Notwithstanding the fact that France was a party to the NATO, EU & G7 statements on the Kerch strait developments, President Macron went ahead with a bilateral meeting with President Putin on the margins of the G-20 summit. Equally significant was the fact that in his (public) opening remarks at that meeting, he first mentioned cooperation on Syria, before talking about the situation in Ukraine, which he linked to the implementation of the Minsk Agreements. He also said he would discuss his ideas on “the common architecture of security and defence in Europe”, which incensed President Trump in Paris and raises hackles in some parts of Europe as well. On this subject, both President Putin and FM Lavrov have declared that the new approach to a European security architecture, including President Macron’s idea of a European Intervention Initiative, is of great interest to Russia.
Such “decoupling” of Europe from the US & NATO has been attempted before (with a stronger political momentum) in the 1990s, after the Cold War. It encountered strong pushback from the US and eventually ran aground on political and economic divisions within Europe. President Macron’s ideas may encounter even stronger headwinds in today’s political climate.
German Chancellor Merkel called President Putin on November 27, after the Kerch Straits incident, in an effort to defuse the crisis. According to the Kremlin, President Putin asked Germany to use its influence to stop Ukraine “from taking further reckless steps”. President Putin subsequently said some measures had been agreed upon to defuse the crisis, though he gave no details.
November 29, 2018