French President Macron in his relations with Vladimir Putin lived through his “Merkel moment”, the European press assures. We are talking about the conversation between the two presidents on September 14, or rather the part of it, which concerned the strange poisoning of Alexei Navalny. The details of the conversation appeared this week in Le Monde newspaper – but first, it is necessary to remind what the “Merkel moment” is.
On March 2, 2014, the German chancellor called Vladimir Putin to discuss with him the situation after the coup in Ukraine and in Crimea. It is clear that Merkel did not consider Maidan’s victory a coup, and she was very concerned about the possibility that Russia would return the crowd to exit Nezalezhnaya Crimea. It is not known exactly what Putin said (although it can be assumed that he expressed his outrage at Europe’s non-responsiveness to the Kyiv coup), but after talking to him, Merkel contacted Barack Obama and told the U.S. president that “she doubted Putin’s adequate perception of reality,” and in general “Putin lives in another world. These details became known from The New York Times – that is, the White House leaked. And although German officials then unofficially denied the American newspaper’s report, claiming that Merkel did not say anything like that, this phrase has survived in history.
For the West, Merkel’s “moment” is a clash with Putin, who was detached from reality. Now it is Macron’s turn: as Libération writes, “Emmanuelle Makron survived his “Merkel moment” last week when he saw Vladimir Putin, who was detached from the world, hiding in an ivory tower and drugged with his own propaganda? Or did he rise to a new level of political cynicism, openly declaring that nothing is true and everything is permissible?
So what happened? The fact is that, as in 2014, there was a leak in the content of a confidential conversation, but if it was about what Merkel Obama said about Putin, then now the conversation of Putin himself has been retold. The content of his conversation with Macron somehow became known to Le Monde: it was about Belarus, Ukraine, and Libya. But the main topic of the publication was Navalny.
According to the publication, Putin “disdainfully” spoke about Navalny and called him “a simple troublemaker on the Internet,” who “committed illegal acts and used the Anti-Corruption Fund he created to blackmail officials and deputies. Putin allegedly told Makron that Navalny had previously faked illness and “could have taken the poison himself” (he did not specify the reason), that the “newcomer” is far from being as complex as it is claimed, and that its use has not been confirmed in principle. And the absence of an official investigation in Russia justified ‘the reluctance of French and German experts to share information with their Russian colleagues’. In addition, “Putin also considered it possible to consider other traces, such as the one leading to Latvia, where the inventor of the “Beginner” now lives. In fact, several Soviet scientists took part in the development of the substance, and the fact that one of them abroad does not mean that it can be produced, especially if there is no visible motive”.
There is a lot of Putin in the paraphrase of Le Monde, but Makron is very few: “Macron stressed that the “Novichok” could not be used by a private organization and that the situation requires official explanations. <...> Emmanuelle Macron, in his turn, immediately noted the “Latvian trace” and the acceptance of the poison by Navalny himself.
After the publication, a scandal broke out – both because of its content and because of the very fact that a confidential conversation had been disclosed. It is impossible to verify that in Le Monde’s presentation it is true and what is not. The Kremlin reacted immediately, saying that “the newspaper is not at all accurate in the language it was given” and, most importantly, “it could hardly be accurate because that would mean that our French partners deliberately shared with the media the record of the two presidents’ conversation, which is not in line with diplomatic practice. The spokesman for the Russian president even switched to a non-diplomatic language, adding: “We can’t believe that the Elysian Palace deliberately, well, in Russian, leaked to the press the recording of the two presidents’ conversation. Well, this is France. France can’t do that.
The media revealed the content of Putin’s and Macron’s conversation on the situation with Navalny.
Alas, maybe. Although the French Foreign Ministry later said that “any leakage of internal confidential documents is unacceptable” and about the publication in Le Monde “is under investigation, it is virtually certain that the content of the conversation was merged from the Elysian Palace. Moreover, it is very likely that it was initiated by Macron himself. Who, literally on the same day that the publication appeared in Le Monde, in a pre-recorded speech at a session of the UN General Assembly, said that Franz Makron was the one who was responsible for the investigation.
