It was a very long white anti-covid table, in a sumptuous and imperial setting with gray silk curtains, in the Kremlin. But the meeting between President Vladimir Putin and his French colleague Emmanuel Macron seemed like a joke or a choreography of tea with Catherine, The Great, in the midst of a near-war crisis in Ukraine, when they were looking for How to de-escalate this military offensive.
All details are essential in diplomacy. This tsarist decoration of the Kremlin and the distance not only showed Putin’s fears of not being infected by the Pandemic.
It was evident his pleasure that the most important representative of the EU as temporary president came to visit him, in a historic “tete a tete”, with a peace plan under his arm, when it has deployed 150,000 men, many infected with Covid, on the border with Ukraine.
Macron could not resist smiling at the scenery, before some difficult conversations began. Putin, with a red tie and with his earphone, because he speaks German and English fluently, but he does not understand French.
nearly six hours
The meeting lasted almost six hours, with food included, without translators or assistants. A “useful” conversation, said the Russian president, at the press conference.
Face to face, Vladimir Putin and Emmanuel Macron in the Kremlin. Photo EFE
“Today we are aware of the seriousness of the situation and of finding a path for the preservation of peace. I deeply believe that there is still time,” Macron said.
The de-escalation must advance in the substantive issues and in the security guarantees to create new security measures in Europe towards Russia. A European force is Macron’s idea to calm Russia.
“We have the will to work together to guarantee a new order of stability and security in Europe,” Macron explained. Specific security guarantees have been offered to Russia, without disguising the differences.
“Russia is part of Europe,” according to Macron. This is the conclusion after six hours of discussions, with food in between, and NATO as a fundamental concern for Putin, along with Ukraine.
“The solution in Ukraine can only be political and the format is that of Minsk” announced the French president, under the intense gaze of Putin.
“The next few days will be decisive and involve serious discussions,” said Macron, in an atmosphere of understanding.
In French and Russian, the evening menu appeared. Ravioli with spinach, five fish soup, potatoes with prawns, ginger sorbet, sturgeon steak or reindeer meat with sweet potatoes and vanilla pear tarts to digest such thorny issues.
“NATO is not peaceful”
“We understand that the president has come to Russia to discuss the thorny issues relating to European security”, Putin reciprocated. The atmosphere was trustworthy but the differences were not concealed.
Vladimir Putin is worried about the expansion of NATO. Reuters Photo
“The non-expansion of NATO, the non-displacement of the combat system on the Russian border. Their core concerns on our side have been ignored in the US and NATO response,” Putin continued. “NATO is far from being a peaceful organization,” Putin said.
Macron chose a diplomatic and cordial tone, after thanking “Vladimir”. “I would like to thank the President for the efforts to settle a very acute conflict in eastern Ukraine. Some of your ideas are possible and can serve as a basis for our initial activities,” Macron said.
“Thank you very much for your reception. We are aware of the seriousness of the situation and the need to observe peace in Europe”, continued Macron, who did not hide that there is great military tension although Putin accepts a political solution.
“We had a substantial exchange, based on the necessary de-escalation. I believe in the unity of Europe. We must consider what are the misunderstandings and misunderstandings in recent decades and how we should incorporate the new terms in NATO”, Macron assured.
The Russian president criticized the presence of NATO forces near the Russian borders. He explained that he does not understand, in this context, the criticism of Western countries concerned about Russian soldiers near the Ukrainian border.
The fear of what happens on the tense Russian-Ukrainian border worries Macron, the EU representative tonight.
“We must work quickly to avoid an escalation because it is a risk to the stability of the continent. Concrete measures are needed to de-escalate and it depends on exchanges with the United States, with the Europeans and with the Ukrainian president. President Putin has said to join that dynamic. Rich exchanges are needed that we must keep together,” Macron continued.
“We have sought find elements of convergence. The first element is the need to work to avoid any escalation, which would not be in the interest of the person,” said the French president.
President Emmanuel Macron bets on dialogue. AP Photo
Macron and Putin “are aware of the seriousness” and do not want to make the mistakes, misunderstandings and traumas of the past.
Innovative days”, “how to provide concrete security guarantees, respecting the elements of stability of European countries and Russia” is the convergence that Macron and Putin have found.
Concrete security guarantees are the basis for this attempt at convergence to move forward. For Georgia, Ukraine, Russia and the European countries most exposed to the crisis. That is the ambition they must follow. There are terms of convergence between Russia and France.
These discussions will continue in the coming weeks.
President Macron slept in a hotel in Moscow and on Tuesday he will travel early to Ukraine to then meet the German chancellor and the Polish president.
“There is no security for Europeans if there is no security for Russia,” Macron warned. They must find it together because they live with common borders but respecting the sovereignty of other states such as Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine, which are part of the collective security.
Macron criticized the project of Belarus on the new Constitution and was reassured by Putin.
“Our safety needs past mistakes not to be respected“, elaborated.
Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin with Macron. Photo EFE
“We have the will to work together to ensure a new order of stability and security in Europe,” Macron continued. But Putin was brutal in criticizing NATO.
On the plane
In his first presentation between Putin and Macron at the beginning of the summit, the first intentions before the press could only be heard for minutes.
“The discussion can start towards what we should go, which is a de-escalation,” Macron said at the beginning. He added that he wanted “avoid war” and “build the elements of trust, stability, visibility for all”.
Putin praised the French efforts “to solve the question of security in Europe” and to “find a solution to the crisis in Ukraine”. And the microphones were turned off for the press to start the real negotiation.
Emmanuel Macron at the long table in the Kremlin. Photo EFE
With Ukraine as the protagonist, President Macron landed in Moscow with his will to “engage in discussion” to reach “reciprocal commitments”.
“I am determined and lucid. I don’t think there are short-term wins. One can prevent things in the short term. Try to reinstall the dialog. I don’t believe in spontaneous miracles,” he told reporters on the plane from Paris to Moscow.
Putin is comfortable with this diplomatic call, which makes him and Moscow the center of international attention in a way out of the crisis. That is its main objective. Not necessarily a military invasion for Europeans who know his mentality as a great strategic intelligence analyst and former spy in Germany during the cold war.
Far from any triumphalism, Macron represents a new generation that was not trapped in the Warsaw Pact and NATO. He seeks to resume the dialogue between Europe and Russia and that the EU is not excluded from the negotiations as at the beginning of the crisis.
“It is in this moment of tension that history has taught us that it can go very far. I think it is better to commit, to recreate processes of trust. It is a great word, but one of transparency, of reciprocal commitments”, he said.
Macron landed in frozen Moscow ready to de-escalate. That will be your workhorse on this tour that will continue tomorrow in Kiev. He claims to be on the same wavelength as US President Joe Biden, who is seen with a more warmongering analysis. Above all, Macron seeks not to further degrade the situation.
The end of the crisis is far away. Macron believes that not even Putin knows exactly. We are weeks away from reaching any conclusion, despite the disagreements and uncertainties, but at least there are positive ideas that could help move forward. The negotiation has begun.
France and Russia maintain a good relationship. Vladimir Putin was the only leader of a great power who attended the funeral of former President Jacques Chirac. It was the testimony of his admiration for a president with whom he discussed state issues in Russian. A relationship of trust that lasted a lifetime due to his “encyclopedic knowledge”, according to Putin.