After that, the French President will visit Kyiv.
French President Emmanuel Macron arrives in Moscow on Monday, taking a risky diplomatic step in order to get Russian President Vladimir Putin to commit to reducing tensions with Ukraine.
Last week, Macron made a series of phone calls to Western allies, Putin and the Ukrainian leader. On Tuesday, he will visit Kyiv, putting his great political capital on a mission that could turn into a failure if he returns empty-handed.
Russia has massed about 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian borders and demanded security guarantees from NATO and the United States, including that NATO will never accept Ukraine as a member of the alliance.
Two sources close to Macron said that one of the goals of his visit to Moscow is to buy time and freeze the situation for several months, at least until the “super-April” elections in Europe: in Hungary, Slovenia and, most importantly for Macron, in France.
The French leader, who is known for his widely publicized diplomatic actions since he came to power in 2017, has tried both to persuade Putin and to resist him over the past five years. His efforts led to a close dialogue with the Russian leader, as well as painful failures.
Shortly after his election, Macron laid out the red carpet for Putin at the Palace of Versailles, but also used that visit to publicly condemn Russia’s interference in the elections. Two years later, Macron and Putin met again at the French president’s summer residence.
But Macron’s numerous initiatives did not prevent Russia from invading France’s traditional spheres of influence in Africa, culminating in the arrival of Russian mercenaries in Mali at the end of last year. French officials believe that these mercenaries are supported by the Kremlin.
The countries of Eastern Europe, which have suffered from the dictates of the USSR for decades, criticize Macron’s position on cooperation with Russia and are suspicious of Macron’s statements about negotiations with Russia regarding the “new European security system.”
In order to counter criticism before traveling to Moscow and assume the role of a European leader in this crisis, Macron this time tried his best to interact with other Western leaders, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and U.S. President Joe Biden.
The French President’s visit to Moscow and Kyiv will take place less than three months before the presidential elections in his own country. His advisers see this as a potential political dividend, although Macron has not yet announced whether he will run.
“For the president, this is primarily an opportunity to demonstrate his leadership in Europe,” said one of the sources in the French government.