For a man who likes to present himself as a Jupiter-like statesman, gliding across the world stage, Emmanuel Macron’s efforts at diplomacy have fallen remarkably flat in recent months. While Britain spent the weeks before the Russian invasion of Ukraine shifting weapons to Kyiv – to demonstrable effect now – Macron instead responded to the troop build-up by going on a doomed diplomatic mission to Moscow. Unsurprisingly, his face to face with Putin, across an absurdly long table in the Kremlin, did not work out.
Undeterred, Macron has spent the weeks following the invasion keeping up a close relationship with Putin, and has spoken a number of times to the bloated authoritarian on the phone. It’s an approach that has not gone down well in Ukraine at least, with President Zelensky hitting out at Macron this week, saying his dialogue with Putin is ‘in vain’.
But now could Macron’s have-a-go diplomacy also be fraying tempers in the rest of Eastern Europe?
Mr S was interested to see the prime minister of Estonia’s remarks at an international security conference this week. At the event, Kaja Kallas singled out for criticism those who keep trying to reach out to Putin with repeated phone calls, saying:
“‘I feel that if everybody is constantly calling him, he doesn’t get the message that he’s isolated. So if we want to get the message through that actually ‘you are isolated’ don’t call him. There’s no point.’
Kallas also questioned whether there should be any dialogue at all with the Russian president at this moment, considering his crimes in Ukraine:
“‘To me, it’s the question: why talk to him? He’s a war criminal.’
No guesses for which European leader the Estonian PM had in mind there. As the French journalist and Liberation columnist Jean Quatremer observed, it seemed like a pretty clear rebuke to Macron’s late-night chats with Vladimir Putin.
In the past the French president has suggested that Nato is a ‘brain-dead’ organisation. It seems that Nato members in the east have a similar view of his own country’s foreign policy in Ukraine.