Improving Russia-France relations

Wednesday, 2019-08-21 17:03:46
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Russian President Vladimir Putin is hosted by his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron at Bregancon fortress on France's southern coast on Monday 19 August, 2019. (Reuters)
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NDO – Russian President Vladimir Putin paid an official visit to France on August 19. The visit takes place ahead of the Group of Seven (G7) Summit 2019, scheduled to be held in France’s Biarritz from August 24-26. The relations between Moscow and Paris are gradually warming again when meetings between the two sides, especially at a high level, have become more regular.

French President Emmanuel Macron recently held talks with his Russian counterpart at his summer vacation site in Bregancon in southern France, discussing bilateral relations and international issues of mutual concern. This is the first official visit to France made by President Putin since Macron took office as the French President. It is no coincidence that the visit takes place right ahead of the upcoming G7 Summit in France.

Addressing a joint press conference, President Macron stated that all the current crises around the world were the topics of his discussion with President Putin. France is preparing to organise the G7 Summit, while Russia is playing a particularly important role in dealing with crises, the French leader said. He declared France and Russia as the “two great powers in Europe” and voiced his belief that Russia’s future would be closely linked with Europe. President Macron expressed his willingness to “join Russia in researching and shaping a security structure between Russia and Europe”, emphasising that France is seeking to “revive” the trust between the European Union (EU) and Russia.

In the context of Russia’s ties with the West still remaining in a cold state after events in eastern Ukraine five years ago, President Putin’s visit to France indicated that relations between Russia and France are continuing to improve and are showing signs of being warm again.

Recently, the two sides have accelerated meetings, especially at a high level. In 2018, President Putin directly met with his French counterpart Macron five times, and frequently exchanged opinions on the phone. Last June, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev visited France and held talks with his French counterpart Edouard Philippe. Many important cooperation mechanisms between the two countries have been resumed, including the Security Cooperation Committee and the Economic, Financial, Industrial and Commercial Cooperation Committee.

Positive progress has been made in the field of economic and trade cooperation between the two countries. Their two-way trade hit US$17.2 billion last year, an increase of 11% compared to 2017, while French direct investment in the Russian economy reached more than US$18 billion. More than 600 French businesses or joint ventures are operating actively in the Russian market. It is expected that in 2020, the regions of France plan to organise about 270 activities as part of “Russian Seasons”.

The closed talks between the two Presidents, which lasted nearly four hours at Bregancon fortress, showed that the two sides are giving priority to dialogue, and also respect each other’s role in maintaining stability within Europe. The two leaders thoroughly discussed measures to boost bilateral relations and many important international issues, such as ensuring security in Europe, cooperation between Russia and the EU, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the crises in Syria, Ukraine and Libya, as well as the fight against climate change and terrorism and cyber security.

Despite not issuing a joint statement after the talks, the two leaders of Russia and France affirmed their desire and determination to accelerate bilateral cooperation, in addition to coordinating to deal with traditional and nontraditional threats and challenges, as well as the serious crises in the world.

President Putin’s France visit took place right ahead of the G7 Summit, indicating that the French President wished to emphasise the importance of consultations with Russia on major international issues, while reflecting France’s role as a connecting bridge between Russia and the West. Many observers believe that strengthening relations with Russia at the present time helps raise President Macron’s prestige both at home and abroad.

The improvement of Russia-France relations is seen as one of the levers to help Moscow restore relations with the EU, creating conditions for the two sides to coordinate in actions, immediately in handling common challenges concerning security in Europe. The stabilisation of its relations with the EU also allows Russia to maintain a strategic balance and ease the pressure Moscow has suffered over the past five years after tensions escalated between Russia and the West. It can be seen that the trend of improving relations between Russia and France in particular, as well as between Russia and the EU and the West as a whole, is being pushed forward, for the benefits of each party, while meeting the interests of peace, cooperation and development in the region and the world.