Macron in kyiv: ‘historic’ turning point?

With his trip to kyiv and his declarations of support for a “victory” for Ukraine, Macron rectifies an ambiguous position that had isolated France and, worse, undermined its position in Europe. Is the change of course coming too late?

In a note published by the Montaigne Institute on June 8, we suggest that the French authorities would do well to change their approach to the affair ukrainian Probably because he had come to a similar conclusion, the French president, Emmanuel Macron, went to kyiv on June 16, accompanied by the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, and the Italian Prime Minister, mario draghi. The Three Wise Men were four, since the president of Romania, Klaus Iohannis, was also on the trip. The latter provided a kind of guarantee of Eastern Europe to the messages of the leaders of the three main European countries.

For Macron, it was above all about clarifying his position on a number of points – the desirable outcome of the war, the relationship with Russiathe application for membership of Ukraine to European Union– about which his previous remarks had caused irritation or annoyance among the Ukrainians themselves or among some EU Member States.

the ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, described as “historic” the visit of the French president and his German and Italian colleagues, long awaited by his compatriots. Could we speak of an exaggeration on the part of a gracious host? In fact, perhaps not, for two kinds of reasons.

A perspective for Ukraine

In the first place, we must take into account the moment in which this movement takes place in terms of the military situation. The Russians have refocused their efforts on Donbas and the south of the country. They are waging a fierce war Of Attrition, based above all on the massive use of artillery, in which they have regained some superiority. They are making progress, albeit slowly, but they are making progress. The battle is very expensive in terms of men, maybe two or three hundred a day on the Ukrainian side. We are then at a very painful stage of the war for the Ukrainians. This is what made Macron’s insistence on “not humiliating Russia” particularly annoying to them.

This same period of difficulties leads kyiv to demand above all an immediate increase in Western arms deliveries. The president of United States, Joe Biden, has just announced a new effort on the part of his country. Macron also announced the shipment of six new Caesar guns, in addition to the six already delivered and another six in transit. However, the effect of Western arms transfers will only be felt over time. Therefore, the Ukrainians also needed hope. The four visitors managed to give it to him, firstly by their presence and, secondly, by indicating that the prospect of a European future for Ukraine was drawing ever closer.

«The main announcement of the visit was that Draghi, Macron and Scholz supported the immediate acceptance by the EU of the Ukrainian candidacy»

The main announcement of the visit was that Draghi, Macron and Scholz supported the immediate acceptance by the EU of the Ukrainian candidacy; the German had remained reticent until then and the French were not sure. The European Commission released its opinion the following day, June 17, which coincided with the position of the three: the immediate acceptance of Ukraine’s candidate status in the EU. This formula, accompanied by a roadmap, is less satisfactory for the Ukrainians than accepting immediate accession, as kyiv would have initially wanted, but more favorable than deferred and conditional acceptance – the procedure reserved for Georgia by the Commission. Some Member States, such as Portugal and the Netherlands, have not yet commented on this. However, the fact that the three largest Member States have positioned themselves in favor of the immediate admission of the application should tip the balance in this direction at the European Council on June 23-24. It should be noted that Ursula Von der Leyen he went to kyiv on June 11 (for the second time) to prepare the ground.

The Russians immediately ironized on the announcements of the three leaders and later of the Commission. The foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, He called it an “empty promise.” The ex-president Dmitry Medvedev he was very sarcastic. In fact, the prompt acceptance of Ukraine’s application for EU membership – following the request for Finland Y Sweden to enter the NATO– is a setback for Moscow. It was around the question of a simple association agreement between the EU and kyiv that was triggered by the Russo-Ukrainian crisis of 2014. Furthermore, the war is likely to drag on for months and continue to take its bloody toll in human lives. However, it is conceivable that the Russians, due to the limits of their ability to mobilize fighters, will not be able to go much further than their current military gains on the ground.

This context gave full meaning to the “message of support and solidarity” – indeed, a true message of hope – that the European visitors had come to bring.

Towards a new dynamic for Europe?

With his visit to kyiv, the French president tried to correct an image of insufficient firmness against Russia that scandalized the Ukrainians, but also generated misunderstandings in the rest of Europe. The problem was also raised for the German chancellor and the Italian prime minister.

It can be said that the visit raised two possible scenarios: first, as we have seen, the European perspective of Ukraine; secondly, a possible division between the Member States. If the positions had remained fixed on both sides, the opposition would have returned Ronald Rumsfeld he theorized at the time between an “Old Europe” –around the Franco-German couple– and a “New Europe” –around Poland, the Baltic and the Nordic countries– supported by the United Kingdom. If this danger recedes, two questions will arise in the very short term: will the rediscovered unity be able to allow the EU to rebound? What role can France play in facilitating this?

“It can be said that the visit gave rise to two possible scenarios: first, that of Ukraine’s European perspective; secondly, that of a possible division between the Member States of the EU»

Historical analogies always have their limits. But let us dare draw a parallel between German reunification – a happy event – ​​and the war in the Ukraine, a disastrous event. By the will of Francois Mitterrand Y Helmut Kohl, German reunification took place within the framework of a strengthening of European integration; The 2+4 treaty on the settlement of the German question was followed by the Maastricht treaty which, among other things, paved the way for the euro zone. The objective of the Europeans in the current situation should be that the eventual accession of Ukraine to the EU – and certainly of other states such as Moldova – would lead to an adaptation of the Union’s structures to a new, much more hostile world. This is certainly what the French president had in mind in his speech on May 9 in Strasbourg when he spoke of the need to revise the treaties, to rethink “our geography and the organization of our continent”, proposing in this regard the idea of one european political community. Without losing sight of other imperatives such as the need for “strategic independence”, which requires a greater effort in defense.

To advance those plans, Macron needs to convince the other Europeans. With his trip to kyiv, and his declarations of support for a “victory” for Ukraine, he has given himself the means to rectify an approach which, by isolating Paris, has led to undermining his position in Europe. Isn’t it a little late? By letting doubt hang in the air for too long, hasn’t the president deprived himself of some of his influence? By maintaining at your kyiv conference your formula about the need not to humiliate Russia “not now, but at the end of this war,” have you completely eliminated any suspicion of ambiguity about Moscow?

In short, the visit to kyiv by the French president in the company of his German, Italian and Romanian counterparts undoubtedly marked a turning point, perhaps historic, but, above all for France, a turning point that will be confirmed in the coming weeks and months.

Article originally published in the Web of the Montaigne Institute.

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Written by Editor TLN

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