I thought this was a catchy title. It came to me while watching the 7 pm news on television this evening. (The media is all over this significant event.) It came to me for two reasons: this surprising and unexpected encounter between the French and the Russian president at the Palace of Versailles has all the intrigue of a John Le Carré novel. And because Vladimir Putin, a deeply isolated man, has been shunned and exiled by Western world leaders to a “social Siberia” (for supporting the regime in Syria, for waging war against Ukraine, and for other transgressions.) A former spy, Putin is desperate to restore Russia to what he sees as its rightful place in the world, at almost any cost.
He’s also desperate for himself to come back onto the world stage, and be a player.
Enter Emmanuel Macron. No sooner is he sworn in as president (a role he has very adroitly slipped into), does he invite Putin to come to France.
“It is essential to talk to Russia because there are many international issues that will not be resolved without a tough exchange with the Russians,” said Mr. Macron at last week’s G7 Taormina summit, to which Putin was not invited.
Grateful for the invitation, Putin came. Putin will now be indebted to Macron. Macron hopes that Putin will now agree to concessions. Shrewd move.
It just so happens that a new exhibition is opening at the Palace of Versailles tomorrow. The exhibition marks 300 years of Franco-Russian ties since the visit of Russia’s modernising tsar, Peter the Great, to France in 1717 (link below).
From May 30 to September 24, 2017, the Grand Trianon will feature PETER THE GREAT, A TSAR IN FRANCE. 1717. Thanks to an exceptional collaboration between the Palace of Versailles and the State Hermitage Museum, the exhibition presents more than 150 works – paintings, sculptures, decorative arts, tapestries, maps, medals, scientific instruments, books, and manuscripts – two-thirds of which belong to the prestigious museum in Saint Petersburg.
“Macron’s meeting with President Putin will be an important first test of the French president’s commitment to reflecting human rights in France’s foreign policy”, Human Rights Watch said today. As a candidate, Macron flagged serious concerns about Russia’s disregard for human rights in domestic and foreign policy, and said that France should be demanding and rigorous in its approach to relations with Russia.
“There could not be a more important time for France’s leader to speak out strongly about the need for its Russian partner to recommit to liberty and human rights,” said Bénédicte Jeannerod, France director at Human Rights Watch. “President Macron’s meeting with President Putin will help give direction to the agenda for Franco-Russian relations for years to come, but the question is how firmly rights will be embedded in it.”