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Vladimir Putin has won round the French elite, not just Macron - The Telegraph - 08.06.22

The President’s appeasement of Russia is alarmingly representative of establishment opinion says Anne-Elisabeth Moutet – for the Telegraph - 8 June 2022

Pity, if you can, Emmanuel Macron, determined to achieve his performative brand of peace diplomacy to solve the Ukrainian crisis. Dmytro Kuleba, the Ukrainian Foreign secretary, dismissed French advice, saying “France only humiliates herself when warning against humiliating Russia”. Over a hundred days of telephone calls with Vladimir Putin and flying visits to Moscow have even ended up being mocked on the pro-government Rossiya1 television channel this weekend.

“I read recently that Macron kept count of how much time he spent on the phone with Vladimir Putin. Before each call, he has pictures of himself [by official Élysée photographer Soazig de la Moissonière]” started Henry Sardaryan, the channel’s chief political analyst, in a rehearsed skit with Vladimir Solovyov, the station’s star presenter.

“Macron keeps calling all the time! Putin wouldn’t take all his calls!...We now have a new word: ‘Macronitis’. It means calling often, for no reason,” Solovyov shot back, to studio laughter.

Well, it’s possibly funnier in the original, but the point was made. All the carefully balanced statements from France, the appeals to a prompt ceasefire, the calls for an “exit strategy” that would enable Vladimir Putin to “save face”, were of no use whatsoever.

Like many before him, Macron, who last month decided to dissolve the French diplomatic corps so that any civil servant or talented individual can now represent France abroad, has just run against the brick wall of negotiation with a totalitarian power. His vaunted charm, which served him so well to achieve the Élysée job, may work in French politics – but not in the real world.

This doesn’t mean that Macron himself is especially pro-Putin, or for that matter structurally anti-American, one of the structuring motivations of a significant part of the French elites. He is a political opportunist, not an ideologue. Of principles he has few, and those are always adaptive.

But he is also perfectly aware that French opinion, where the notion of right and wrong is often derided as “simplistic”, stands far less firmly behind Ukraine than, say, Britain’s, or Poland’s. Try and argue that one nation was attacked and the other is the attacker, and you get pitying looks. You must see further.

Ukraine should give up the Donbass, “which is Russian anyway” (say the instant experts, who a month ago knew everything about the evils of vaccination, etc.) “France must not be dragged by the Ukrainians into a world war.” I have broken up with friends of decades when I suggested they would have given up the Sudetenland in 1938 at Munich.

For years, Russia has worked carefully, and cleverly, at detaching chunks of the French political, religious and intellectual world to her side. Russian think tanks hired Eurosceptic academics, Russian media (French RT and Sputnik, now closed) invited French presenters to have their own, well-funded shows. French politicians left and right were invited to intellectual conferences in Moscow and Petersburg.

The French military were wooed with memories of the Great Patriotic War, of the French-Russian air squadron Normandie-Niémen, even a reassessment of Napoleon’s retreat from Russia. A down-on-his-luck former Europarliamentary assistant to Jean-Marie Le Pen, Pierre Malinowski, set up, directly for Vladimir Putin, a ‘Foundation for the development of French-Russian historical initiatives’, which organised archaeological research on Napoleonic and Crimean war battlefields, with an aim to repatriating the remains of “French heroes” to France – and befriending the French Army’s highest spheres.

French Catholic Church grandees were invited to ecumenical events in Putin’s brand new Holy Trinity Cathedral, a rather ugly modern building with showy golden bulbs built by the French architects Wilmotte, close to the Eiffel Tower. Likewise, French special advisers of all stripes were cultivated, with varying degrees of success. The too obviously pro-Russian ones lose influence, but there are enough ones that the French have a name for them: “Poutinolâtres”.

But in too many places, the undercurrent is still that we should not take risks for a small country of which we know little. Once again, Poland and Britain are showing us what moral courage means.

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Vladimir Putin has won round the French elite - by Anne-Elisabeth Moutet - for the Telegra
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