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Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in the op-ed section are those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the views of the Kyiv Independent.
French President Emmanuel Macron is not credible anymore.
His latest baffling statement on national television about giving “security guarantees” to Russia has caused a rightful outrage in the international community.
“One of the essential points we must address — as (Russian) president (Vladimir) Putin has always said — is the fear that NATO comes right up to its doors and the deployment of weapons that could threaten Russia,” Macron said.
“That topic will be part of the topics for peace, so we need to prepare what we are ready to do, how we protect our allies and member states, and how to give guarantees to Russia the day it returns to the negotiating table.”
Macron’s statement infuriated Ukrainian officials such as Oleksiy Danilov, the National Security and Defense Council secretary, who expressed his unfiltered thoughts on Twitter.
“Instead of Nuremberg — to sign an agreement with Russia and shake hands?” Danilov wrote.
Suggesting giving “security guarantees” to Russia while the Kremlin is trying to erase Ukraine and Ukrainians from the world map sounds typical of Macron’s candid arrogance.
In a recent interview for Le Parisien, Macron outlined some of his solutions to end the war.
“There are 10,000 different formulae: more decentralized regions ... with recognition for example, of co-official language status for Russian, land under international protection, formulae for self-determination,” he said.
These suggestions only validate Putin’s paranoid, twisted vision of the world order.
The Kremlin’s relentless rhetoric about fictitious attacks on the Russian language is at the center of Moscow’s anti-Ukrainian propaganda, with the state-controlled television trying to depict Russian-speaking Ukrainians as hostages of the pro-Western government, which is a blatant lie.
Most Russian-speaking Ukrainians don’t identify with Russia and want nothing to do with it. Many support the government – including President Volodymyr Zelensky, who was himself Russian-speaking before entering politics.
At least 85% of respondents to a poll held in May believe that there is no oppression of the Russian-speaking population in Ukraine. The poll includes 85% of ethnic Russians and 90% of Russian-speaking residents.
The French President has been trying to be at the front and center to push for diplomacy and make France look more relevant than it is after the botched Minsk agreements.
The “France knows better” attitude was embarrassing at first. It’s now becoming dangerous for Ukraine.
Russia can’t be trusted
Exactly 28 years ago, on Dec. 5, 1994, Ukraine signed the Budapest Memorandum, giving up its nuclear weapons in exchange for security guarantees of non-aggression by Russia.
The very same Russia fired 70 missiles on Ukraine this Dec. 5 – in what was its latest, sixth attempt to take out Ukraine’s energy infrastructure and plunge millions of Ukrainians in the cold darkness of winter.
The very same Russia invaded Ukraine from all directions on Feb. 24 after waging an eight-year war in Donbas.
The country that wages a genocidal war on Ukrainians, established a torture system in occupied territories and uses systemic rape as a weapon of war against innocent civilians.
It’s also the same Russia that illegally annexed Crimea, showing to the world that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin is above international law.
But somehow, Macron still believes Putin and Russia can be trusted to respect its promises, despite countless evidence of the opposite.
Under the guise of so-called realism, Macron is making a fatal mistake.
Macron’s gullible stance is, at best naive, at worst arrogant in his misjudgment of Putin.
Macron was elected with En Marche, a party without a program that borrowed ideas from every spectrum of French politics.
He was elected for another mandate in 2022, mainly because he faced far-right’s Marine Le Pen, still a political taboo despite her score of almost 30%.
His party didn’t have a vision and didn’t need one to get elected.
But wartime foreign policy is different. It requires consistency – and a spine.
It’s not the first time Macron got caught being soft on Russia.
In June, Macron called “not to humiliate Russia” in a clumsy attempt to draw a parallel between the defeat of Germany in 1918 and Russia’s course to defeat.
Macron was repeating an outdated theory that Adolf Hitler’s rise and World War II happened because of the “humiliating” Versailles treaty imposed on Germany at the end of World War I, fuelling resentment that would have led to the Third Reich.
This theory is flawed. It has been largely debunked by historians and experts on the matter, who consider the 1929 Wall Street Crash and Hitler’s own genocidal plan the leading causes of the war.
Macron’s geopolitics’ understanding is flawed because his vision of history is ridden with clichés that wouldn’t pass the test of a few good books his team seems to have forgotten to read.
Macron’s statements on Russia denote a long-running problem in the French president’s entourage that treats foreign policy, the fate of Ukraine, and world order with the same attitude as a campaign management issue.
A widely ridiculed “fly on the wall” Netflix-like documentary about Macron’s reelection and how he handled Putin before the invasion showed him and his advisors giggling about lecturing Putin on international law.
Putin lies through his teeth during the call about Ukraine’s invasion, while Macron puts on his brightest smile, thinking he outsmarted Putin.
Cringe aside, almost a year into a genocidal invasion that brought death and destruction to millions of Ukrainians, the French President struggles to understand Moscow’s destructive agenda.
Blinded by a wrong sense of self-importance, he still believes in the Kremlin's words and helps propels them to look relevant.
Macron’s statement is particularly concerning because he parrots the Kremlin.
Putin has regularly justified its war of aggression by shifting the blame on the imaginary threat of NATO’s expansion.
One of the reasons quoted by the Kremlin’s pundits in 2014 to illegally annex Crimea was the alleged Western expansion in Ukraine and NATO’s ambition to build a base in the peninsula.
The Russian dictator is obsessed with the alliance’s enlargement, which he claims is one of the reasons for waging war on Ukraine.
Before the invasion, he went as far as demanding NATO return to its pre-1997 map, meaning the whole of eastern Europe, including Poland and the Baltic countries, leaving the alliance — a non-starter for the West.
Russia doesn’t need security guarantees, it needs to face an international tribunal.
Putin and his cronies don’t need an “off-ramp.”
The only exit he needs to take is in the direction of The Hague to be judged for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Suggesting lending a hand or an “off-ramp” to Putin creates a morally wrong precedent where democracies allow dictators to destroy them.
This massive mistake will allow Russia to rearm against Europe while Ukraine continues to pay for the West’s hesitancy with blood, sweat, and tears.
Alexander Query is a Kyiv Independent reporter and a French national living and working in Ukraine since 2016.