At the time of the meeting between the Russian and French heads of state, Caroline Galactéros, Doctor of political science, Colonel within the operational reserve of the Army, president of the Geopragma think tank, and specialist in Eastern Europe, decrypts for “L’Invalide” what the real stakes of this Franco-Russian summit are.
After the absence of Vladimir Putin at the 75th anniversary in Normandy, Emmanuel Macron would like to catch up with and revive the Minsk process, and also to address the issue of Donbass at Brégançon before the G7 in Biarritz. Does this French ambition seem credible to you credible?
“Obviously no. I would like to believe that our President has realised that he must urgently overcome the neoconservative networks that have infiltrated his administration (like Donald Trump’s) and see Russia forever an enemy of Europe. This fossilised vision, remote-controlled from Washington, has the advantage of preventing the EU from getting closer to Moscow, and therefore from keeping it strategically under exclusively Atlantic control. Unfortunately, some recent major appointments to the diplomatic and national strategic evaluation apparatus have little hope of a strategic upgrade by the president. The prisoner of the Elysee and that of the White House are still very far from fomenting their ‘great escape’…
The question of Donbass is simple. It is a purulent abscess that Vladimir Putin keeps under his thumb to make it impossible for Ukraine to join the EU, a stepping stone towards NATO. After the various waves of enlargement of the Alliance, which has removed the Russian protective glacis, this absorption of Ukraine by NATO is a non-negotiable red line for Moscow because it would put the forces of the Alliance in contact immediately from those of Russia. In order to ‘settle the Donbass issue’, Kiev must first and foremost respect the Minsk Accords, and above all, Moscow must obtain a written agreement from the United States to ensure that Ukraine remains a strategically neutral buffer zone. and never be more encouraged nor allowed to join NATO. If Paris were able to obtain that, then our star would shine forever in the Russian skies and beyond, in all the European woes. And we would then exercise de facto leadership. We are far from this. Washington continues to provoke Moscow and Paris is silent. The last summit of the Alliance allowed it to reaffirm. via its General Secretary, its intention to welcome Ukraine and Georgia in the Alliance…“
Franco-American relations seem to be at an impasse, is it out of spite or opportunism that France turns to the old Russian ally?
“France has still not understood – and even seems unable to understand – that there is a structural difference in interests between Washington and the European Union. Our political and strategic allegiance is deep, but it is based on a fantasised convergence of interests. Under Trump, who holds us on ‘short reins’ and loudly proclaims his contempt, we feel ourselves orphaned by a tutelage that until then was soft and allowed us to obey … saving face, in military or declaratory rodomontades . But in fact, in 2013, with Obama and his famous ‘red line’ in Syria, the die was cast. But then, redoubling our servility, we had no burst of saving pride. Nothing has really changed in Paris. This is the drama. Because the rest of the world moves at high speed. I fear that our president, despite his lyrical musings, is not really aware of our history with Russia over the centuries, nor has any structured strategic vision. He does not see France in his flesh or his heart, and words are not enough to embody a will. He wants to be the self-proclaimed leader of a resurgent Europe, but he does not apprehend the conditions.
To get closer to Moscow (as indeed to Tehran), Paris must become a credible and reliable power, whose word one can count on, who is mentally independent, free, sovereign. In short, we just have to stop saying mere words and leave our US proxy status. Here again, we are far from doing this. Since Nicolas Sarkozy with Libya, then Francois Hollande with Maidan and the Mistrals, France is unfortunately no longer considered autonomous, even less strategically independent. Its signature no longer has any weight. Its vision of the world and of its place within it, in respect of his own interests and values, is nowhere to be found. In Syria, its bewildering game of destabilising a sovereign state and supporting the worst terrorist groups that strike it on its national territory and undermines its unity, has profoundly discredited it. Our foreign policy is a-historical, schizophrenic, and suicidal.”
Under what conditions could Russia hear the French position in Iran and Syria?
“Washington wants to break the Russian-Iranian axis and uses Paris to do this. Unlike us, Vladimir Putin is anything but an ideologue. He’s a pragmatic one. Concerning Syria, France has unfortunately been trapped in the American game of regime changes, miles away from any democratic perspective. On the Iranian issue, it has aligned itself with Washington’s warmongering, quickly giving up its initial intransigence, after the US’ exit from the JCPOA, and showing itself unable to operate the INSTEX mechanism, which would make it possible to counter the extraterritoriality of the American law. Bursts of sanctions that sought to stifle the Iranian economy, freeze all competition, and provoke a political and social crisis to destabilise the Islamic Republic. Then we started to say, as Washington did, that we should extend the spectrum of the Agreement to ballistic questions or something else …. In short, we went to sleep. Today, instead of saying once and for all that Paris would remain alongside Tehran in the JCPOA without asking for renegotiation or extension, in order to obey Washington and Tel Aviv we dare to ask Tehran, in the name of ‘de-escalation’ to respect the Agreement, when it was Washington that tore it to pieces. It’s the world upside down. What does one hope to gain in terms of credibility by such an attitude? It is up to the US and not Iran to respect the JCPOA! The recent statements of our Foreign Minister criticising Tehran for threatening to disobey the Agreement are staggering and typical of the reversal of wrongs and the manipulation of the reality that has characterised our so-called moral diplomacy for far too long.
