Macron wants Xi to bring Putin ‘back to reason’ - GulfToday

Macron wants Xi to bring Putin ‘back to reason’


Emmanuel Macron says he can count on Xi Jinping to bring Russia back to reason over its invasion of Ukraine.

Chris Stevenson, The Independent

Emmanuel Macron, on his trip to Beijing, has said he can count on China’s Xi Jinping to bring Russia “back to reason” over its invasion of Ukraine — I would highly doubt that.

First, you could argue that President Vladimir Putin is well past that point. His repeated attacks on Nato, the West and Ukraine’s leadership are hardly the rhetoric of someone who is willing to listen. The Russian leader has had to build the narrative that his country faces an existential threat from the alliances of the West as his invasion has became bogged down in the quagmire of eastern Ukraine and the fierce resistance of Kyiv’s forces.

Add to that the words of a senior Russian security official who defected, Gleb Karakulov — who served in the Federal Protection Service (FSO), a tasked with protecting Moscow’s highest-ranking officials. He has claimed this week that Putin has “lost touch with the world”.

“He surrounds himself with an impenetrable barrier... He only values his own life and the lives of his family and friends,” Karakulov told Dossier Center, a London-based investigative group funded by the Russian exiled billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky. “He only receives information from his closest circle, which means that he lives in an information vacuum”. While this is just one account, it hardly paints the picture of a man who might be ready to be talked around.

Macron is not wrong that China — and Xi — has pull with Putin. The pair have talked up their close relationship, and have made a point of repeatedly calling each other a friend in public. Given the pariah status Putin and his nation now occupy when it comes to the West, Moscow also needs the diplomatic support that Beijing has offered. Thanks to the sanctions regime imposed by the West, it also needs the trade that Beijing is offering. In the diplomatic relationship between the two nations, there is little doubt that Xi now holds the upper hand.

However, Russia is not the only one that wants to court trade ties with Beijing — although Moscow’s need is more acute. Macron himself has travelled with a delegation of business leaders, including the CEOs of Airbus, Alstom and EDF with the aim of securing agreements that he could then trumpet at home. That is as well as Macron getting to play the international statesman.

All this leaves Xi in a envious position. He is keen to show the world that his country is at the forefront of world affairs; hence its position paper on what peace in Ukraine might look like. Having faced pressure from the US to use his visit to try and discourage China from forging closer ties with Russia, Macron made clear after their initial meeting that Xi had “important words” on Ukraine, and said that Paris and Beijing agreed nuclear weapons should be excluded from the conflict. The spectre of nuclear conflict is something that Russian officials have repeatedly raised.

The European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, who is also on the Beijing trip at Macron’s invitation, sits closer to Washington’s more hardline approach. She has warned Xi that arms shipments to Russia — something the US believes China is considering, but Beijing denies — would be do “significant harm” to relations with the EU.

China has been keen to cultivate ties with Europe, given the souring relationship with US after both Ukraine and trade, and clearly also does not want to lose what it has with Russia. China and the EU should establish correct mutual understanding and avoid misunderstanding and misjudgment, Xi is said to have told von der Leyen.

The truth is, if Beijing wants to play both sides, it can. That also means that Beijing could change its mind, but at this exact moment there is little for Xi to gain from trying to force Putin into a quick reverse on Ukraine.

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