Alone among Western leaders, Manny Macron has an insatiable desire to talk to Putin. A little tête-à-tête, he seems to believe, and things will go back to normal.
Destroyed Ukrainian cities, along with their blown-up hospitals, schools and kindergartens, will rise from the ruins. Tens of thousands of murdered Ukrainians will do a Lazarus. Thousands of raped women will be unraped. Tortured POWs and civilians will instantly recover. Parents will return to their orphaned children. Possessions looted out of Ukrainian homes will come back. The Russians will withdraw, their honour intact. Ukrainians will rejoice, but without gloating.
Happiness all around – amazing what a little gobfest can achieve. In fact, Manny himself has experienced the hey, presto magic of talking to Putin.
If you can remember that far back, when Manny was first elected in 2017, he was making some thunderous anti-Putin noises. He was positively enraged about Putin’s cavalier treatment of civil liberties and his tendency to pounce on Russia’s neighbours.
Then that magic moment arrived. Manny met Putin at some summit, and the two spent 10 minutes in seclusion. When Manny emerged, his feelings about Putin instantly did a full 180. He became what the Germans call Putinversteher, loosely (very loosely) translated as Putin toady. And so he has remained to this day.
Now, we are used to our politicians displaying a certain elasticity of principle. Yet usually it takes them longer than 10 minutes to do a complete turn-around. Even making allowances for the magnetic force of Putin’s personality, one would have expected Manny to hold out for at least an hour.
The cynic in me can’t help thinking that Putin’s personality was made even more irresistibly magnetic by his wielding of what the Russians call kompromat (compromising material). The one-sided conversation must have gone along these lines: “Change your tune, Manny, or tomorrow every newspaper will have a front-page headline screaming about [your fiscal or amorous indiscretion]. You’ll kiss your career adieu, is this what you want?”
The rumours about Manny making the rounds in France make this scenario highly plausible. One way or the other, ever since that quick exchange Manny has been toeing the line.
He has been doing his best trying to delay and soften any sanctions imposed on Russia. He has been talking to Putin regularly, and I’ve never figured Vlad for a scintillating conversationalist. And he has been trying to sabotage Western help for the Ukraine, especially since the effort is spearheaded by the two countries Manny loathes as much as he loves Putin: Britain and the US.
The other day he openly defied Nato, whose declared mission isn’t only to help the Ukraine drive Putin’s orcs out, but also to degrade Russia’s military and economic capability to do evil deeds in Europe ever again.
To that end, Nato countries have imposed a cordon sanitaire on Russia in general and personally on Putin and his gang. As more and more sanctions come on stream, and especially when the West gets around to imposing an embargo on Russian hydrocarbons, Russia will become a pariah state, a jumped-up North Korea, excluded from every community of civilised nations.
France is a Nato country too, technically speaking. But Manny’s ideas are at odds with those enunciated by Britain and America.
“We will have a peace to build tomorrow, let us never forget that,” he said. “But it will not be done in denial, nor in exclusion of each other, nor even in humiliation.”
Right. God forbid we humiliate Vlad, Manny’s good, if possibly coercive, friend since 2017. Putin must emerge from the conflict with his bloated face saved.
Never mind that he has committed the worst atrocities in Europe since Hitler and Stalin. Never mind that he has openly declared war on the West and threatened a nuclear holocaust. His brittle sensitivity must be protected at all costs.
Manny then displayed the kind of syllogistic Cartesian thinking for which he is so widely known. “We are not at war with Russia,” he explained. “We work as Europeans for the preservation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”
Actually, that wasn’t a syllogism. It was a rhetorical fallacy that can be refuted with a syllogism.
Thesis: We work to preserve the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Ukraine. Antithesis: Russia is using criminal carpet bombing to destroy both, along with most Ukrainians. Synthesis: We are indeed at war with Russia. Not legally, but factually – even as America effectively entered the war not in December, 1941, but in March that year, when Congress approved the Lend-Lease Act.
One gets the impression that Manny’s desire not to humiliate Putin would only be satisfied if much of the Ukraine is reduced to a sort of Vichy, while the rest of the country will be covered with brothels for the Russian occupation contingent.
Having thus selected Zelensky for the role of Pétain, Manny then came up with an inspired idea borrowed from the ancient rulers of Persia. They saw the world as concentric circles of virtue. Persia herself was in the middle, with the virtue of other countries attenuating in inverse proportion to their proximity to the inner circle.
Manny, who sees himself as the leader of Europe, a hybrid of Napoleon and Merkel, came up with a new way of putting his foot down. The Ukraine, he explained, isn’t yet ready to join the EU as such. Neither are a few other unfortunate countries and one wicked one: Britain, which had the temerity to turn her back on Manny’s perceived fiefdom.
But that doesn’t mean those outcasts should remain, well, out. Manny proposed adding a couple of outer circles of EU hell… sorry, I mean paradise. These will accommodate countries lacking the blessing of full membership, but aspiring to some novice status in a Europe united under Manny’s aegis.
They will have to obey all EU laws, that goes without saying. But they’ll be spared the rigamarole of having to take part in any parliamentary wranglings involved in the passing of such laws.
Again I smell a logical rat. Since Manny palpably loathes Britain, he should be ecstatic that the EU is now spared her toxic presence. Yet here he is, trying to draw Britain back in by hook or mostly by crook, but with a status vastly inferior to one Britain tossed aside.
Manny didn’t specify whether Russia will be welcomed into this EU Lite. Perhaps he believes she should be fast-tracked to full membership the moment the shooting stops. One never knows with him.
There’s only one thing worse than a self-serving nonentity in government. A self-serving nonentity with delusions of grandeur. Perhaps that’s why Manny sees a kindred soul in Putin.