Eastern Europeans issue demarche to France over Ukraine

Eastern Europeans issue demarche to France over Ukraine
French President Emmanuel Macron has taken an active posture with regard to negotiating with Russian President Vladimir Putin. / bne IntelliNews
By bne IntelliNews December 14, 2022

East European states have sent a demarche to Paris to protest against President Emmanuel Macron’s comments on the need to give Russia security guarantees as part of negotiations to end its war against Ukraine, Reuters reported.

On December 12 the Czech Republic, the current European Union rotating president, the three Baltic states, Poland and Slovakia co-signed a letter formally lodging their disapproval and explaining their position to France, diplomats told Reuters. The news agency said it had not been able to confirm the list of countries that had signed the letter, which had been drafted by Prague.

Macron had told French TV station TF1 on December 3 that Europe needed to prepare its future security architecture and also think "how to give guarantees to Russia the day it returns to the negotiating table".

Macron has become Europe's leading statesman since the retirement of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He has taken an active posture with regard to negotiating with Russian President Vladimir Putin, meeting him in Moscow on February 7 just before the invasion, and later talking to him frequently remotely.

He has consistently called for measures to reassure Moscow. Earlier this year he said that Putin should not be “humiliated”, as this would endanger any long-term peace.

However, at the same time France has stepped up military aid to Kyiv, and has consulted regularly with President Volodomyr Zelinskiy. Macron said in June that France would never demand any concessions from Ukraine to end the war.

A French presidency official said there was nothing new in Macron's comments, claiming that they had been taken “out of context”, and were in line with Ukraine’s recognition that after the war there would be a negotiation.

"In fact, there is a discrepancy, in other words, between on the one hand certain movements or certain people who are trying to ... isolate a piece of a sentence outside of its context and the reality of the work that we carry out which really is done without difficulty," the official told Reuters.

Eastern European critics argue that Paris’ ambiguous stance threatens to fracture the West’s unity against Russia, and emboldens Putin to continue prosecuting the war until he wins concessions.

Zelenskiy's top aide, Mykhailo Podolyak, said it was the world that needed security guarantees from Russia, not the other way around.

The East Europeans argue that Putin needs to be “humiliated” in order to prevent him launching aggression again, and that discussing Europe’s future security architecture with the Kremlin is giving in to his outdated and immoral demand that, as a great power, Russia deserves a say in the foreign policy of its neighbours to the west. The demarche argued that previous Russian efforts regarding European security architecture had just aimed to divide and weaken Europe.

France’s stance has also undermined Macron's own agenda to beef up European "strategic autonomy" separate from the US, critics say, and pushed Eastern European states to cling even more tightly to US protection.