Our leadership is floating, and so is the conscience of our national interests. This is the great paradox of a presidency based on technocracy, but which methodically destroys the tools of the regalien and the authority of the state … Whatever ‘legitimist’ I am politically, who decided to put hopes on the one, whoever he is, and to who the insignia of honour is given to govern our motherland, I come to wonder if our president only believes in the Nation, in France as a historical and cultural entity of its own, or if he rather believes progress (iveness) consists of erasing, according to multilateral agreements and renouncements of sovereignty and authority, the last concrete and symbolic instruments of our independence. The Pact of Marrakesh and the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle are sad examples of this sly relinquishment masked by great pomp.
To return to the conditions in which Moscow might see some interest in involving us again in the Syrian and Iranian issues – from which at the same time our moralising and cynical approach arose – even if Vladimir Putin and his spokespersons display a gallant contempt for sanctions , it seems obvious to me that only lifting them would be a serious and tangible sign of a recovery of autonomy of Europe and France in relation to America. It would be enough for Paris to understand it, to want it, and to decide on it. The opposition of only one EU member is enough to prevent their renewal. Dare to disobey and resist. This would be a big blow to the hornet’s nest of our collective inconsistencies and a true strategic revolution for Europe, its first step in the world of adults, without armbands, without buoys, without a harness! Without a leash, if to be brief. What are we waiting for? What can we still lose after our industrial jewels, our honour, and our soul? Our pusillanimity becomes really unbearable.”
The question of Crimea and the repression of the opposition are issues of concern for Quai d’Orsay. Can this prevent France from halting the economic sanctions?
“Quai d’Orsay, and those who unfortunately control it and take Putin’s Russia for Stalin’s USSR – mentally sclerosed and fossilised so as not to have to think otherwise than as Pavlov’s dogs – are constantly seeking new demands and requirements to present in Moscow (against of course no concessions or openness on our part). They pretend to ignore the obvious: it is up to us to take a step towards Russia and lift the sanctions. As for Crimea, everyone knows that there is nothing to do or hope for. We played and mounted (at minimum – condoned as France) a coup in Ukraine …. and we lost, a bit like in Syria. With Maidan, we served on a silver platter for Moscow the opportunity to take back Crimea, which was wrongly granted to Ukraine by the Ukrainian Khrushchev in 1954. As for the repression of the opposition in Russia, unfortunately we are reaping the rewards of our hopeless policy of ostracisation. Vladimir Putin is becoming more and more a prisoner of the conservative currents and tries to optimally hold the helm, but he sometimes has to give guarantees and does not control everything, far from it. The release of the banker Delpal, most likely imprisoned in spite of the Kremlin, is a very positive sign that the Russian President is now able to loosen some of the barriers that constrain his room for manoeuvre. We are wasting precious time not helping him. Who will come to power after him? Maybe a true autocrat, far less shrewd and anti-European.
To isolate Russia to please our Grand ally was a stupid calculation. Not only has this pushed it to Peking out of spite and necessity, but it leaves Europe disarmed, caught between an America more leonine than ever, and a China that aims more and more openly for the progressive dismemberment of the Old continent and the domination of Eurasia. Not to admit that, in this distressing scenario, Russia was our master asset, and to accept to let ourselves be isolated as Washington dictates to us, is a major strategic mistake, which our policies, all trends combined for at least 20 years and the ‘Wars of Kosovo’, bear heavy responsibility for. I am in favour of France, without further delay, rethink from top to bottom its foreign policy and defence. It must structure it around a realistic and human Gaullist posture, which alone can restore its stature and weight, instead of dissolving its historical, political, and ethical flesh in the abstract vapours of Western multicultural sheep behavior. From this point of view, the presidential gesture, at Brégançon as before at Versailles, can be very useful. But only if it fits into a vision and a clear will, supported by a lucid, enviably pragmatic, and strict evaluation of our national interests. Otherwise, the ‘pas de deux’, successful or missed with this or that, will be reduced to political communication, and even to a sad comedy: that of our consented abasement in the declining pageantry and luster of a great nation . Then the cure will turn out to be even worse than the illness, and no head of state will be mistaken anymore. Vladimir Putin less than any other.”
L’Incorrect, Hadrien Desuin
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