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Talk to Putin?

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Vladimir Putin has become infrequent. This is the conclusion that has emerged in recent weeks among Western leaders. The Russian president is locked into the imperial vision that led him to launch war in Ukraine on February 24. The orders given to his army lead it to violate humanitarian law and commit war crimes. If we consider that the supreme official is the master of the Kremlin, it becomes difficult to meet him or even talk to him.

→ DEBATE. War in Ukraine: Should we continue to talk with Vladimir Putin?

The latest to try is Austrian Conservative Chancellor Karl Nehammer. On April 11, he traveled to Moscow and spoke to his host for an hour, hoping to bring him face to face with reality. Wasted effort. “He massively entered into a logic of war; he hopes for a quick military victory”summarized the visitor. There are not many other candidates left to take a lap in the Kremlin. The Boutcha tragedy, where hundreds of civilians were executed by Russian soldiers during the occupation of the town, has raised a wall of anger and condemnation. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki compares Putin to Hitler, Stalin or Pol Pot. US President Joe Biden speaks of genocide. Only Turkey still harbors hopes of mediation. As for Emmanuel Macron, he has not spoken to his Russian counterpart since March 29 – that was before Boutcha’s terrible discoveries.

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The French president was until then one of the most regular interlocutors of the master of the Kremlin: a six-hour meeting on February 7 in Moscow and more than fifteen telephone calls between mid-December and the end of March. Bitter exchanges, a dialogue of the deaf between two men describing two antagonistic visions of the facts. Emmanuel Macron had taken care to act as “President of the European Union”, France assuming during the first half of 2022 the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU. He benefited from the support of his peers, as Italian Council President Mario Draghi recalled in an interview with Corriere della Sera. He also relayed messages from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, met on February 8 in kyiv and with whom he has had nearly thirty telephone conversations since mid-December. But for what result? How not to experience the feeling of having been taken on a boat?

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→ READ. War in Ukraine: France delivers heavy weapons to kyiv

Faced with a Vladimir Putin reclusive in the language of force, we must provide ardent support for the defense of Ukraine. The evidence that will one day bring to justice the perpetrators of the worst evils of war must be documented. Europeans must protect themselves against a regime that poses a multifaceted threat to the security of the entire continent. While keeping diplomatic channels open. No one knows which direction Vladimir Putin will take: the headlong rush towards a new totalitarianism or the reasoned search for a compromise with Ukraine and an understanding with the West. Depending on the case, it will be necessary to isolate him until he falls, or to re-engage in discussions. Volodymyr Zelensky maintains both options himself. He made an offer by accepting the principle of his country’s neutrality, on the condition of having strong international security guarantees. It is a responsible and courageous attitude. Let’s hope that Vladimir Putin rises to his height.

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