The French have a slang word for the likes of Macron and Trump: collabo, short for collaborator.
The term gained currency during the Nazi occupation of France, but collaboration describes the run-up to the occupation just as accurately, as a synonym of ‘appeasement’.
For, by their craven appeasement of Hitler, culminating at Munich, France and Britain effectively collaborated with the Nazis, a point driven home by the panzers entering Paris on 14 June, 1940.
A lesson was thus taught, but it wasn’t learned. Now, 81 years after Edouard Daladier put his signature on the Munich Treaty, another French president, Manny Macron, is playing footsies with another aggressor with pan-European aspirations, Vlad Putin.
Meeting the Russian chieftain at Brégançon, Manny couldn’t have been more effusive. Obviously, Russia must take her seat at the upcoming G7 meeting, he insisted, that’s beyond doubt – and it’s most unfortunate that she lost her seat in the first place.
At the time that ousting occurred, in 2014, the G7 members stated their reasons succinctly. Russia, they explained, no longer belonged in that body because of her aggression against the Ukraine:
“International law prohibits the acquisition of part or all of another state’s territory through coercion or force. To do so violates the principles upon which the international system is built. We condemn the illegal referendum held in Crimea in violation of Ukraine’s constitution.”
Manny’s urgent desire to reverse that decision must be based on his conviction that since then Russia has reacquired respect for international law. However, the evidence for such a Damascene conversion isn’t so much flimsy as non-existent.
Since that aforementioned referendum, Russia has effectively annexed two vast provinces in East Ukraine, killing 14,000 Ukrainians in the process.
Then there was that unfortunate incident with the Malaysian airliner, an incursion into Syria conducted with characteristic KGB savagery, an uninterrupted string of nuclear threats against the West, full-scale electronic warfare aimed at subverting elections, escalation of hysterical anti-West propaganda unseen since Khrushchev and many other, shall we say, disrespectful developments.
All these are, according to Manny, silly incidentals. As a self-appointed French intellectual, he won’t be side-tracked by facts interfering with a broad historical and cultural vision.
Instead, he came up with two startling discoveries: “Russia,” he pronounced, “is a deeply European country. We believe in this Europe that spreads from Lisbon to Vladivostok.”
Manny’s foster mother Brigitte used to be his school mistress, as it were, in which role she failed miserably. Geography wasn’t a subject she taught, but she still should have made sure that little Manny knew that 3,500 thousand miles of Asia separate Vladivostok from Europe.
Anyway, that was music to Vlad’s ears, and his geography is better than Manny’s: one of his pet subjects is Eurasia, a vast continent that Russia can confidently guide to a bright future or, barring that, just guide tout court.
This is a giant step forward from Gorbachev, who laboured under the same geographic misapprehension when he talked about “our common European home from the Atlantic to Vladivostok”. Manny, who repeated Gorby almost verbatim, must have gone to the Joe Biden school of speechwriting.
But I’m being facetious here. Manny, as an aspiring French intellectual (and French people tend to share that aspiration if they want to get ahead in life), doubtless was talking in cultural, not geographic, terms.
If so, he must be congratulated: his discovery finally settles once and for all the question that all the best minds in Russia herself have been pondering for at least two centuries.
Is Russia Europe, Asia, both, neither, somewhere in between or sui generis? They shouldn’t have been spinning their wheels trying to answer that question in vain. They should have asked Manny instead.
While playing lickspittle to the KGB thug, Manny seems to be undeterred by the lavish financing Vlad provides for Marine Le Pen neo-fascists, a service he extends to all marginal European parties of similar leanings.
That practice put paid to the government in Austria, but it has caused not a shadow of scandal in either Italy or France, where Russia’s involvement is much more sizeable.
Nor has it given Manny any second thoughts, which is surprising in a politician: after all, Le Pen’s party presents a serious electoral challenge to Manny’s own. But, with his approval rating dipping below 30 per cent and the yellow vests still restless, Manny has obviously decided to roll the political dice.
For some time he was the only major European leader who identified Putin’s Russia as a threat. Now Manny has performed a dizzying pirouette, and one can only guess his reasons.
Short-term he may be hoping that Vlad will now marginalise Le Pen and divert his financial, electronic and propaganda support to Manny instead. But I wouldn’t put it past Manny to have a long view as well.
Perhaps he wants to beat Angie Merkel to the European presidency, and he identified sucking up to Putin as a promising avenue to explore. Who knows, when French voters have finally had enough of Manny, he may fill that post and do all he can to make sure Putin’s Europe indeed spreads from Lisbon to Vladivostok – or rather from Vladivostok to Lisbon.
However, beating Angie to that position is in the future. At present, Manny has beaten Trump in the collabo game of mollifying Putin.
Trump too wishes to see Vlad’s charming face at the G7 summit. The reason for that, according to that master rhetorician, is that “A lot of the time we talk about, we talk about Russia, Russia – because I’ve been to numerous G7 meetings…”
The word ‘because’ implies a causal relationship, which one struggles to discern here. And the fact that the subject of Russia often comes up at G7 meetings is neither here nor there.
I’m sure Trump and his colleagues also talk about, they talk about Iran, Iran and North Korea, North Korea. One would expect Western leaders to discuss countries that pose a threat to the West. Does that mean Iran and North Korea too should be admitted to the G7?
The president blamed Vlad’s expulsion on his predecessor Barack Obama. Putin, Trump said, had “outsmarted him”.
So he did, on numerous occasions – but not on this one. Unless Trump thinks that Vlad actually tricked Obama into expelling Russia from the G8 (as it then was), I’d be tempted to say that just this once no outsmarting took place.
This tune isn’t new for Trump; he has been agitating for Russia’s return to the G7 since 2018. However, he hasn’t done any better than Macron or other European stooges to Putin in proving that the reasons for the expulsion no longer apply.
Now I don’t know if Putin outsmarted Obama, but Manny certainly outsmarted Donny in the collabo stakes: he scooped Trump by one day with this round of shilling for Putin.
Manny should view some documentary footage of the Nazis entering Paris. Perhaps he’ll learn how seamlessly appeasement segues into collaboration.
And I’m still waiting for any Western leader to put forth a counter proposal, that, rather than being readmitted to the G7, Russia should be expelled from the UN Security Council.