During the conference of ambassadors, Emmanuel Macron preached Tuesday for France a "strategy daring" diplomatic, essential in his eyes to avoid the erasure of Europe in the face of the pre-eminence of China and the United States . The Head of State particularly insisted on a necessary rapprochement between the European Union and its Russian neighbor. "Pushing Russia away from Europe would be a big mistake," he said. "Russia's vocation is not to be a minor ally of China. "
While the relationship with Russia is the main line of cleavage of French foreign policy, is there therefore a "deep state" that would oppose the line of the President of the Republic, a hidden opposition between the Elysee and the Quai d'Orsay? Arnaud Dubien, director of the Franco-Russian Observatory, believes it: "The vast majority of its administration is hostile to an opening to Russia. Many people at the Quai d'Orsay, in the entourage of the Minister of Foreign Affairs or among the civilians in the defense, simply do not want it, "he said. Courier of Russia. Described by their opponents as "neoconservatives" (a term they reject with energy), sometimes dubbed "the sect," a handful of diplomats now hold key positions in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Armed Forces. Posts where they have been appointed since 2017, or very recently …
Intellectually brilliant, specialists in strategic affairs and politico-military, they are influential in think tanks and part of the press. They defend a line that Hubert Védrine describes as "Westernist", which is characterized by a great mistrust of Russia, such as Iran or China. The "occidentalists", notes Professor Frédéric Charillon, a columnist for foreign policy at the Opinion, are characterized by "their obsession with weakness. For them, "Barack Obama has been absolute horror," but they have no affinity with Donald Trump, too "nationalist."
Westernist line. While addressing the conference of ambassadors Thursday, Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian followed the lead of the Head of State ("We must not resolve the fatality of a country (Russia) that 'away from Europe'), he did not fail to mention the true mentor of this group, the neoconservative philosopher Thérèse Delpech. Specialist strategic questions, she died in 2012. "This mischievous tribute slipped by the editor of the speech, is a good example of the deep state," noted finely a personality in the room … Because this line "Westernist" does not no, far from it, unanimity at the Quai d'Orsay. Different sensibilities are traditionally expressed, especially in the "regional" directorates of the ministry, in charge of a geographical area such as continental Europe or North Africa / Middle East. "It is incredible that we have less good relations with Putin's Russia than with the USSR of Brezhnev", we hear regularly.
Macron's bet on Russia is inspired by Henry Kissinger's policy, with his concept of a "strategic triangle". To restrain the USSR, the former Secretary of State had pushed Richard Nixon to move closer to Communist China in 1972, while engaging a policy of détente with Moscow. It is against this policy that the first generation of American neoconservatives has been formed.
At the ambassadorial conference of 2018, the President of the Republic had already pleaded for a new "European architecture" security, including Russia. And the affair was immediately bogged down … A year later, Emmanuel Macron has given a layer, raising the tone sharply against the "deep state": "This time, it will not be possible to resist in doing nothing, "says a diplomat. Or by blocking initiatives, such as the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces' visit to Moscow or a simple study tour of the auditors of the Institute of Higher National Defense Studies (IHEDN). This year, the message is clear: the President wants things to move. At a recent meeting, a director called for quick and concrete proposals.
There will be no frontal opposition to the Russian policy of the head of state, very few are those who would take the risk of putting their careers in jeopardy. In private, some moan, calling the idea of "European architecture of security and confidence" wanted by Emmanuel Macron project "Gromyko", the name of the former Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs … They fear the "overzealous "Some colleagues or denounce the influence, considered nefarious, visitors of the evening of the Elysee, Hubert Vedrine, Jean-Pierre Chevènement, even the very" poutinophile "Philippe de Villiers! Other voices are rising to note that the President's "Russophilia" goes hand in hand with his sympathy for Serbia.
The strategy of resistance is rather to "lift the Russian mortgage", according to the word of the former ambassador Michel Duclos, adviser at the Montaigne Institute. It is the idea – or the hope – that Vladimir Putin will refuse Emmanuel Macron's outstretched hand, because the clash with the West would be in the nature of the current Russian power. And that it is not a question of "misunderstandings", as Emmanuel Macron says. This line of thought considers that the French initiative towards Moscow will fail, as was the case of the "reset" attempted by Barack Obama. "All French presidents have tried in vain to revive cooperation with Moscow" indicates a "Russian-skeptic".
Russian imperialism. The French president makes the opposite wager, "without naïveté or angelism" as Jean-Yves Le Drian says: Russia, "which is European", will have to choose between China and Europe. And we must do everything possible for Moscow to opt for the second, as much to thwart the strategy of Beijing as to stabilize our continent. These divergences are rooted in a debate historiographical now: who is responsible for the renewed tension between Russia and the West, that is to say, the failure of the exit of the Cold War? The conservative and "illiberal" ideology that reigns in the Kremlin, coupled with the traditional Russian imperialism? Or the intrinsic hostility of NATO and the US and British administrations towards Moscow, reinforced by the accession to the EU of Poland, the Baltics or Sweden? This last thesis seems to have favored President Macron. In front of the presidential press, on August 21, he pointed at the "Western logic of the West," explaining that, seen from Moscow, the West had only pushed back the old iron curtain towards the East. borders of Russia.
On the diplomatic front, Emmanuel Macron is now waiting for progress on the Ukrainian issue, taking advantage of the new climate created by the coming to power in Kiev of Volodimyr Zelensky. A meeting at the summit of the "Normandy format" (France, Germany, Russia, Ukraine) could take place in Paris in the coming weeks, provided that Moscow releases Ukrainian prisoners. And reciprocally. The Russian and French presidents spoke about it at Fort Brégançon. Seen from Paris, the general idea is to find a political agreement to end the war in Donbass, which has killed more than 10,000 people. The annexation of the Crimea, which France does not intend to recognize, would take second place: "If the price of peace in Donbass, it is Crimea …", says a source close to the file. Emmanuel Macron also hopes for Moscow's cyber gestures.
A first important meeting is scheduled to take place in Moscow on 9 September for a meeting between the French and Russian Foreign Affairs and Defense Ministers. This will be the first meeting of a "2 + 2" since 2013. Many topics are on the agenda: Syria, Libya, arms control and bilateral cooperation. In December, Paris must send a new ambassador to Moscow, Sylvie Bermann retiring. Two names circulate: the Polish-speaker Pierre Lévy, stationed in Warsaw, and the Deputy Secretary-General of the Ministry André Parant, rather a specialist of Africa and the Arab world.