Dhe French President Emmanuel Macron is setting off on a mediation mission in the Ukraine crisis this Monday, which will take him to Moscow, Kiev and Berlin. The order was chosen with care, as the Elysée Palace says. The deployment of troops on the Ukrainian border and the Russian demands for new security guarantees clearly indicated who is driving the crisis: Kremlin ruler Vladimir Putin. Macron therefore wants to negotiate with the Russian President first, before agreeing how to proceed on Tuesday with the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and then with the Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz and the Polish President Andrzej Duda.
Most recently, Macron called Putin on Friday to contribute to a “de-escalation”. The Elysée Palace then spoke of “major discrepancies”. At the same time, Putin has shown a willingness to engage in dialogue. He is said to have assured the President that Macron is currently the only one in Europe with whom he can hold in-depth talks. Putin said he was not planning an invasion. Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who is accompanying Macron on his trip to Moscow, was not convinced by the assurances. “The danger is clear and imminent,” Le Drian told state-run France 2 TV. “All the conditions for a Russian military intervention are in place,” he added.
Coordination with all partners
France currently holds the rotating EU Council Presidency; This is another reason why Macron ascribes the responsibility of acting proactively as an intermediary. He was concerned that the last attempt to negotiate European security with Chancellor Angela Merkel at the side of Chancellor Angela Merkel failed to win a majority in the EU. That’s why he’s attaching particular importance this time to not being suspected of starting negotiations with Putin alone with France.
Before his one-on-one meeting in the Kremlin, Macron coordinated intensively with all important partners. For example, Macron telephoned American President Joe Biden; on Friday he also spoke to Chancellor Scholz. The conversation lasted about half an hour and testified to “close coordination”, it said in the Elysée Palace. Macron also exchanged views with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Saturday. Unlike Germany, France immediately promised to increase troops on the eastern flank of NATO and wants to send up to 1,000 soldiers to Romania. Both Defense Minister Florence Parly and Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian traveled to Bucharest last week to clarify details. It has not yet been decided whether the soldiers will be deployed as an extension of the enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) or as part of a new form of NATO presence. Since the beginning of the year, France has also chaired NATO’s Rapid Reaction Force.
The problem child is Germany
As French Ambassador to NATO Muriel Domenach recently noted, the perspective of allies in the transatlantic alliance is changing. Macron caused considerable irritation with his “brain death” statements in November 2019. In the meantime, there is apparently more concern about the NATO partner Germany.