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Rachel Marsden: The uncomfortable truths revealed by Emmanuel Macron’s meeting with Vladimir Putin

Tribune Content Agency logoTribune Content Agency 2/8/2022 Rachel Marsden, Tribune Content Agency
Russian President Vladimir Putin during a news conference at the Kremlin in Moscow on Feb. 1, 2022. © (Yuri Kochetkov/Pool/AFP/Getty Images/TNS) Russian President Vladimir Putin during a news conference at the Kremlin in Moscow on Feb. 1, 2022.

PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron paid a visit to Moscow to meet with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, at the Kremlin, before flying to Kyiv for talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. What does it say about Paris’ and Europe’s position toward Moscow? Nothing that establishment Washington would find acceptable, frankly. And that’s a major dilemma for Macron who purports to strive for diplomatic independence while getting frequently caught up in anti-Russian rhetoric.

On the surface, the meeting serves as a convenient opportunity for Macron to burnish his image domestically as a world leader ahead of France’s presidential election in April, and for which the incumbent still hasn’t declared his candidacy. Who could pass up the opportunity for a photo op showing oneself going mano a mano diplomatically with the global leader constantly painted as a Bond villain by Washington and its allies, particularly when it gives Macron an advantage over his domestic political opponents who can’t benefit from the same imagery?

Personally, Macron has everything to gain in meeting with Putin. Despite the perennial hype about some future potential Russian invasion of Ukraine, the appetite for conflict with Russia in Ukraine itself and in most of Europe is simply not there. Macron knows this. So, the high stakes in the Ukrainian conflict are mostly just an optical illusion ginned up by the same Washington establishment hacks who benefit from promoting the idea of a persistent threat of war. Naturally, that threat would necessitate endless spending to the benefit of the national security apparatus and their think-tank activist enablers.

Rachel Marsden wearing a dress shirt and tie © Provided by Tribune Content Agency Rachel Marsden

So, the French taxpayer is picking up the bill for Macron’s Moscow jaunt, enabling his party to save its war chest for the second round of presidential voting or subsequent legislative elections, while Macron gets to play concerned peacemaker for a non-war. That’s certainly the tip of the iceberg — at least from here in Paris.


Video: WATCH: Macron meets Putin to urge de-escalation of Russia-Ukraine tensions (NBC News)

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But there’s a bit more to it. Macron isn’t just the president of the French Republic he’s also the president of the six-month rotating Council of the European Union. And Washington sending troops into Eastern European countries under the pretext of conflict prevention is precisely the kind of undermining of European sovereignty that caused former French President and World War II-era General Charles de Gaulle, a figure for whom Macron has repeatedly claimed admiration, to kick out U.S. troops and pull France out of NATO.

What some Americans fail to understand is that France and French people generally don’t have a negative view of Russia. Many French and Western Europeans see Russia as an important business and trade partner and consider the country to be primarily culturally and geographically European, despite its proximity to (and relationship with) Asia.

Washington has to understand that Western Europeans (notably the nations that dominate the EU) don’t have any interest in fighting with Russia in a military sense, and they certainly have no real appetite for defending the interests of a country (Ukraine) whose own president doesn’t seem interested in conflict with Russia either. President Zelensky, who appears to be mostly reacting to the usual internal corruption-driven pressure placed on him by oligarchs in bed with western economic and political interests, seemingly couldn’t give a toss about the average Ukrainian citizen.

And while Eastern European nations still frequently evoke their history with the former Soviet Union, they’re also the Achilles heel of European autonomy. Siding with their fellow European Union member states to reap the benefits of that association isn’t always compatible with supporting Washington-driven NATO. Because although these nations may technically be members of both, the EU’s best interests and those of Washington are not aligned when it comes to Moscow in this post-Cold War era.

Macron himself has exemplified this schizophrenic mindset of wanting to be a partner of Russia while nonetheless falling in line to do Washington’s bidding against it. The French president has long promoted the notion of an EU independent from both global powers, but in practice his actions and positions have suggested that he cares more about what Washington and special interests that underpin the transatlantic alliance think. Often, the result of this has been anti-Russian rhetoric that betrays Macron’s purported wishes of true French and European independence, as well as a pragmatic, agnostic approach that places equal value in relationships with both the U.S. and Russia.

Macron is pretending to dissipate a conflict with which Europe really isn’t interested in fighting. And Americans really don’t want to, either. So, perhaps it’s time for our leaders to stop the constant warmongering that serves only a few greedy elites who thrive on endless war, chaos, and conflict.

(Rachel Marsden is a columnist, political strategist and host of an independently produced French-language program that airs on Sputnik France. Her website can be found at http://www.rachelmarsden.com.)

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