Macron suggested that the EU hold talks with Russia. The European Union collapsed, and the American Apparatchiks followed.


French President Emmanuel Macron might as well jab a stick in the wasp’s nest in his opening speech to his six-month EU presidency. He took the liberty of suggesting that avoiding war with Russia was a good idea and that the EU was an interested party and should have a seat at the negotiating table.

The Guardian recaps Macron’s speech:

The EU must start its own negotiations with Russia and not rely on Washington, French President Emmanuel Macron has said when warning of the prospect of “the most tragic thing – war”.

In a wide-ranging speech in Strasbourg, Macron said it was not enough for the United States to negotiate with the Kremlin over its threat to peace, but that Europe needed to hear its voice.

Macron said he hoped to revive the so-called Normandy model of four-way talks between Russia, Germany, France and Ukraine to find a solution to the escalating crisis.

The French president, speaking at the start of his country’s six-month EU presidency, told MEPs: “I think our credibility with Russia lies mainly in having a very demanding dialogue.

“We see this from the ongoing dialogue between the US and Russia. I think it’s good to have coordination between Europe and the US, but it’s crucial that Europe has its own dialogue with Russia.”

Brussels officials have insisted that Russia has been unable to divide the West in recent months as it has amassed more than 100,000 troops on its border with Ukraine.

But for all the protests over a unified approach, the EU was excluded from talks last week between Russia and the United States, NATO and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

The fact that Macron is a grand neoliberal does not mean that he is occasionally incorrect. The US’s current gaze on Russia is acting as if the EU’s interests are irrelevant and it can see the continent as America’s governor. And the fact that the US has frozen the EU out of the latest round of talks means that Macron, speaking on behalf of the EU, has legitimate grievances.

A smaller but still significant potential benefit of Macron’s speech outside the school is that he is forced to openly discuss the interests of the EU and France’s escalation with Russia. Macron broke through the so-called Harlem deviation. In his book “The Uncensored War” on Vietnam, historian Daniel C. Haring describes how the media draws lines around what can be reported. As Wikipedia summarizes:

Haring divides the world of political discourse into three concentric spheres: consensus, legitimate controversies, and deviations. In the field of consensus, journalists assume that everyone agrees. The range of legitimate disputes includes standard political debate, and journalists should remain neutral. The range of deviation is beyond the realm of legitimate debate, and journalists can ignore it. These boundaries change as public opinion changes.

Saying that the EU’s interests in Ukraine are different from those of the US is forbidden in mainstream English-language media. It’s as if Victoria Newland never said “go to his EU”…think it either didn’t, or just barely got a mention in the orthodox media.

And there may be some “revenge is the best cold food” operation:

What was shocking was the backlash against Macron’s remarks. There is a theoretical objection that he should not catch EU security agencies by surprise, whatever that means (one assumes the same secretive, cunning nimble power brokers as the US). But Macron could not have delivered such a message without prior consultation without being forced to play down it significantly. So one could see the speech as yet another demonstration of Macron’s exaggerated sense of his and France’s importance, or the sensation he needs to make if he wants to regain the EU’s seat at the negotiating table. .

Reactions on Twitter were largely chauvinistic. One of the few exceptions:

The Pink newspaper also has an account claiming that unnamed officials in France and Brussels have tried to retract Macron’s remarks.from Paris and Brussels reassure US after Macron calls for EU to negotiate with Russia:

France and the European Union tried on Thursday to reassure the United States that Europeans remained committed to Washington-led talks with Russia after French President Emmanuel Macron called for a clear EU dialogue with Moscow to avoid Conflict in Ukraine further…

French officials insist Macron’s call for the EU to talk with Russia is not against the continued U.S. talks, which are aimed at strengthening, not undermining, NATO unity.

“We are in favour of very close coordination with the United States,” said one of Macron’s advisers. “We found that it strengthens the power of France and Germany in negotiations with Russia. . . the Americans are talking to the Russians to deal with a disorderly and extremely dangerous situation.”

Macron suggested the EU have a separate dialogue with Russia and called on Europe to put forward proposals for a “new security and stability order” within a few weeks, followed by discussions among NATO allies, the adviser said: “It’s called coordination, it’s important shape European unity and strengthen the unity of the NATO alliance.”

An EU diplomat said Macron’s call was the “first” reference in Paris to Europe-only talks, while another said the French push had not been coordinated with partners before the speech.

I find this unconvincing. When Biden very clumsily suggested that the U.S. would respond accordingly in Ukraine, he pulled it back within 24 hours. We’ll wait and see if Macron says anything tomorrow. The effort to put Macron’s rhetoric genie back in the bottle looks a lot like politicians defending their pet interests and relationships.

It’s worth noting that the FT quoted an unidentified Macron adviser…and he really doesn’t appear to be in the circle as far as this speech is concerned. As for EU diplomats, we’ve seen the FT’s coverage of Europe over the years, first on the Greek debt talks in 2015 and then on Brexit, with more sources among European diplomats than RTE’s Tony Kang. Tony Connelly’s sources are much narrower and above all skewed towards British friends, like Eastern Europeans. So while Macron doesn’t appear to be warning anyone in the EU, if it does, it certainly won’t be them.

Again, this part is equivalent to the official non-answer question in diplomatic language:

Asked if the European Commission supported Macron’s proposal, a spokesman said on Thursday that the EU’s approach to Russia was being “formulated within the EU and within the framework of ongoing engagement and coordination between the EU and transatlantic partners, such as such as the United States, Canada, NATO and the OSCE”.

However, a substantial problem arose:

Following Macron’s statement being lauded in the Strasbourg parliament, the EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, held a phone call with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who agreed that the need “A strong, clear and united transatlantic front,” according to Borrell’s team readings.

I welcome criticism from those who know Europe and the EU better than I do. However, whether by accident or by design, the account of Borrell’s conversation with Blinken suggests that Macron has no legitimate say in the debate. That’s fake. The Council of the European Union has the final say on European foreign policy. Borrell reports to the Council of the European Union. Macron is a member of the European Council.

During Brexit, Macron will stick to certain principles, sometimes with himself, sometimes with only a small group of supporters, at key moments, albeit often irritating. While Macron rarely gets what he wants, he often does make an impact.

The timing, however, is not in Macron’s favor to slow America’s war train. The opening speech of the EU presidency was the logical venue for Macron to make his case. But that was Wednesday, and the next round of talks, in which the EU is again excluded, will be held in Geneva on Friday. So even if Macron’s intervention finds a sympathetic audience beyond MPs, it’s too early for his ideas to gain enough momentum to make an impact.





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