When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Russia

Even More Than The Anti-Trump, Macron Is The Anti-Putin

French-Russian relations are at a new low following the election of France's young, pro-European President Emmanuel Macron.

Macron in Berlin on May 15.
Macron in Berlin on May 15.
Isabelle Mandraud

MOSCOW — Relations between new French President Emmanuel Macron and Moscow are starting off from a very low place indeed. Never before has a French politician been the target of so much vitriol by Kremlin media mouthpieces and Russian lawmakers.

Vladimir Putin and Macron had their first telephone contact on May 18, with the Kremlin stressing "a mutual readiness to develop the traditionally friendly Russian-French relations in the political, trade, economic, cultural, humanitarian, and other spheres." But the reality of the relationship is far more complicated given how much Macron — starting early in his campaign and continuing after his inauguration, earlier this month — has been vilified, mocked, and outright insulted in Russia.

The question now is what happens on May 29, when Putin meets Macron in Versailles. Will the Russian head of state, who canceled a scheduled visit to France last October, be able to restore confidence?

"Sodomite candidate"

Here's a look at some of the more glaring things that have been said about Macron in just the past few weeks:

On May 14, as France's outgoing leader, François Hollande, passed the baton to his successor, Russia's main TV network, Pierviy Kanal, devoted close to nine minutes to Macron with the title "Where is France headed?" At 39, anchor Dmitri Kisselev explained, Macron is France's youngest leader since Napoleon. "But that's where the comparison ends," he was quick to add. "Because Napoleon was a brilliant character, and as for Macron, nobody, even among those close to him, sees him that way." The rest of the program continued in that same tone.

On April 29, NTV, Russia's number two network, broadcast a long report arguing that Macron's path to the Elysée palace was paved by the "Rothschild banker dynasty." To demonstrate this claim, the journalist went into a bank vault, opened one of the safes, took out a big wad of banknotes and says, "This is how it all started."

On May 5, shortly before the second round of the French election, a female anchor on Tsargrad TV announced without batting an eyelid that "it is possible that the sodomite candidate" — Emmanuel Macron — will become the new president.

The pro-Kremlin news agency Sputnik, fed by conservative French lawmaker Nicolas Dhuicq, has made similar claims, calling Macron a "closet homosexual." There have been attacks against his wife as well. The tabloid Komsomolskaïa Pravda called the new first lady, Brigitte Macron, a "pedophile" teacher.

Others dismiss Macron as a puppet of Germany, which he visited shortly after taking office. "He went to prostrate himself before the old lady Merkel," said the ultra-nationalist Russian lawmaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky.

Quoting one of these "experts," Russia Today (RT), the voice of Russia overseas, published a May 18 piece describing Macron's victory as the "first color revolution in Europe." This is a reference to revolutions in former Soviet states ("rose" in Georgia in 2003, "orange" in Ukraine in 2004, etc.) that were the result, we're told, "of massive interventions by Western governments, particularly the Americans, but also by paid NGOs and the Europeans." On the same day, communist lawmaker Pavel Dorokhin referred to Macron as "the Antichrist."

Nothing suggested the kind of spiteful treatment Macron has been subjected to.

This level of animosity has raised some questions. "I had a quick word about that with Russian Ambassador Aleksandr Orlov before the first round," French politician Jean-Pierre Chevènement, told Le Monde before the first round of the election, in April. Chevènement had accompanied Macron for a working visit to Moscow in January 2016, back when the new president was still economy minister. At the time, nothing suggested the kind of spiteful treatment Macron has since been subjected to.

Is it possible that the media and representatives overstepped the limit set by the Kremlin? Maxim Youssin, a reporter specialized in foreign policy for the newspaper Kommersant, believes so. "Moscow's professional propagandists weren't expecting the Macron storyline," he recently wrote. "In reaction, they counterattacked as if the French election was threatening Russia's vital interests." They were particularly upset, he explained, that among the four leading candidates, he was the only one not to call the sanctions against Russia into question.

Evgenia Obichkina, a foreign relations professor at the prestigious Moscow State Institute of Foreign Relations, agrees. "The candidates were carefully observed and Macron was the most critical of Russia," she says.

The fact that he is pro-European, elusive, unknown and young are other factors that can perhaps explain the anti-Macron frenzy in Russia, where he is presented as François Hollande's heir, even though their relation has deteriorated. There's also the feeling of disappointment, of defeat even, given that Putin first supported conservative candidate François Fillon and later had his heart set on Marine Le Pen. "Many in Russia were certain she'd win," says Maxim Youssin.

And now that it's all over, where does Putin himself stand? Former French prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin offered a bit of insight on Twitter, quoting what Putin allegedly said during an international meeting in Beijing on May 14. "So it's Macron, is it? It'll be better anyway... But not as good as with Chirac!"

You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Geopolitics

One By One, The Former Soviet Republics Are Abandoning Putin

From Kazakhstan to Kyrgyzstan, Armenia and Tajikistan, countries in Russia's orbit have refused to help him turn the tide in the Ukraine war. All (maybe even Belarus?) is coming to understand that his next step would be a complete restoration of the Soviet empire.

Leaders of Armenia, Russia, Tajikistan, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan attend a summit marking the 30th anniversary of signing the Collective Security Treaty in Moscow on May 16.

Oleksandr Demchenko

-Analysis-

KYIV — Virtually all of Vladimir Putin's last remaining partner countries in the region are gone from his grip. Kazakhstan, Armenia, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan have refused to help him turn the tide in the Ukraine war, because they've all come to understand that his next step would be a complete restoration of the empire, where their own sovereignty is lost.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

Before zooming in on the current state of relations in the region, and what it means for Ukraine's destiny, it's worth briefly reviewing the last 30 years of post-Soviet history.

The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) was first created in 1992 by the Kremlin to keep former republics from fully seceding from the former Soviet sphere of influence. The plan was simple: to destroy the local Communist elite, to replace them with "their" people in the former colonies, and then return these territories — never truly considered as independent states by any Russian leadership — into its orbit.

In a word - to restore the USSR.

Keep reading...Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in
Writing contest - My pandemic story
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch VideoShow less
MOST READ