French President Emmanuel Macron arrives on Monday, Hungary’s prime minister was there last week, and soon Germany’s prime minister will also appear.
Everyone hopes to reach Vladimir Putin, the Russian president who single-handedly chooses the country’s course after the great escalation along the border with Ukraine, and whose paths are unfathomable even to those in his inner circle.
“The priority for me when it comes to the Ukraine issue is dialogue with Russia and downsizing,” Macron answered last week when asked about a possible face-to-face meeting with Putin.
– I am very worried about the situation on the ground, he added.
The goal reached?
There are signs that the relationships may be about to soften.
“From Putin’s perspective, he has already won a kind of victory, because he has our undivided attention, and part of the plan was obviously to get us to focus on him,” said former intelligence officer Fiona Hill, who has previously worked with Russians and Eurasians. matters for the Americans.
Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov recently trumpeted that Russia now sets “the agenda that the United States and the so-called” collective West “follow.
– We have taken the foreign policy initiative, it was further stated.
Macron insists that Europeans must be involved in a solution to the crisis that threatens the continent’s stability. Macron and Putin have already talked on the phone three times in recent days, but it is unclear what, if anything, it has led to.
The French president has previously expressed skepticism about NATO, saying in 2019 that the alliance was “brain dead”. On Saturday, skepticism was far away when he spoke with Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and emphasized “France’s commitment within NATO to the security of the Allies”.
France has also offered to send forces to alliance partner Romania. On Sunday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian about the efforts of NATO, the EU and other countries to deal with Russia’s continuous force building in Ukraine.
Diplomacy within Europe has calmed tensions in the past.
French and German mediation in 2015 contributed to the so-called Minsk agreement from 2015, which was to ensure a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine. The unrest broke out in 2014 when Russia began supporting separatists in the region after annexing the Crimean peninsula.
On January 26, Ukrainian and Russian envoys met in Paris to discuss the situation in eastern Ukraine.
On the Ukrainian side, one of Zelenskyj’s leading advisers, Andrei Jermak, participated, while Russia, among others, posed with Putin’s close collaborator Dmitry Kozak. Diplomats from France and Germany also attended the meeting, which lasted just over eight hours.
The topic was the Minsk agreement. According to the agreement, local elections will be held and then a new constitution will be prepared that will define which areas will have autonomy in Eastern Ukraine, which has not happened.
There was no breakthrough in Paris, but Jermak tweeted after the meeting that “there were strong signals of a will for a peaceful solution”. However, it has since become unclear how willing Russia is for new talks.
After meeting with Putin, Macron will leave for Kiev on Tuesday. German Prime Minister Olaf Scholz, who left for the United States on Sunday, plans to travel to Moscow in a week.
Macron recently acknowledged that a “discussion with Russia is always difficult”, but has tried to form a personal relationship with Putin. He has been invited to both the Palace of Versailles and Macron’s summer residence at Fort de Bregancon.
Putin, in turn, has invited Macron to Moscow, but the pandemic has put it on hold until now.
Russia was expelled from the G8 after the annexation of the Crimean peninsula, leaving Putin with less direct contact with other world leaders.
It remains to be seen whether the one-on-one meetings with Putin will be enough to convince Putin that he has more to lose than to win.
– All moves so far have followed his schedule. Ultimately, all the decisions about Ukraine are up to Vladimir Putin and the small, inner circle of people who share his views, says Hill.