Putin, Macron Reach a Wary Detente

Vladimir Putin (L) and Emmanuel Macron met at Versailles Palace,  near Paris, on May 29.Vladimir Putin (L) and Emmanuel Macron met at Versailles Palace,  near Paris, on May 29.

Mutual and repeated references to centuries of friendship between their two nations were not enough to muffle the subtext of the profound differences between French President Emmanuel Macron and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.

The two leaders held a joint press conference on Monday after a meeting at the lavish Palace of Versailles, currently the host of an exhibition commemorating the 300th anniversary of Peter the Great’s diplomatic visit to Paris and surrounding areas, France24 reported.

In his opening remarks, Macron stressed Peter the Great’s openness to and engagement with Europe and European ideals, making an unspoken but not-so-subtle comparison with the nationalistic Putin.

Putin parried with a pointed reminder of his own. He talked about the dynamic economic relationship between Russia and France, and noted that no French company doing business in Russia has left as a result of the sanctions—a reminder that, as France is the leading foreign investor in Russia, the two nations’ interests are linked and that the sanctions hurt French companies as well.

Macron is likely to be unmoved by the reminder. France helped spearhead the sanctions put into place following Russia’s annexation of Crimea and Macron has signaled that he is willing to strengthen them.

But Macron and Putin are both pragmatists and despite their somewhat barbed opening gambits, they had put their meeting to good use, emerging with joint initiatives on several fronts.

The two nations will work more closely to fight terror and discussed exchanging official delegations to pursue that goal. And they agreed to return to the negotiating table on Ukraine.

Macron said he wanted to revive the “Normandy format”, which includes the leaders of Russia, Germany, France and Ukraine. He said Putin shared in that desire.

And on perhaps the thorniest point of difference between the two nations, their stance on Syria, Macron let Putin know that he was going to take a hardline there as well.

While he said he hoped the two could open up channels to discuss a solution to that crisis, he stated that chemical attacks will be a “redline” for France and would result in immediate reprisals.


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