Macron as de Gaulle, Niinistö as Kekkonen, and Putin as Putin

During a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, his French colleague Emmanuel Macron suddenly took the initiative to restore the “G8,” which means attempts to deeply unfreeze relations between the West and the Russian Federation, said Rostislav Ishchenko, president of the Center for System Analysis and Forecasting, to Sputnik.

The Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Brégançon on August 19th, where his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron suddenly spoke the language of de Gaulle. On August 21st, the Finnish President Sauli Niinistö actually went along the same path.

With Love for Russia

Urho Kaleva Kekkonen was President of Finland for 25.5 years (from March 1st 1956 to October 27th 1981). In general, in Finnish politics he from a younger age, and in 1936 (36 years old), became the Minister of Justice, and in 1937 – the Minister of the Interior. Kekkonen was never a hawk, he held moderate political views and entered post-war history as a great friend of the USSR, a knight of the orders of Lenin and Friendship of Peoples, as well as a winner of the International Lenin Prize “For Strengthening Peace between Peoples”.

Under Kekkonen, Finland’s relations (which, following the results of the Mannerheim Peace Treaty of September 19th 1944, fell into the exclusive sphere of interests of the USSR, but retained independence) with Moscow were going through a honeymoon that lasted for a quarter of a century. Everyone respected each other, all was well.

Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle served only ten years as President of the Fifth French Republic (from 1959 to 1969), after which he voluntarily left office without fully serving a second presidential term, which was to end in 1972. De Gaulle is a hero who saved the honour of France, an organiser and a legend of resistance, a man who preserved for his Motherland the status of a great power and fought valiantly for its real repletion. In an attempt to balance the influence of the United States (which openly violated the sovereignty of its European allies), de Gaulle tried to get closer to the USSR.

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As a part of his Eastern policy, he put forward the idea of a “United Europe from the Atlantic to the Ural”, which in current realities has been transformed into the idea of a single political and economic space from Lisbon to Vladivostok (or from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific). Perhaps it was under de Gaulle that the prospect of developing Soviet-French relations was most favourable in the entire 20th century.

Reconstructing the G8?

During a meeting in Brégançon with Russian President Vladimir Putin, his French colleague Emmanuel Macron suddenly took the initiative to restore the “G8” (Russia stopped to be invited to summits, returning to the G7 format, in 2014 “as punishment for Crimea and Donbass”). And Macron also remembered the format “from Lisbon to Vladivostok”. If anything distinguished him from de Gaulle, it is his attentive attitude towards his Russian colleague. You could say Macron wanted to cajole Putin, but it would probably be too crude, so let’s say he wanted to please the president of Russia. The French president is clearly trying to open a new era in relations between Russia and Europe.

Interestingly, his idea of re-establishing the G8 format was not supported by European allies (Germany and Great Britain have already opposed), but by Donald Trump, the President of the United States, whose global interests are objectively threatened by an attempt to create a united Eurasia “from Lisbon to Vladivostok”.

By the way, Vladimir Putin also did not hurry to adopt this initiative. The Russian president asked to put on the table concrete proposals agreed with all members of the G7 so that Russia can assess where its name is and on what terms.

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This is evidence of a sharp weakening of the West and its loss of attractiveness to the Russian elite. Ten years ago, it was hard to imagine that Moscow would doubt the need to participate in the G8, which is an objective reality today.

Today, it is just as difficult for the West to “sell” the G8 to Russia as it failed (despite repeated attempts) to sell Ukraine after the 2014 coup. It’s not that Russia completely refused to accept what was proposed, just every time Moscow was interested in the specific terms of the deal, the West also tried to keep its hands free.

Had it not been for the return to the Gaullist idea of a “united Europe”, which includes Russia (and the President of France has stressed several times that European and global stability without Russia is unthinkable), it could have been assumed that by luring Moscow to G8, Macron is playing in agreement with Trump. Too much, however, contradicts US interests with Macron’s key talking points. It looks more like, having soberly assessed the situation, the President of France has simply decided to outstrip his EU colleagues in restoring relations with Russia.

His defiantly courteous Facebook post, besides being written in Russian, goes far beyond protocol that it cannot be interpreted ambiguously: in the West the race for superiority in recovery of the relations with the Russian Federation started.

Russia is a very deeply European country. We believe in a Europe stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok.

There has been progress concerning many political or economic issues, as we are making efforts to develop Franco-Russian relations.

I am convinced that during this multilateral restructuring we must develop a security and confidence architecture between the European Union and Russia.

Helsinki knows something

By the way, the President of Finland, Sauli Niinistö, went along the same path. Instead of on a Facebook page, he welcomed Vladimir Putin in Russian during the official meeting ceremony. Later, at a press conference, it became clear that Helsinki and Moscow’s positions on the US’ withdrawal from the INF treaty almost coincide. The Finns are also concerned. Since the last century I do not remember such touching unity in the assessment of strategic problems. Apparently, the Finns also know something and also do not want to be late in building constructive cooperation with Moscow.

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However, the Russian president in Helsinki demonstrated Moscow’s firm position that it is the West, which is responsible for the current crisis in relations, that should make concrete proposals for a way out. Compliments to Moscow, of course, are pleasant, but they cannot serve as a basis for agreements. There is a need for specifics that can be discussed. And Russia is not satisfied by the simple proposal to “again enter” into the structures of the West.

In the 1990’s admission to the Council of Europe, the creation of the G7+1 and then G-8 formats were important for Russia as formal signs of its equality with Western partners, which did not really exist. It does not exist now also, only, unlike in the 1990’s, when Moscow needed Western favour, Russia is now the recognised world leader the West needs. Therefore, when asked by a brazen journalist about Russia’s alleged violation of the rules of the Council of Europe, Putin quietly says that if someone does not like something, we can leave the CoE.

And that ends the West’s arguments. Because it becomes clear that an organisation that Russia is not a member of cannot claim European or global status.

Never before has Russia’s new world status been as distinct as it was during these two visits. Coincidence? I don’t think so. It’s rather a trend.

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