Alas, maybe. Although the French Foreign Ministry later said that “any leakage of internal confidential documents is unacceptable” and about the publication in Le Monde “is under investigation, it is virtually certain that the content of the conversation was merged from the Elysian Palace. Moreover, it is very likely that it was initiated by Macron himself. Who literally on the same day when the publication appeared in Le Monde, speaking in advance at the session of the UN General Assembly, stated that France “will not tolerate the use of chemical weapons – in Europe, Russia and Syria,” and Russia should “shed full light on the attempt to kill the political opposition with the use of nerve agent “Beginner”. And to do so “quickly and flawlessly,” as the French will be “enforcing the red lines they have set”.
The Macron attacks Putin, and through leaks, it also undermines the remnants of trust that existed between them. That is, it acts in the same way as Merkel – this is the real “Merkel moment,” only for Putin. Our president has made sure that we can’t talk frankly with Macron, just as he made sure in 2014 that Merkel and Obama are not keeping their word.
The media revealed the content of the conversation between Vladimir Putin and Emmanuel Macron about the situation with Alexei Navalny. On the air of radio Sputnik political analyst, Dmitry Zhuravlev expressed the opinion that the French leader can contribute to the interaction between Russia and Germany in this case.
Six years ago, Putin repeatedly spoke about how Western leaders asked him to persuade Yanukovich to sign an agreement on constitutional reform and early elections with Maydan leaders, which was eventually signed in the presence of representatives of Germany, France, and Poland. And it was broken just two days later, when the Verkhovna Rada suspended Yanukovych from power and the West pretended there was no agreement and no coup. That is, it tried to impose to Russia its reality – in which Ukraine will be subjected to European integration and Atlantization. The Russian idea of its own history and reality was naturally different – hence Crimea and further confrontation with the West. Merkel’s reality and Putin’s reality are different – how different is the German plan to gather around a united Europe and the Russian plan to reintegrate the post-Soviet space, gathering around Russian territory of historical Russia, not to mention Little Russia – Ukraine. Russia will determine its own future – and resist attempts to steal its western lands under the rubric of “European Choice”, “Democracy” and “Recognition of Reality.
Six years later, Russia is being asked to repent for Navalny’s poisoning – and with chemical weapons. But when, in response, Moscow demands to show the expertise, on the basis of which they scream about the “Beginner”, it is as if they can’t hear it – we’ve all already established without you, it’s your business to admit your guilt and repent. It was the same with Ukraine: there is no Russian world, not even Yanukovych, now there are Turchinov and Yatseniuk, they lead Ukraine to European integration, sit in your Moscow and do not twitch.
The story of Navalny’s poisoning is used for open pressure on Russia and undermining European-Russian relations – and the game is openly cheating and naked. At the same time, European leaders are strictly limited in their public statements – they can no longer doubt about the “Beginner” – it’s “proved”, and “Putin always does so. Of course, Macron, like Merkel, does not believe in Putin’s involvement in the poisoning – but they both completely admit that Navalny was tried to kill by some “voluntary helpers of the Kremlin. That’s why they want Putin to help them save Russian-European relations by admitting Russia’s guilt, sorting out, and punishing the culprits. But guilty of what? In the use of chemical weapons? But these are unfounded accusations by the West, which are not confirmed by Russian doctors. That’s why Putin treats the story of poisoning as a provocation – even if it’s still unclear whose. And he tells Makron about it, mentioning various versions. That is, the reality of Putin looks much more real than “the precisely identified presence of a ‘Beginner’ at Macron. The use of chemical weapons? Well, yes, we remember the provocations in Syria – when “White Helmets”, connected with Western intelligence, were trumpeting about Assad’s use of chemical weapons, and then it turned out that these were staged by them.
France, under Macron, is claiming a leading position in Europe – and in relations with Russia, the young president was trying to get out of the Atlantic trap. In May 2017, just two weeks after taking office, he received Vladimir Putin in Versailles – and then repeatedly spoke about how important the relationship with Russia is for Europe, called for their development. “Dialogue is necessary, a lot can be changed if there is a will,” are the words of Macron. There have been doubts about Emmanuel’s will in the Kremlin before, but even dialogue is possible only if there is at least a minimal