Macron in St. Petersburg didn’t oppose Trump on Iran, in Putin’s presence

The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, received the President of France, Emmanuel Macron at Konstantinovsky Palace. May 24, 2018, St Petersburg, Russia. (Russian Presidency official photo).

Emmanuel Macron, the French President, who has regained the European political initiative for his country, traveled to St. Petersburg, in Russia last Thursday. This was not an official state visit though. Macron just decided to participate in St. Petersburg’s annual International Economic Forum (SPIEF). A high end business delegation accompanied him. Macron met Putin only at the venues of the event. The SPIEF has being created by Putin himself in his home city, as a vehicle for foreign investments in Russia. The contacts of the two leaders were rather limited. They jointly appeared to a questions and answers session, in the context of the Forum.

Not without good reason, the Iranian affair was discussed in depth on that occasion. To be reminded, the Americans have practically ostracized Iran from the global community and markets. Last Monday, the US State Secretary, Mike Pompeo , said America plans to punish the country and her people with “the strongest sanctions in history and crush Iranian operatives abroad”, if the country doesn’t comply with what the White House demands.

Iran on the spot

It has become clear by now that there is no chance for Iran to be able to comply with what Washington wants, in order for the US to remain in the 2015 nuclear non proliferation Agreement, briefly named P5+1. Three weeks ago, on 8 May, Donald Trump, the President of ‘America First’ withdrew the US from this international nuclear non proliferation agreement with Iran. The P5+1 was signed in June 2015 by the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany. Now, the US administration sets new terms for Washington to return to the deal and, consequently, for Iran to remain in global markets.

So, the world now anxiously awaits what the global markets will look like after the ‘strongest sanctions in history’ are applied by US on Iran. Many commentators have equated what America demands from Iran as a full change of the country’s political system and government structures. Even Britain, the closest US ally, has assessed the US terms for Iran as impossible.

Macron in St. Petersburg

During this business event in St. Petersburg, Macron was asked about his opinion about the US and more precisely about Trump’s stance vis-à-vis Iran. For one thing, Macron answered that he has ‘very strong relations’ with Donald Trump and he didn’t directly criticize Washington for her tough positions against Tehran. Yet, he commented negatively about the US withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement and observed that the Agreement stands despite the American departure.

In this way, Macron must have had in mind to distinguish France from the group of major world powers, which strongly oppose the US over the Iranian affair. He visibly avoided opposing America about Iran, but, as expected, he had a lot to say about the US withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement. This Macron stance comes in direct contrast with what President Putin and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel had jointly communicated one week ago from Sochi, in the Black Sea. Mind you, Putin was present while Macron answered the questions.

France unlike Russia and Germany

Russia and Germany have strongly criticized the American policy vis-à-vis Iran and otherwise. Germany has openly said that it prepares to evade the American sanctions on Iran. Last Thursday, Putin firmly opposed the US in the same line of thinking. He characteristically denounced the US for trying to enforce its own laws on foreigners. According to Reuters, he concluded “This is unacceptable and it has to end”. At this point, it must be mentioned that the US has recently imposed additional sanctions on Russian businesses and businessmen, even punishing close Putin friends. No wonder why Moscow is at massive odds with Washington.

On the contrary, two weeks ago Macron, in reference to Iran, had observed that “the large European firms are already abandoning Iran”, in view of the US sanctions. The meaning of this statement can be logically translated into ‘no action should be taken against the US decisions’. In conclusion, Macron’s visit to St. Petersburg rather reignited France’s grievances with Russia, despite the usual courtesies in person to person meetings between leaders.

The deceitful annexation by Russia of the Ukrainian Peninsula of Crimea in 2014 and the presumed Moscow interference in the French presidential election of 2017, in favor of Marine le Pen , have never been forgotten in Paris. In both cases, Putin can be held personally responsible for the political will and the planning behind the involvement. That’s why Macron would have never compromised his personal relationship with Trump on the accounts of Putin and Russia. Obviously, he wanted to show it in St. Petersburg.

 

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