PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron has sparked a new wave of criticism and incomprehension over his calls to avoid humiliating Russia in Ukraine, showing up splits in the Western alliance.
Speaking to French media last Friday, Macron reiterated his belief that Russian leader Vladimir Putin must be given an exit from what he called his “historic and fundamental mistake” of invading Ukraine.
“We must not humiliate Russia so that the day when the fighting stops we can build an exit ramp through diplomatic means,” the French head of state said, reprising an argument he made in early May.
But the statement immediately prompted new tensions with Kyiv where President Volodymyr Zelensky is known to be sceptical about Macron’s insistence on trying to talk Putin into ending the war.
Despite publicly backing Ukraine and authorising weapons deliveries to the besieged country, Macron has made dozens of calls to Putin since the turn of the year.
“I am convinced that it is France’s role to be a mediating power,” Macron added in the interview to regional media.
“Calls to avoid humiliation of Russia can only humiliate France and every other country that would call for it,” Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba replied on social media on Saturday.
He urged Russia to be “put in its place” in order to “bring peace and save lives”.
War crimes –
Macron remarks underline a difference in approach to the conflict between France on one hand and Ukraine, eastern European nations, and the United States and Britain on the other.
Ukraine and its closest allies in the fight against Russia’s aggression see the war as a battle for the survival of Ukrainian statehood and democracy that will only be settled by Russian defeat.
Suspected Russian war crimes, from the murder of civilians to the targeting of housing and other non-military infrastructure, leave no desire for a face-saving compromise with Putin.
Some fear France and Germany are keen for Ukraine to cede territory to end the fighting — although no public statements from Paris or Berlin support this argument.