MUNICH – Europe needs to strive for better relations with Russia in the long term, French President Emmanuel Macron said Saturday, adding that while he isn’t proposing lifting sanctions they have changed nothing about Russia's behavoir.
Macron told the Munich Security Conference that a “credible” approach to dealing with Russia would be to take the line that “we are demanding, we are giving no ground in our principles on frozen conflicts, but will re-engage in a strategic dialogue -- which will take time.”
Relations between European Union countries and Moscow have been strained since Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and fighting broke out between Kyiv and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. That festering military conflict has left over 14,000 dead since then. The U.S. and the European Union slapped sanctions on Russia for its actions in Ukraine.
French companies who are engaged in trade with Russia have pressured Macron to help repair the EU's relations with Moscow and to ease economic sanctions.
During a visit to Poland this month, Macron said it was a “a major error to distance ourselves from a part of Europe that we don't feel comfortable about.”
On Saturday, he said the result of recent years is “a totally inefficient system.” That includes “sanctions that have changed absolutely nothing in Russia -- I am not proposing at all to lift them, I am just stating this,” he added.
In advocating more dialogue with Russia, Macron pointed to the revival late last year of the four-way summits between France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine aimed at resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
He said “we need in the long term to reengage with Russia but also emphasize its responsibility in its role” as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council. “It cannot constantly be a member that blocks advances by this council.”
He said that he expects Russia will continue playing a destabilizing role in matters such as other countries’ election campaigns, either directly or indirectly. “I don’t believe in miracles -- I believe in politics, in the fact that human will can change things when we give ourselves the means,” he said.
However, Macron argued that Russia’s military buildup is financially unsustainable. He also says an alliance with China would not be “durable,” in part because “Chinese hegemony is not compatible with the Russian sense of pride.” That, he added, points to the need for a “European partnership.”