France’s President Emmanuel Macron delivered a significant address at the GLOBSEC Bratislava Global Security Forum in the Slovakian capital on Wednesday, highlighting the impact of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in jolting NATO awake. Macron emphasized the urgent need for the West to provide Ukraine with “tangible and credible” security guarantees to effectively counter the Russian aggression.
Recalling his previous criticism of NATO in December 2019 when he referred to the alliance as “brain dead,” Macron acknowledged that Putin’s actions have jolted NATO into action, comparing it to an electric shock. He stressed that Ukraine is currently playing a crucial role in protecting Europe, emphasizing the West’s interest in ensuring Kyiv receives security assurances from NATO.
Macron advocated for collective discussions in the coming weeks to explore the provision of concrete and reliable security guarantees to Ukraine. While Ukraine awaits its potential membership in NATO, Macron suggested that various NATO members could temporarily offer these guarantees. He proposed creating a framework that falls between the security arrangements offered to Israel and full-fledged NATO membership for Ukraine.
Furthermore, Macron dismissed the notion of a division between “Old Europe” and “New Europe,” alluding to historical differences between western and eastern European Union member states, particularly regarding Russia. He acknowledged that in the past, there may have been missed opportunities to listen to and understand the concerns of eastern European nations. Macron expressed his commitment to bridging these gaps and fostering a more unified approach.
The French President addressed the enduring mistrust among the EU’s newest members, fueled in part by a remark made by former French President Jacques Chirac in 2003. Chirac had criticized eastern European countries for supporting the US and the UK in the Iraq invasion, suggesting they had missed an opportunity to remain silent. This remark, along with recent events such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has contributed to ongoing tensions within the EU.
Macron’s efforts to maintain communication channels with Putin prior to the invasion faced criticism from Eastern European governments, particularly Poland. However, Macron’s statement in June 2022, cautioning against humiliating Russia during a potential peace settlement, was misunderstood by some Eastern European countries. His intention was to prevent a harsh treaty similar to the Treaty of Versailles imposed on Germany after World War I, rather than condoning Russia’s actions.
While France has been more cautious than the UK in terms of providing certain weapons to Ukraine, it remains the country’s fourth-largest aid donor, offering financial support, humanitarian assistance, and limited weapons donations. Macron’s speech in Bratislava represented a significant shift in rhetoric, demonstrating a more resolute stance against Russia and reassuring the skeptical audience of his commitment to their defense.
In summary, Macron’s address underscored the wake-up call delivered by Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, urging NATO to respond with tangible security guarantees for Ukraine. He advocated for a united approach within the EU, rejected divisions between Western and Eastern Europe, and emphasized the importance of understanding and addressing the concerns of all member states. Macron’s speech aimed to foster unity and strengthen Europe’s response to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.