Security guarantees for Russia are ‘essential’ part of any peace talks, Macron says

BY Roger Cohen

PARIS — An “essential point” in any peace talks on the war in Ukraine should be how to provide security “guarantees to Russia”,  given Moscow’s concerns over NATO, President Emmanuel Macron of France has said.

Macron’s remarks, in a television interview broadcast Saturday (3), picked up a theme he has pursued since before Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, but has not repeated of late. “We need to prepare what we are ready to do, how we protect our allies and member states, and how to give guarantees to Russia the day it returns to the negotiating table,” Macron said.

“One of the essential points we must address — as President Putin has always said — is the fear that NATO comes right up to its doors, and the deployment of weapons that could threaten Russia,” he said.

The interview with TF1, a French television network, appeared sympathetic to the concerns of President Vladimir Putin of Russia and was immediately picked up prominently by TASS, the Russian state news agency. It prompted an angry reaction in Ukraine.

Macron gave the interview during his state visit to the United States, which ended Saturday. It was broadcast as he departed.

During his visit, Macron was at pains to underscore unequivocal French backing for the Ukrainian cause, pledging increased French military support, and President Joe Biden indicated conditional openness to speaking to Putin. On that basis, the two leaders presented a united front.

There was no immediate US reaction to Macron’s remarks, but they appeared to go beyond anything the United States has offered Putin.

David Arakhamia, the chief of the Ukrainian negotiating group in talks with Russia that quickly collapsed early in the war, posted a scathing response to Macron’s proposal on Telegram.

He said that what Russia needed to do for negotiations to begin was “leave the territory of our country; pay reparations; punish all war criminals; voluntarily give up nuclear weapons.”

The last of these demands was a clear reference to the Budapest Memorandum, signed in 1994. Under the accord, Russia was among the states that guaranteed Ukraine’s “independence and sovereignty in the existing borders” in return for Ukraine giving up its nuclear arsenal, but it has since been ignored by Putin.

Since 2019, when he declared the need for the reinvention of “an architecture of security” between the European Union and Russia, Macron has been insistent on the need to draw Russia into a new “stability order” in Europe.

Although he has condemned Putin’s “imperial” invasion with firmness, Macron has apparently not been swayed to reconsider the practicability of any Russian integration into a European security arrangement.

Responding to a tweet from TASS featuring Macron’s remarks, Nicolas Tenzer, a prominent French political scientist and essayist, commented: “Devastating”.

Alina Polyakova, president of the Centre for European Policy Analysis, a research institute based in Washington, commented on Tenzer’s tweet, saying: “You know you’re doing something terribly wrong when the Kremlin’s state propaganda praises you. It seems that no matter how brutal Putin is, Macron can’t let go of his flawed vision.”

There is deep suspicion of Macron’s approach to Russia in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland and other states in the European Union and NATO that were once under the Soviet totalitarian yoke. This has undermined his aspirations to European leadership.

On Feb. 8, shortly before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Putin set out three demands at a joint news conference with Macron in Moscow. These were: an end to NATO enlargement; no missile deployments near Russia’s borders; and a reduction of NATO’s military infrastructure in Europe to its levels in 1997, before the Baltic and central European states previously controlled by Moscow joined the alliance.

The United States dismissed the Russian demands as “non-starters” at the time, but Macron appears to have a more nuanced view.

-New York Times

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