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A Frank and Open Dialogue Started between Emmanuel Macron and Vladimir Putin

May 29, 2017 (Nouvelle Solidarité)—Vladimir Putin arrived in France today, at the invitation of Emmanuel Macron, for a tête-à-tête which turned into a quite lengthy discussion of over two hours, where both Presidents went through all the essential dossiers of the moment. The meeting was organized in the context of the commemoration of the 300th anniversary of the visit of Czar Peter the Great to France in 1717. The commemoration organized at the Grand Trianon of Versailles, took the form of a rich exhibit of historical documents and archival material of the 1717 visit, which lasted several weeks.

The tête-à-tête between Putin and Macron started at 2:00 p.m. and went for a couple of hours. It continued then through lunch and was followed by a joint press conference. Following a short question-and-answer period, the two Presidents proceeded to visit the exhibit.

The most tangible progress appears at this point to have been the decision to create a study group to examine greater cooperation between their countries in the fight against terrorism, and in particular against Daesh in Syria. Macron told Putin that he wanted to go beyond France’s current contribution to that fight, in the context of the international coalition fighting ISIS in the Middle East, to reinforce France’s collaboration with Russia.

The organization of the meeting at the Palace of Versailles, symbol of French grandeur for many in the elites, itself conveyed the message that the Franco-Russian relationship is a very longstanding and important one for the host country. Beyond the international crisis points which dominated the discussions, Macron said he wants to reinforce bilateral cooperation in the areas of culture, science, and industry.

This is already in sharp contrast with former French President Francois Hollande. In October 2016, Hollande actually disinvited Putin from attending the inauguration in Paris of a new, large Orthodox religious and cultural center built by Russia, which both heads of state were supposed to inaugurate, offering only a working session on Syria instead. Putin rejected the slight, and cancelled his visit. Macron, to the contrary, decided to invite Putin to a very special ceremony loaded with meaning, making Putin the first head of state to visit France since Macron’s election.

It is also important to note in trying to determine what Macron will do, that during the election campaign he stated that his foreign policy would be "Gaullo-Mitterandist." This is a description that this news service would not employ, but Macron means by it an independent France able to talk to all countries and not submit to any of them. The term was coined by some 20 former foreign ministers and high-level diplomats, who published a booklet during the presidential campaign calling for a return to an independent French foreign policy.

The concrete results of the Macron-Putin summit are in line with what Franco-Russian analyst and economist Jacques Sapir developed in a lengthy article posted today for Sputnik, along with a nearly identical one for RT. This meeting at the highest cultural and political level can be a reset for Franco-Russian political relations, which had fallen quite low during Hollande’s term, Sapir noted, and which got extremely murky during the presidential elections when RT, Sputnik, and some other Russian media started spreading rumors coming from the French far right, concerning the alleged homosexuality of Macron and his secret bank accounts in tax havens.

It would be difficult for either side to try to take huge steps in this first meeting, because their own rank and file wouldn’t follow them. As in Russian/U.S. relations, therefore, progress will have to proceed moving forward pragmatically on different issues such as Ukraine and Syria.