PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron condemned Vladimir Putin’s “despicable war” on Ukraine, but said he would keep lines of communication open with the Russian president to try to convince him to stop his deadly military offensive .
“It is alone and deliberately that, denying [his previous] commitments… President Putin has chosen war,” the French president said in a televised speech Wednesday evening.
Addressing a domestic audience, Macron was keen to counter Putin’s false narrative that the war was a defensive move against NATO’s eastward expansion.
“This war is not a conflict between NATO and the West on the one hand, and Russia on the other…there are no NATO troops or bases in Ukraine. These are lies,” Macron said. “Russia is not attacked, it is the aggressor.”
Several of Macron’s rivals in the campaign leading up to the April presidential election have until recently argued that Putin was legitimate in his grievances.
Denouncing Putin’s “unbearable propaganda”, Macron also said the war was not “a fight against Nazism”. This is a lie. An insult to the history of Russia and Ukraine, to the memory of our elders who fought side by side against the Nazis.
While strongly condemning Putin’s actions, the French president said he would maintain an open line of communication with the Kremlin to stop the conflict spreading.
“I have chosen to stay in contact as much as possible and necessary with President Putin to try to convince him to lay down his arms…and prevent the spread and widening of the conflict.”
Macron also sought to draw a distinction between the Russian president and his people.
“We are not at war with Russia,” said the French president. “Today we are on the side of all Russians who, refusing that an ignoble war be waged in their name, have the spirit of responsibility and the courage to defend peace.”
Call for European defense
The French president called on Europe to invest more in its security, echoing his long-standing position that the continent needs to strengthen its defense and strategic capabilities.
Europe “must agree to pay the price of peace”, Macron said.
“We cannot let others defend us; whether on land, at sea, under the sea, in the air, in space or in cyberspace,” Macron said.
“Our European defense must take a new step. On March 10 and 11 in Versailles, I will bring together European heads of state and government for a summit to decide on these issues,” he said, referring to a high-level meeting scheduled under the banner of the French rotating presidency of the Council of the EU.
“Europe has shown unity and determination, it has entered a new era. We must continue,” he added.