President Macron’s Unending Russia Diplomacy

PARIS — No one can accuse President Emmanuel Macron of stinting on efforts to avert, defuse or cease Russia’s conflict in Ukraine. He has clocked 17 cellphone conversations with President Vladimir V. Putin previously 4 months, one private assembly in Moscow and so many hours of dialogue along with his personal aides that he has had scant time for the small matter of a presidential election in lower than two weeks.

In the identical interval, he has spoken 25 instances to President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, and met with him in Kyiv and Brussels. On Feb. 25, he spoke twice in a single day to the Ukrainian chief, one thing he additionally did with Mr. Putin on Feb 11. All with a view, Mr. Macron says, “to securing a cease-fire after which the full withdrawal of troops.”

If diplomacy is measured by perseverance, Mr. Macron is a supreme diplomat. Whether it is measured by efficient realism, the decision seems much less favorable. Thus far, on the face of it, he has achieved little or no by his 42 calls and three conferences. The conflict is into its second month with an untold variety of lifeless. Greater than 3.7 million Ukrainian refugees have fled westward.

Mr. Zelensky, to evaluate by a current interview in The Economist, has been underwhelmed. Requested about Mr. Macron’s assertion at a NATO assembly final week that delivering tanks to Ukraine represented a pink line not be crossed, Mr. Zelensky mentioned France took this place as a result of “they’re afraid of Russia. And that’s it.”

In relations with Russia, it’s much less concern that appears to inhabit Mr. Macron than a form of romantic fascination with the nation and its tradition, in addition to an mental conviction that Europe won’t be secure till Russia is built-in into some new safety structure that displays the Chilly Battle’s finish.

Mr. Macron returned to the theme of reimagining European safety in an interview with France 3 TV on Sunday: “The USA and Russia structured the world throughout the Chilly Battle. We’re now not within the Chilly Battle,” he mentioned. It’s Europeans, not Individuals, who “stay beside Russia,” and so “we want a protection coverage and we have to outline a safety structure for ourselves and never delegate that activity.”

In some methods, the conflict in Ukraine has validated Mr. Macron’s long-held convictions. Germany previously a number of weeks has successfully shifted from a pacifist postwar energy to at least one ready to spend closely on protection to revamp its armed forces. That in flip implies that a pet phrase of Mr. Macron’s — “Europe puissance,” or “European energy” — is now not a pipe dream. Europe will look totally different if Germany really stiffens its army spine.

The French folks seem to have few misgivings about Mr. Macron’s diplomatic striving, even supposing he has devoted little time to the marketing campaign and has refused to debate different candidates.

They see, relatively, a pacesetter assuming his tasks on the world stage. France at the moment holds the rotating presidency of the 27-member European Union, giving Mr. Macron a double motive to guide Europe’s diplomatic efforts — a task the president has mentioned falls naturally to him given Britain’s exit from the European Union and Germany’s management transition.

Though he has fallen to about 28.5 p.c of the vote in the latest polls, down from 30 p.c, Mr. Macron remains to be 4 share factors up on his prewar common. His principal rival, Marine Le Pen of the hard-right Nationwide Rally, has surged of late to twenty p.c, up 2.5 p.c in every week, primarily on the expense of the upstart hard-right candidate, Eric Zemmour, who’s now at 11.5 p.c.

The election marketing campaign has been curiously low-key, absent Mr. Macron’s participation in debates, with no main coverage theme and a widespread notion that the incumbent has victory secured. Alternatively, the method has been so opaque that Philippe Labro, an writer and a longtime observer of French politics, mentioned in a short dialog that “a shock should still be lurking.”

In all his diplomatic efforts, Mr. Macron has consulted carefully with President Biden. There was little daylight between them, with the French president showing to play good cop to Mr. Biden’s dangerous cop in coping with Mr. Putin.

However Mr. Biden’s improvised remark about Mr. Putin on the finish of a speech this weekend in Poland — “For God’s sake, this man can not stay in energy” — appeared to open up some discord.

“I wouldn’t use this type of phrases,” Mr. Macron mentioned within the Sunday interview, insisting that he nonetheless hoped to safe a cease-fire and the withdrawal of Russian troops. “If we need to do that, we should not escalate, both in phrases or actions.”

Mr. Macron has been robust at instances with Mr. Putin. After a March 3 name when Mr. Putin described Mr. Zelensky’s authorities as “Nazis,” Mr. Macron replied that this was “lies.” He continued: “Both you’re telling your self tales, otherwise you’re on the lookout for a pretext. What you’re saying doesn’t conform with actuality.”

At different instances, Mr. Macron has appeared to have problem confronting actuality himself. As a former Ok.G.B. officer, Mr. Putin was educated within the artwork of seduction, in persuading his interlocutors that he preferred them, in order that they’d reveal themselves extra utterly. Mr. Macron can be a person who likes to assume his attraction will win folks over. He tried, for instance, to get near President Trump to safe concessions that had been by no means forthcoming.

On the aircraft again from Moscow final month, the French president mentioned he had secured guarantees from Mr. Putin that Russian troops could be withdrawn from Belarus after a deliberate army train, that nuclear weapons would by no means be positioned there, and that Russia would interact significantly with the Minsk peace course of aimed toward resolving the battle over two breakaway areas in japanese Ukraine.

Two weeks later, Mr. Putin acknowledged the independence of the breakaway areas, utilizing an “invitation” from them as a pretext for an invasion of Ukraine that he known as “a particular army operation.” Russian troops weren’t withdrawn from Belarus.

“Sure, there was duplicity,” Mr. Macron mentioned on Feb. 24, the day of the invasion.

But he and Mr. Putin have spoken seven instances since then.

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