PARIS – An “essential point” in any peace talks about the war in Ukraine should be how to provide “security guarantees to Russia” given Moscow’s concerns about NATO, French President Emmanuel Macron has said.
Macron’s comments, in a television interview broadcast on Saturday, returned to a theme he has broached since before Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, but hasn’t done so recently. “We need to prepare what we are ready to do, how we protect our allies and member states, and how to give Russia guarantees the day it returns to the negotiating table,” Macron said.
“One of the essential points that we need to address, as President Putin has always said, is the fear of NATO coming to your doorstep and deploying weapons that could threaten Russia,” he said.
The interview with TF1, a French television station, appeared to be sympathetic to the concerns of Russia’s President Vladimir V. Putin and was immediately reported prominently by TASS, the Russian state news agency. It provoked an angry reaction in Ukraine.
Macron gave the interview during his state visit to the United States, which ended on Saturday. It was broadcast when he left.
During his visit, Macron strove to underscore France’s unequivocal backing for the Ukrainian cause, pledging greater French military support, and President Biden indicated a conditional opening to talk to Putin. On that basis, the two leaders presented a united front.
There was no immediate US reaction to Macron’s comments, but they appeared to go beyond what the US has offered Putin.
David Arakhamia, the head of the Ukrainian negotiating group in talks with Russia that quickly collapsed early in the war, posted a scathing response to Macron’s proposal on Telegram.
He said that what Russia needed to do for negotiations to start was to “leave the territory of our country; pay repairs; punish all war criminals; voluntarily renounce nuclear weapons.
The last of these demands was a clear reference to the Budapest Memorandum, signed in 1994. Under the agreement, Russia was among the states that guaranteed Ukraine’s “independence and sovereignty on existing borders” in exchange for Ukraine giving up its arsenal. nuclear power, but has since been ignored by Putin.
Since 2019, when he declared the need to reinvent “a security architecture” between the European Union and Russia, Macron has insisted on the need to bring Russia to a new “stability order” in Europe.
Although he has strongly condemned Putin’s “imperial” invasion, Macron has apparently not been persuaded to reconsider the feasibility of any Russian integration into a European security deal.
Responding to a TASS tweet containing Macron’s comments, Nicolas Tenzer, a leading French political scientist and essayist, commented: “Devastating.”
Dr. Alina Polyakova, president of the Center for European Policy Analysis, a Washington-based think tank, commented on Tenzer’s tweet, saying: “You know you are doing something terribly wrong when Kremlin state propaganda praises you. It seems that no matter how brutal Putin is, Macron cannot let go of his faulty vision.”
There is deep suspicion of Macron’s approach to Russia in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland and other European Union and NATO states that were once under the Soviet totalitarian yoke. This has undermined his aspirations for European leadership.
On February 8, shortly before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Putin laid out three demands at a joint press conference with Macron in Moscow. These were: the end of NATO enlargement; no missile deployment near Russia’s borders; and a reduction of NATO’s military infrastructure in Europe to its levels in 1997, before the Baltic and central European states previously controlled by Moscow joined the alliance.
The US dismissed the Russian demands as “non-initiating” at the time, but Macron appears to take a more nuanced view.