Rarely has the Kremlin been so popular with European visitors in recent years.
French President Emmanuel Macron arrived on Monday. The Prime Minister of Hungary visited last week. And in the coming days there will be a German chancellor too.
All the president is hoping to reach is Vladimir Putin, the man who single-handedly shapes Russia’s course amid his military build-up near Ukraine and whose design remains a mystery even to his own narrow inner circle.
“The priority for me on the Ukrainian question is negotiations and de-escalation with Russia,” Macron said this week when reporters asked about a possible personal meeting with Putin. “I am very concerned with the situation on the ground.” An official in his office, speaking on condition of anonymity, said France is working for diplomacy but is not “stupid”.
There are some signs that the relationship may be melting.
Fiona Hill, a former US intelligence officer on Russia and Eurasian affairs, testified last time, “He’s already got some victories from Putin’s point of view because he’s got our undivided attention and part of the exercise obviously makes us focus on him.” was to inspire.” week during a congressional hearing.
Sergei Ryabkov, a senior Russian diplomat who led Moscow’s delegation to last month’s security talks with the US in Geneva, said recently that Russia is now “setting the agenda that the US and the so-called collective West are pursuing.” We do. We have seized foreign policy initiatives.” Macron insisted that Europeans should speak up in a crisis that threatens the stability of the continent. Macron and Putin have spoken on the phone three times in recent days. done – with inconclusive results.
The French president has shown skepticism of NATO in the past, and said in 2019 that the organization was experiencing “brain death”. On Saturday, that suspicion was nowhere to be found, as Macron spoke on the phone with the organization’s secretary general and underscored “France’s commitment within NATO to the security of its allies”. France has also offered to send troops to Romania as part of NATO, which has gained a sense of unity in recent weeks.
European diplomacy has helped defuse tensions in the past. The so-called “Normandy format” of French and German mediation in 2015 helped to end large-scale hostilities in Ukraine that erupted last year when Moscow attacked separatist rebels in the country’s east following the Russian annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. threw his weight behind.
Paris hosted a meeting of presidential advisors to Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France on 26 January. They agreed to meet again in Berlin soon, but Russian officials have said any new four-way summit would make sense only if the parties take next steps to grant a special status to pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine’s east. But agree.
Ukraine’s Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, Oleksiy Danilov, warned against insisting on forcing the country to take over after a string of military defeats, arguing that it could trigger internal unrest that Moscow will play in the hands of
Danilov said in an interview to the Associated Press on Monday, “When they were signed under Russian gun barrels – and the Germans and French saw them – it was already clear to all rational people that it was impossible to enforce those documents.” Is.”
The French President is on a visit to Kiev on Tuesday. New German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who is visiting the US on Monday, is planning a trip to Moscow in a week.
Tatiana Kastaueva-Jean, a Russia expert at the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI), said: “We can at least give (Macron) credit for maintaining the dialogue … for expressing European concerns directly to Putin. Having a channel is helpful.” He added, “It’s not because (Macron) goes to Russia that he is leaving Ukraine.”
Macron recently acknowledged that “discussions with Russia are always difficult.” He has repeatedly tried to establish a personal relationship with Putin, inviting him to the luxurious Versailles palace and, in a rare honor, at the Fort de Bregançon to promote peace talks with Ukraine during the summer of 2019. summer residence.
Putin extended an invitation for Macron to Russia, but the coronavirus pandemic had so far halted the planned visit.
And so the Kremlin visits and calls continue, and Europe tries to understand the ultimate extent of Putin’s goals and whether he can be persuaded that he has already achieved all that is possible — That any other move would only backfire and potentially injure their eyes. of Russians.
In Ukraine, Hill said, 70% of the population views Russia as a hostile force.
And in Europe, “What have they achieved?” Retired Lieutenant General Ben Hodges testified. “NATO today is more vigorous than it was in the last 20 to 25 years.” Hodges noted that Russia had been expelled from the G8 after the 2014 invasion of Ukraine, leaving it with less direct contact between leaders. Most powerful nation in the world.
Ultimately, it remains to be seen whether face-to-face meetings with the same leaders will be enough to convince Putin that he stands more to lose than to gain.
“Every move has been on his timetable so far,” Hill said. “The final decision in Ukraine depends on Vladimir Putin as well as the small group of people in his inner circle who share his views.”
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)