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Inside Macron’s Russia Initiative

By pursuing an ambitious new initiative to "ease and clarify" the European Union's relationship with Russia, French President Emmanuel Macron is seeking to secure Europe’s control over its own future. But his plan will succeed only if he can ensure that no EU member state feels vulnerable.

BERLIN – French President Emmanuel Macron is one of those leaders who wants to bend the arc of history. Having upended French politics, he has secured positions for his preferred candidates at the head of the European Commission and the European Central Bank, and is now trying to improve Europe’s relationship with Russia.

French officials are comparing Macron’s Russia strategy to US President Richard Nixon’s opening of China in 1972. But Macron’s diplomatic overture is more like Nixon in reverse. Rather than wooing China in order to contain the Soviets, Macron wants to “ease and clarify [Europe’s] relations with Russia” in order to prevent Russia from cozying up to China. In so doing, he hopes to secure Europe’s control over its own future.

Macron launched his bid for a new security architecture in a typically grandiose fashion, mirroring the urban planner Georges-Eugène Haussmann’s project to redesign Paris in the nineteenth century. His first move was to hold talks with Putin in France’s Fort de Brégançon before the August G7 summit in Biarritz. But the French ministers charged with implementing the plan have since turned it on its head.

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