A thaw in Paris-Moscow relations?
Emmanuel Macron received Vladimir Putin at the start of the week against the magnificent backdrop of Versailles Palace. In the fight against terrorism and the Ukraine conflict the French and Russian presidents saw potential for cooperation. But Paris will not let any more chemical weapons attacks against Syrian civilians go unanswered, Macron stressed.
Macron passes the Putin test
The independent daily RBK praises Macron for his poise and authority during his meeting with Putin:
“After the handshake test with Donald Trump, the French president also held his own in the face of Vladimir Putin's attitude of weary detachment. ... Those who keep company with investment bankers know that their way of dealing with partners and the world differs from political or charitable perspectives in that it is exceedingly pragmatic and extremely direct. The matter-of-fact way in which Macron promised to expand the sanctions in the event of an escalation in the Ukraine crisis fit in perfectly with the respectful tone he adopted vis-à-vis Putin. ... He wanted to avoid making things either too easy or too uncomfortable for Putin, and simply spoke in a straightforward manner. At the press conference this made the Russian president look like a junior partner who consciously let his host take the initiative and, unusually for him, didn't react brusquely to his comments.”
United in dissent
There's little chance that Franco-Russian relations will get off to a fresh start despite the ostentatious welcome for Putin at Versailles Palace, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung believes:
“There's little common ground regarding the two most important dossiers. Macron can't break free of the West's Ukraine policy, which even Trump still endorses, without risking a serious run-in with his key ally, the German chancellor. And in Syria the issue at hand isn't just fighting terrorism but also the fate of Assad. France, which has now decided in favour of Europe, will hardly be enthusiastic about Putin's anti-Western alliances.”
Macron stands for resolve
With Macron the West has a chance to regain a strong foreign policy presence , Le Figaro writes in delight:
“Under the golden glitter of Versailles, Macron struck a new tone with Putin: firm and direct. At this stage it was the most he could do. But after the words and the poses the time for action comes. Regarding Ukraine, Syria and many other conflicts, the West's problem has long been that its words are not followed by deeds. Emmanuel Macron seems to have taken note of this when he says he doesn't believe in the 'diplomacy of public invective'. He wants to see geopolitics for what it is, a trial of strength. That doesn't mean relying on gunboat diplomacy but seeking dialogue without naivety or weakness. In two words, it means being concrete and effective. To prove himself, the head of state has an excellent practice ground: Europe.”