While the French president has backed anti-Russia sanctions, he has refrained from the extreme rhetoric of his US and UK counterparts
French President Emmanuel Macron condemned "Anglo Saxon" leaders for openly wishing annihilation upon Russia in clips from a recent documentary. Macron has already been criticized by some of Ukraine's most fervent supporters for staying in contact with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
While he has condemned Russia's military operation in Ukraine and supported EU sanctions on Moscow, the French president has spoken to Putin by phone on several occasions since February. These calls have apparently not brought Ukraine any closer to peace, but have earned Macron scorn from Kiev's supporters, including Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, who castigated his French counterpart for talking to a man he compared to "Hitler."
However, in a documentary recently broadcast on French television, Macron gave some insight into his approach to diplomacy.
Filmed on a train back from Kiev last month, Macron explained that talking to Putin is necessary to prevent the conflict in Ukraine from becoming a wider war. Describing "Anglo Saxon" leaders as pushing the message that "we must annihilate Russia, weaken it permanently," Macron said that his goal is instead to "help Ukraine to win," and "not to fight against Russia, let alone annihilate it."
Whatever the practical similarities between Macron's approach and that of his US and UK counterparts, all of whom have provided Kiev with weapons and ammunition, there exists a clear difference in rhetoric between France and the "Anglo Saxon" world.
While US President Joe Biden has accused Russia of committing "genocide" in Ukraine, Macron has cautioned the West against bandying around such loaded terms. Likewise, he has dismissed requests from Kiev that he declare Russia a "sponsor of terrorism."
And while US Secretary of State Lloyd Austin has described the conflict in Ukraine as an opportunity to leave Russia "weakened" and Biden has let slip that he wishes for regime change in Moscow, Macron has stated that the West "must not humiliate Russia," in order to make a peace deal possible some day.
In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has compared Putin to a "crocodile" and repeatedly dismissed the idea of peace talks with Moscow. Meanwhile, the newly-appointed chief of Britain's armed forces has declared that the UK's military must prepare for the possibility of "defeating Russia in battle."
Macron, by contrast, has said that European leaders must "always respect Russia as a country and Russian people," arguing that "there is no lasting peace if Russia is not engaged in a great architecture of peace on our continent."
However, Macron has sided with his fellow G7 leaders in agreeing to support Kiev's military "for as long as it takes," and after dismissing rumors that he suggested Ukraine trade some land for peace with Russia, Macron now insists that "Ukraine will decide when the conditions are met to build peace," an open-ended stance that mirrors that of the US, UK, and other NATO countries.
Putin has accused European leaders of sacrificing their own economies to bolster Ukraine's war effort, claiming that they are committing economic "suicide" under "pressure from their American overlord." Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov recently said that while Macron "is still talking about the strategic independence of the EU," he is "certain that they will not be allowed to have it."