8 February 2022
by Aleksandr Podrabinek
President of France Emmanuel Macron flew to Moscow on 7 February for talks with Putin to try to persuade him to reduce the military build up on the borders with Ukraine. That the talks will prove futile seems obvious to everyone, and probably to President Macron as well. Not even Macron’s sweet phrase added to the hypothetical peace plan will help: ‘It must be done with respect for Russia and with an understanding of the contemporary traumas of this great nation and great country.’
The talk will remain talk and nothing more. The French newspaper Le Figaro noted wryly on the eve of the visit that ‘a long conversation awaits the two men who have disappointed each other greatly over the past five years.’ But disappointed men need even such a futile conversation. For Macron, as Bloomberg pointed out, it is important to demonstrate on the eve of the French presidential election that Paris has a ‘weighty role’ in European security. That is, his own role as a successful peacemaker.
Putin is flattered by the international attention and his own sense of importance. Everyone will be satisfied by the very fact of negotiations, and that’s all that’s needed!
Not for nothing Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, said prior to Macron’s arrival in Moscow that the situation is highly complex and it would be wrong to expect any decisive changes after just one such meeting. He cancelled any outcomes of the negotiations in advance!
A MIXTURE OF PERSONAL AMBITION AND UNSATISFIED VANITY
There is no point in trying to predict the behaviour of the Kremlin or of Putin personally. The international behaviour of the Russian side is intermeshed with a monstrous mixture of personal ambition and unsatisfied vanity, a largely undefined imperialist ideology, painful historical memories and myths about the exceptionalism of the Russian world and sentimental peculiarities of the Russian national character. All this nonsense, which has absolutely nothing to do with reality, is presented to the West as justification for Russia’s claims to world leadership.
And it can’t be said entirely without success. We see Macron expressing his ‘understanding’ for the ‘modern traumas of a great country.’ And he is not alone. His predecessor President Sarkozy in 2008 rushed to Moscow to solve the conflict between Russia and Georgia.
Or more precisely, to persuade the parties to stop the military hostilities on Russia’s promise to withdraw its troops from Georgian territory. Not a bad subject for negotiations and a further claim to the laurels of a peacemaker. The military hostilities ended, Sarkozy had his moment of glory, but Russian troops remain on Georgian territory to this day.
THERE IS NO ONE TO ASK
There is already a new President in France who, with the same zeal as his predecessor, is undertaking to ‘settle’ the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. In words, of course. Something he clearly confirmed at his final press-conference: ‘We have different views, that has to be understood and accepted.’
It is rather like a missionary visiting a tribe of cannibals stating with Christian meekness: ‘We have different tastes and gastronomic traditions, that has to be understood and accepted.’
The West’s concern for peace in Europe and promises not to leave Ukraine in the lurch increasingly reek of political hypocrisy. Do you really want to help? Then start supplying serious weapons to Ukraine, send military specialists and give the country economic aid. Or at least join the plans for a trilateral alliance between Ukraine, Britain, and Poland.
This would be real action, not empty words. Ukrainian democracy needs broad and effective international support.
Translated by Simon Cosgrove