be solved in Moscow, not in Kiev”, explained an adviser to the Elysée, hoping for a “much better impact” than if the tour started in Ukraine.

France does not act alone, however, but in coordination with its European partners and its allies, however assures the Elysée. Emmanuel Macron once again spoke with US President Joe Biden last Wednesday by telephone, with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Friday, and on Sunday with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

US military reinforcements in Poland

In parallel with the diplomatic strategy, the Americans sent a first contingent of 1,700 soldiers to Poland on Sunday. They should be deployed in the south-east of the country, on NATO’s eastern flank. The United States announced on Wednesday the dispatch of 3,000 additional American soldiers to Eastern Europe to defend the NATO countries “against any aggression”. The new American troops are in addition to the 8,500 soldiers placed on alert at the end of January by American President Joe Biden to be deployed in NATO’s rapid reaction force if necessary.

On Sunday, however, the United States still defended itself from wanting to “start a war” against Russia in Ukraine. “The President (Joe Biden) has been making it clear for months now that the United States is not sending troops to start a war or to wage war on Russia in Ukraine,” the White House security adviser said. national, Jake Sullivan, on the Fox television channel, adding: “We sent troops to Europe to defend the territory of NATO. »

What will be the outcome of these meetings?

But Vladimir Putin is showing himself to be inflexible on the merits of the case for the time being: he wants to obtain the assurance that the Transatlantic Defense Alliance will not expand to eastern Europe, and in particular to the former bastions of the USSR. A position that the Russian leader reaffirmed on Friday, before the opening of the Beijing Olympics. In a joint statement, he and his Chinese counterpart said they were “opposed to any future enlargement of NATO” and pleaded for the end of American hegemony. The Franco-Russian meeting could also be parasitized by Mali, where Wagner’s Russian militias have started an anti-French army propaganda campaign (present with Operation Takuba).

On Sunday, the Ukrainian presidency, however, judged that the chances of finding a “diplomatic solution” to the crisis with Russia were “considerably greater” than that of a military “escalation”. In any case, this is what Ukraine hopes, which has not forgotten that the conflict triggered by pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country has killed more than 13,000 people since 2014.


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