Although the shape of a solution to the showdown is still unclear and the Kremlin continues to push for security guarantees that the US and NATO have called non-starters, Macron has said he and Putin were beginning to build a “constructive arrangement”, which was “mutually acceptable” to Russia and the rest of Europe to “help us avoid war”.
“This dialogue is absolutely essential, more than ever, to ensure the stability and security of the European continent,” Macron said in remarks broadcast on Russian state television during a meeting shortly after arriving at the Kremlin.
Putin said the two countries shared a “common concern” about the security situation in Europe. “I see how much effort the current leaders of France and personally the President of France are making to resolve the crisis associated with ensuring equal security in Europe,” he added, calling the issue “ resolution of the intra-Ukrainian crisis”. a phase that presents the conflict in the Donbass as a purely internal Ukrainian affair and avoids mentioning Russia’s role in it.
Ahead of the meeting, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said her government was ready to apply “unprecedented sanctions” against Russia if the Kremlin failed to defuse tensions with Ukraine, adding that “the bullet is firmly in the camp of Moscow”.
“We will do everything so that there is no further escalation. We have therefore jointly prepared a series of tough measures against Russia for this eventuality,” Baerbock said.
“These unprecedented sanctions were coordinated and prepared with the approval of all partners,” she added.
Scholz, who took over from Angela Merkel in December, has taken a softer approach to Russia than the United States and its allies. Germany has not joined the United States, France, Spain and other allies in bolstering troops along NATO’s eastern flank. He has also been reluctant to provide lethal aid, refusing to allow NATO ally Estonia to send German-made howitzers to Ukraine and mocking him for sending thousands of helmets instead of weapons.
According to a statement from the Elysee Palace, Macron and Biden agreed on Sunday to capitalize on the “positive progress” made in the Normandy format – a grouping of France, Germany, Ukraine and Russia – to strengthen the Minsk agreements, a ceasefire protocol. signed by Ukraine and Russia in 2015 after Russia annexed Crimea and fomented a rebellion in eastern Ukraine. Despite the agreement, the two sides have not experienced a stable peace.
In Moscow, Macron presented himself as a “quality interlocutor”, as Putin described him, according to a French presidential official. The official told reporters on Friday that one of Macron’s objectives for the talks was to try to balance “the new security order in Europe, including regional security guarantees and the role and capacity of the European Union to take charge of its own security”, alongside its commitments to the United States and NATO.
The stakes couldn’t be higher. Macron seeks to prevent Russia’s massive military buildup of more than 100,000 troops from turning into a war and assuage Russia’s security grievances, which include demands to bar Ukraine and Georgia from membership of the alliance and a withdrawal of troops from the region. .
“I’m reasonably optimistic but I don’t believe in spontaneous miracles,” Macron told reporters on the flight to the Russian capital, according to CNN affiliate BFM TV, which was traveling with the French president.
Moscow, on the other hand, had been more cautious about the planned meeting. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday that the Russian government had seen nothing new in response to its security demands.
“At the moment the atmosphere remains extremely tense,” Peskov added.
Joseph Ataman and Camille Knight of CNN in Paris contributed to this report.