PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron pledged Monday to continue speaking to Vladimir Putin, despite having failed so far to influence the Russian president’s escalating attack on Ukraine.
Speaking on a TV show for French channel TF1 featuring his top rivals in April’s French presidential election, Macron said of his direct talks with Putin: “I won’t tell you that I’m satisfied with [the results], but we need to continue.”
Macron and Putin have spoken at least a dozen times in the last month, with the latest call taking place Saturday with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. The flurry of phone calls has raised questions among critics as to whether Macron’s strategy may be misguided and risks fueling Russian propaganda as heavy bombings continue across Ukrainian cities.
Asked directly by one of the show hosts what he could still discuss with Putin, Macron said: “Our role today … is to try to stop this war without going to war.”
He said the objective of such dialogue with Putin is about “trying to break his logic” while keeping a line of communication open to discuss things like humanitarian corridors, the protection of nuclear plants and any possible way out to the conflict.
Macron said that such dialogue was meant to “prepare peace” for when the war is over and “talk about it from now on.”
“Europe can’t be safe and at peace if it does not talk to Russia,” he added, insisting he had “no naivety” about the matter.
When pressed by one of the hosts to classify Putin as a “dictator,” Macron refused.
“From where I stand, the most important thing is not to define him,” Macron said. “I’m trying to protect our country from an escalation of war … I won’t be more efficient by insulting or defining him.”
Macron spoke hours after EU diplomats finalized the text of what will be a fourth round of sanctions meant to penalize Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. Monday’s TV debate also focused on Ukrainian refugees following an announcement by the United Nations that the Russian invasion has so far caused the displacement of more than 2.8 million people.
The French president said France could welcome up to 100,000 of those refugees. “We must do our part,” Macron said. “We must welcome them in the best conditions possible.”