There has been sharp criticism of French President Emmanuel Macron’s statement that Putin should not be “humiliated”. “Russia is humiliating itself,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter. “We’d all better focus on how to put Russia in its place.”
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his evening video address, alluding to Macron, that there was one person in Moscow who could stop the terrible consequences of the war with a short order. “But the fact that this order still does not exist is obviously a humiliation for the whole world.”
Macron said in an interview on Saturday: “We must not humiliate Russia so that we can use diplomatic means to build a launch pad on the day the fighting stops,” says the president. “I am convinced that France’s role is to be a mediating power.”
Timothy David Snyder, a well-known American historian and Yale University professor specializing in Eastern European history, tweeted at length on Saturday night: “There is no point in trying to protect Putin from feeling like he’s losing. He will find that out for himself, and he will act to protect himself,” Snyder wrote.
Putin rules in virtual reality, “where there is always an escape route”. He cannot be cornered in Ukraine because Ukraine is a real place. “If he is actually defeated, Putin will simply announce victory on television and the Russians will believe him – or pretend that he doesn’t need our help for that,” said the Eastern Europe expert.
In the Kremlin, Macron’s words must have been received with interest. As the “Washington Post” reports, citing circles close to Putin, the Russian president is counting on the West not being able to keep up its support for Ukraine much longer and overturning its strategy towards Russia. The difficult discussion about an embargo for Russian oil was a sign of this.
Again and again, experts from Berlin, but also Paris, have criticized the reluctance towards Moscow. Chancellor Olaf Scholz, for example, avoids clearly saying that Ukraine should win the war against Russia. On the other hand, the USA, Great Britain and most of the Eastern European countries support Ukraine resolutely – with weapons but also rhetorically.
The signals sent to Putin from Berlin and Brussels are increasingly causing Ukraine’s supporters to shake their heads. Some respond with sarcasm. British journalist Stanley Pingal, Brussels correspondent for Britain’s The Economist, quotes an Eastern European politician as saying: “If France thinks Putin needs to save face, it can send him Botox.”
In an interview with the Tagesspiegel, several experts recently emphasized how important the West’s determined support is for Ukraine’s success.
Christian Mölling, expert on security and defense at the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP), explained: “How and when this war will end will be decided by two factors: political support for the war and the influx of soldiers and weapons.”
Militarily, the Ukraine war is now a war of attrition. “Both sides are keeping an eye on the supply of soldiers and material for themselves and the enemy – not just today and tomorrow, but over the next few months.”
If the West wants to ensure that Moscow does not win the war and learns from this that Russia cannot use force to assert its interests against Europe, “then it must put Ukraine in a good starting position for the negotiations that will take place at some point”. Ukraine needs a quickly effective plan of who will deliver what and when – and that has to happen.
“Politically, the West – or essential parts like Germany or France – must not send false signals to Moscow that lead to the Russian President miscalculating the Western goals.”
If the West makes it clear without ambiguity that it will support Ukraine until Ukraine is fully retaken within the 2014 borders or until the status quo is restored on February 23, 2022, before Russia’s attack, “Putin can use his leeway and a Mediate the end of the war at home sooner or later”.
Macron repeated his warning of a “humiliation” against Russia on Friday. It must be possible to “take a diplomatic way out” on the “day when the fighting ends”.