Versailles, witness to Macron’s diplomatic troubles with Putin

POLITICS – Emmanuel Macron is ending his five-year diplomatic term where he started it: at the Palace of Versailles. The President of the Republic is organizing a two-day European summit, Thursday 10 and Friday 11 March, largely devoted to the war in Ukraine. Ironically, it was under the same gilt he received Vladimir Putin five years earlier.

In May 2017, newly elected, the head of state invited his Russian counterpart for a lavish official visit to the former royal residence, with its red carpet and Republican Guard. The purpose of the maneuver? Stage the warming of relations between Paris and Moscow, even if it means criticizing part of the French political class.

“It is a matter of honoring generously, of registering this meeting in time, so much so that the place symbolizes the state in what it has most preciously,” explains the then documentary filmmaker Frédéric Biamonti, author of the film Versailles, kings, princesses and presidents, in the columns ofparisian, about the welcome with much fanfare from the master of the Kremlin. Another time.

From gold to disorder

A photo in the Galerie des Batailles and a handful of interviews later, Emmanuel Macron was open about the Russians’ return to international discussions, banned since the annexation of Crimea in 2014. “No essential issue can be dealt with without dialogue with Russia,” he said. came to the fore especially during this visit, without avoiding the many subjects of tension, according to the account of his entourage at the time.

Since that date, the President of the Republic has always been careful to spare his counterpart through more and more gestures of reconciliation. At least a way to maintain a bond. The two leaders have met several times, in Russia, on the sidelines of the World Cup or in front of an economic forum in St Petersburg.

Not content to receive him in Versailles in 2017, the tenant of the Elysée returned the cover two years later by inviting him in the summer of 2019 to the Fort de Brégançon, one of the residences of French presidents. Despite “the misunderstandings of recent decades, the debates about relations with the West”, Russia is “European”, he explained with Vladimir Putin, calling for “reinventing an architecture of security and trust between the European Union, Europe and Russia”.

That was only three years ago. We are very far from it today, as the agenda of the European summit organized in Versailles shows. If the French president continues to engage in dialogue with his counterpart to achieve a ceasefire in Ukraine, without diplomatic success, this summit will be completely dominated by the threat he represents.

Europe in search of sovereignty

So the theater is the same as it was five years ago, but the tone and the main characters are different. No longer a question of “architecture of trust with Russia”… but of an answer.

“It is the apex of the European wave, of European sovereignty”, we are told on the side of the Elysée to present the stakes of this meeting. On the agenda: How to reduce the old continent’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels? How to diversify the energy supply? How to speed up the famous Europe of defense? Or build the sovereignty of the 27 over certain key sectors? It is clear that these two days of more or less formal exchanges must revolve around the consequences of the war in Ukraine for the countries of the European Union.

Often criticized for its slowness, it is clear that this time the EU has acted swiftly and forcefully against the Kremlin regime by enacting a total of five different sets of sanctions.

“Over the past two weeks, European coordination has been very close, with historic speed and unity (…) in close contact with the other NATO member states and the G7 countries,” the French president welcomed on Wednesday, just before meeting his colleagues. at Versailles. Two days to rejoin the ranks and send a new message of unity from this jewel of French culture.

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