Macron reveals Putin 'guarantees'
French President Emmanuel Macron has claimed a breakthrough in the tense standoff between Russia and Ukraine, taking credit after supposedly obtaining guarantees from his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin that the situation will not escalate further, following a crunch summit between the two heads of state.
Speaking to journalists in Kiev ahead of talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday, Macron claimed that he has secured what he sees as a pledge from Moscow on the matter.
“I obtained that there will be no degradation nor escalation,” he said. “My aim was to freeze the game, to prevent an escalation and open up new perspectives… this objective for me is fulfilled.”
His statement comes shortly after Putin and Macron met in Moscow for head-to-head discussions about the crisis in Ukraine, European security, and bilateral issues that lasted nearly six hours.
The French president stressed the importance of dialogue with Russia, insisting that it “is the sole way of ensuring security and stability in Europe.” Meanwhile, Putin hinted that it was “possible” to move forward on “a number” of proposals put forward by Macron that could help to reduce tensions around Ukraine.
However, responding later the same day, Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov denied that a deal of any kind had been formalized at the summit.
“This is simply not possible…France is a member of NATO, but it is not the leader there - the leadership belongs to a completely different country in the bloc. So what kind of deals can we talk about here?” he said.
The two leaders previously held high-stakes talks by telephone in late January and discussed Moscow’s requests from the US and NATO. According to a Kremlin readout, “American and NATO replies did not take into consideration Russia’s fundamental concerns, such as the prevention of NATO enlargement, the refusal to deploy weapons systems near Russia’s borders and also to return the military potential and infrastructure of the block to the positions of 1997 in Europe when the Russia-NATO Founding Act was signed.”
Earlier in January, Macron began his country’s presidency of the EU by calling for a new “European order,” free of threats, coercion, and spheres of influence. This was widely interpreted as a move that Paris wants to play a more active role in discussions on European security, rather than letting Washington lead the way.
“Both for us and for Russia, for the sake of the security of our continent which is indivisible, we need this dialogue,” the French president said, adding that it should be “a frank and demanding dialogue in the face of destabilization, interference and manipulation.”
In December, Russia had prepared two draft proposals: one addressed to Washington and the other to NATO. One article in the documents requests that Kiev be barred from NATO membership, and that the bloc should refrain from military activity on the territory of the former Warsaw Pact states that were admitted after 1997, following the fall of the Soviet Union.
However, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has refused to compromise on issues the bloc deems to be its core values to meet Russia’s demands. He also said that Moscow has no veto on Ukraine’s efforts to join the ranks, and that it will not accept a “two-tier” membership system that prevents it from deploying soldiers in certain states.