French President Emmanuel Macron will speak by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday, the French leader said Tuesday, vowing to “never give up dialogue with Russia.”
Macron was speaking in Berlin alongside German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who also called for continued talks with Moscow as fears grow that Russia is plotting an invasion of Ukraine after amassing over 100,000 troops at the border. The French president linked his call for dialogue to his pitch for a new European security proposal, which he unveiled last week as a potential longer-term negotiation channel to defuse tensions with Moscow.
“It is … necessary to continue a clear dialogue with Russia because this dialogue is necessary to eliminate any misunderstanding or ambiguity,” Macron said, referring to his phone call with Putin on Friday.
Macron’s overtures to Putin come shortly after U.S. President Joe Biden held a phone call Monday night with numerous European leaders, including Macron, in an attempt to showcase the Western allies’ unity against Russia. After the call, however, an Elysée official noted Macron would make his own diplomatic entreaty to the Russian leader.
“The president will soon meet with Vladimir Putin to, in essence, offer him a path of de-escalation,” the official said.
Macron on Tuesday defended the value of having multiple formats for talking with Russia, even if none of them has yet to diffuse the Ukraine situation. Currently, there are ongoing bilateral talks between the U.S. and Russia, negotiations through the massive Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, as well as halting meetings through the so-called Normandy Format, a platform France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine established in 2014 to discuss an armed conflict in eastern Ukraine.
“Every one of those channels has to be used, fully used, to bring Russia back to a process of de-escalation, to get guarantees, to make sure that we build this new security and stability order,” he said. “That you have guarantees, commitments — apart from the Ukraine issue — to provide security on the borders of our Europe.”
Political envoys from France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine will meet on Wednesday in Paris for preparatory talks in the Normandy Format, aiming to arrange a potential future meeting in Germany of their countries’ leaders.
Yet Macron also stressed that the EU was ready to inflict undefined sanctions imposing a “high cost” on Russia should it pursue further aggression against Ukraine.
“It’s a worrying situation,” Macron said in reference to Russian troops stationed near Ukraine. The French president called for “unity” among EU countries in preparing sanctions — a pressing issue as officials continue to spar over what segments of Russia’s economy they should target.
“We have to prepare a common response, graduated depending on how the further [Russian] maneuvers progress,” Macron said.
Scholz similarly sought to reassure Ukraine that Germany stood by the Eastern European country. Germany has been working to quell Ukrainian frustrations over Berlin’s refusal to export weapons that could help Kyiv defend itself against a potential invasion.
Scholz called on Russia to take “clear steps” toward de-escalation and argued that Ukraine — which accused Berlin over the weekend of insufficient support — could fully count on Germany.
“In recent years, the German government has repeatedly decided not to supply lethal weapons. There are reasons for this, which are of course also based on all the developments of recent years and decades,” Scholz said.
“Nevertheless, we have done a lot to actively support the economic and democratic development in Ukraine, also with the financial means we have,” he said. “Ukraine knows that it can rely on Germany.”