As we detailed earlier, a clear division is arising between Europe and the United States over Washington’s more hawkish and hardline stance on resisting all negotiations with Russia, but instead which is centered on encouraging Kiev to pursuing ‘victory’ on the battlefield. “The fact is, if you look at it soberly, the country that is most profiting from this war is the U.S. because they are selling more gas and at higher prices, and because they are selling more weapons,” one senior European official bluntly complained to Politico last month.
Underscoring that Europe is more ready to pursue avenues of negotiated settlement in Ukraine, over the weekend French President Emmanuel Macron urged for the West to take seriously Russia’s security concerns regarding NATO expansion near its border. He called for greater willingness to give Moscow the “guarantees” necessary for negotiations to be successful. He called them ‘essential’ if the West wants to get serious about talks and peaceful settlement.
“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,” President Macron said in an interview that aired Saturday.
That’s when he underlined something which a mere months ago would elicit rage and accusations of ‘pro-Kremlin’ stooge among Western mainstream punditry. “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,” Macron said.
The timing of the remarks was interesting given the interview was recorded while he was on the US on a state visit to the White House, and it aired as he departed.
According to The New York Times, “The interview with TF1, a French television network, appeared sympathetic to the concerns of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and was immediately picked up prominently by TASS, the Russian state news agency. It prompted an angry reaction in Ukraine.”
While there was no immediate reaction from the Biden administration, the Ukrainian presidency’s office said such negotiations and security guarantees would only be possible “after tribunal, conviction of war authors and war criminals” and the “imposition of large-scale reparations.”
Separately, David Arakhamia, the chief of the Ukrainian negotiating group involved in short-lived ceasefire talks in the opening months of the war, also echoed that Russian forces must first “leave the territory of our country; pay reparations; punish all war criminals; voluntarily give up nuclear weapons.”
The Times further points out that Russian state media was quick to amplify Macron’s interview statements:
Responding to a tweet from TASS featuring Mr. Macron’s remarks, Nicolas Tenzer, a prominent French political scientist and essayist, commented: “Devastating.”
During the summer months and prior, European leaders seemed to tilt toward Washington’s more hardline approach to the conflict, but with the energy crisis becoming more acute and now headed into the winter months it appears a new consensus is emerging.
As another example, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz spoke with President Vladimir Putin on Friday, with the Kremlin side later saying that Scholz admitted the West’s policy on Ukraine is “destructive” and that Berlin may pursue a rethinking of its policy.