PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron condemned Vladimir Putin’s “ignoble war” against Ukraine but said he would keep open lines of communication with the Russian president to try and convince him to stop his deadly military offensive.
“It is alone and in a deliberate manner that, reneging on [his previous] commitments … President Putin has chosen war,” the French president said in a televised speech on Wednesday evening.
Talking to a domestic audience, Macron made a point of countering Putin’s false narrative about the war being a defensive move against NATO’s eastern expansion.
“This war is not a conflict between NATO and the West on the one hand, and Russia on the other … there are no NATO troops or bases in Ukraine. These are lies,” Macron said. “Russia is not being aggressed, it is the aggressor.”
Several of Macron’s rivals in the campaign ahead of April’s presidential election have until recently argued that Putin was legitimate in his grievances.
Slamming Putin’s “unbearable propaganda,” Macron also said the war was not “a fight against Nazism. It is a lie. An insult to the history of Russia and Ukraine, to the memory of our elders who fought side by side against the Nazis.”
While strongly condemning Putin’s acts, the French president said he would keep an open line of communication with the Kremlin in an effort to stop the spread of the conflict.
“I chose to stay in touch as much as I can and as much as it’s needed with President Putin to try and convince him to lay down his arms … and to prevent the spread and widening of the conflict.”
Macron also sought to make a distinction between the Russian president and its people.
“We are not at war with Russia,” the French president said. “We are today on the side of all Russians who, refusing that an ignoble war be waged in their name, have the spirit of responsibility and the courage to defend peace.”
Call for European defense
The French president called on Europe to invest more in its security, echoing his long-standing position that the Continent needs to strengthen its defense and strategic capabilities.
Europe “needs to accept to pay the price for peace,” Macron said.
“We cannot let others defend ourselves; whether on land, at sea, under the sea, in the air, in space or in cyberspace,” Macron said.
“Our European defense must take a new step. On March 10 and 11 in Versailles, I will bring together the European heads of state and government for a summit to decide on these issues,” he said, referring to a planned high-level meeting under the banner of the French rotating presidency of the Council of the EU.
“Europe has shown unity and determination, it has entered a new era. We must keep on,” he added.