After meeting by telephone with Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelensky, the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, managed on Friday that the Russian and Ukrainian presidents adopt positions of apparent verbal de-escalation. Macron commented on those talks with willful confidence in Putin’s “good faith,” declaring: “He has not expressed any offensive intent. He has told me clearly that he does not seek confrontation.
Without blind trust in the apparent “good intentions” of the Russian president, Macron qualified his conference call with Putin in this way: “We all need Russia to respect the sovereignty of states». Putin also told Macron his desire to “continue the dialogue”, but put on hold possible and unforeseeable stronger decisions. “The Russian president reserves possible actions, after studying the Western responses to his demands,” a French diplomatic source commented late on Friday.
Macron’s dialogue with Zelensky had the same calculatedly ambiguous and hopeful tone, which the Ukrainian president summed up thus: “It is wise not to spread panic. The probability of a Russian attack has not disappeared, but it may be less serious than at the end of last year. For now, we do not see an escalation higher than what already existed.
After their telephone conversation, Macron and Zelensky insisted on this central point: “We have no need to spread fear. But Russia must demonstrate in practical terms its desire for de-escalation». Voluntary, the French president trusts in the desire for de-escalation “shared” by Putin and Zelensky, trusting in the need to prolong the dialogue.
The “need for de-escalation” to which Macron, Putin and Zelenski say they aspire can take shape, from the French point of view, through the Normandy Format, the four-way trading model (Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France) that Putin seems to accept, but that raises apparent reservations in other Western allies and some underlying concern in Ukraine.
President Zelensky conveyed these doubts to Macron: “We await the de-escalation. The risk of a Russian attack is today lower. But the permanent tension has a destabilizing dimension for Ukraine. We need to stabilize the economy.”
Zeleski expects urgent economic aid from the US and the EU, beyond the peremptory announcements of solidarity military with the Ukrainian territorial integrity. In this field, neither Washington nor the EU are announcing spectacular decisions immediately.
On the French side, Macron insists in the continuity of their work through mediation to several bands, verbally diluting the underlying problems, hoping to find firmer and more convincing ways of de-escalation.