Emmanuel Macron asked yesterday “who wants Turkey to be the only power in the world talking to Russia?”
The French President (Emmanuel Macron) pleaded yesterday before the ambassadors to be able to speak to everyone, and for France to be a “power of balance”, despite its commitments and its alliances. He used Turkey to make his point.
The President made this detour via Turkey and its leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in a plea for the continuation of his dialogue with Vladimir Putin which does not please everyone.
It was in a river speech of two hours in front of the ambassadors of France gathered in Paris for their annual conference.
It was in front of this same audience that he had already promoted, in 2019, his dialogue with Vladimir Poutine, whom he had just received at Fort de Brégançon. Faced with skepticism, Emmanuel Macron then warned diplomats not to follow a “deep state” – the expression surprised – which would make resistance.
Three years later, a lot has happened, starting with the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. The intense dialogue between Emmanuel Macron and Vladimir Putin has changed nothing, except marginally.
So why continue? This is where Turkey is very useful to Emmanuel Macron. Turkish President Erdogan, although a member of NATO, is currently the only one who really has Putin’s ear. The only meaningful Russian-Ukrainian negotiations took place in Istanbul in March, and it was Turkey that maneuvered to lift the Russian blockade on Ukrainian grain.
He has become the essential interlocutor, the “facilitator” according to the formula of a diplomat who believes that Erdogan has played his card well. He has for years had a personal transactional relationship with Vladimir Putin, between two autocrats who speak the same language.
This Turkish “monopoly” annoys Paris, which believes that Europe has everything to lose by staying away from a dialogue with Moscow which will have to resume one day, whatever the scenario for ending the conflict. That was the President’s message yesterday.
Emmanuel Macron is addressing French public opinion as well as other Europeans who, shocked by the barbarism of the war, do not conceive of a dialogue with the person responsible for the war. The President pleaded to authorize himself, and the ambassadors with him, to speak to everyone, and especially, he said, with those with whom we do not agree.
This logic of being able to “deal with the devil”, to use the title of an already old essay by the historian Pierre Grosser, Emmanuel Macron erects it into a diplomatic principle. France must be a “power of balance”, he insists, that is to say faithful to its alliances, Europe, NATO, the United States…; without being aligned or even, it is his word, “vassalized”.
This balance is not easy to achieve in an increasingly tense, polarized and fractured world. Faced with Russia or China, Emmanuel Macron wants to have clear commitments without ceasing to dialogue and even to cooperate on certain subjects such as the climate. But be careful that the balance does not become tightrope walking; the state of the world does not allow it.