Political commentator, Expert at Rethinking Russia, Columnist on Al Arabiya
During his visit in Moscow Nicolas Sarkozy met with Vladimir Putin, spoke to students at Moscow State Institute of International Relations under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and thus has caused outrage, condemnation, skepticism and concern, just as the approval and support of this demarche of building bridges.
Nicolas Sarkozy has a good chance to return to the Elysee Palace and to the big world politics, that he left not in the best condition. It must be admitted that he has considerably contributed to the creation of the true headache, being one of the initiators of the operation in Libya, which he launched following the advice of his friend and concurrently one of the most notorious figures of contemporary international relations – Henry Bernard Levy. But it is never too late to correct the error. And the former president has talent and experience to save the world from confrontation – and the events of August 2008, and his very active and vital participation in that time negotiation process between Russia and the West are an important evidence.
In the current crisis a special relationship between Russia and France stays preserved, despite the fact that now we are having the second Cold War between Russia and the West. The French MPs and senators were just the first to visit Crimea, to see it with their own eyes and to draw conclusions about what has happened and what is happening there. Inter-parliamentary contacts are officially suspended, but still are being executed due to the friendly relations existing between the number of deputies and government officials on both sides of the confrontation line. The Franco-Russian dialogue keeps working. Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation and France continues to be active. And all this activity is primarily based on personal contacts and on the will of concrete people.
Russophilia and frankophilia and, as a consequence, deep mutual sympathy between the two countries exist at the genetic level, conditioned by history.
It is noteworthy that the France of Francois Hollande, which became a shadow of the United States and Germany during his presidency, echoing Washington and Berlin in his foreign policy discourse, not really concentrating on how much it harms the national interests of the Republic, with all this he still keeps enough space for dialogue. Sometimes France tries to express more diplomatically and gently the hawkish statements and promises of the European and the American political establishment, and puts much effort not to lose a niche of an effective international mediator successfully occupied once.
Le Monde, as well as the majority of the French media, have treated Sarkozy’s visit (on the eve of the visit itself) with a fair amount of skepticism, from one article to another calling Sarkozy “the former president.” Apparently, it is worth recalling that Nicolas Sarkozy took a place of a chairman of UMP on November 29, 2014, of the party which on March 2015 gained the regional elections, having won in ⅔ of local “departments”, having completely defeated the Socialists. There is No need to be a prophet to predict the complete defeat of the Left and the left candidate during the 2017 elections. The main struggle will unfold between the UMP and the National Front. And the candidate of the UMP is most likely to win. This Sarkozy’s visit – the visit of the chairman of the strongest political party in France and, probably, the future president of the French Republic. And any attempts to understate the importance of this visit of the French politician and his meeting with the master of the Kremlin are not rational and distort the true state of affairs.
Speech of Sarkozy at MGIMO by its message is the most positive speech about Russia from the mouths of Western politicians for a long time. It was actually a declaration of love for Russia.
In support of what has been said above, Nicolas Sarkozy said that our countries have historically experienced a deep respect for each other, a sense of brotherhood of spirit and culture.
Sarkozy stressed the unacceptability of a new Cold War and said that the international community needs Russia, because without it, it is impossible to solve the large-scale crises that the world faces now. This simple truth gains quite a special meaning in an ongoing confrontation. This is a strong message of recognition of errors of the current Western political establishment. This is a necessary now friendly message and attempt to establish bridges in the times of a deep crisis.
Certainly, there is no unanimity on the major issues of the international agenda. Although there is a space for discussion and further rapprochement of the positions. Sarkozy acknowledged the importance of Russia in the Syrian settlement and called for joint efforts of the two existing coalitions.
At a meeting at Putin’s residence, where Putin and Sarkozy unconstrainedly spoke like close friends, Sarkozy stressed the importance and the need to overcome existing discord between the two countries, noting that in the past the two sides successfully managed to find a compromise for almost all disagreements. Curiously, in contrast to the current host of the Elysee Palace, who prefers to speak as one of the European or Western leaders, and mostly speaks on behalf of a group of countries, not only on behalf of France, Sarkozy attaches special importance to the bilateral relations, and that indicates the further course of France to the return of the national identity and strong national ambitions following the potential return of the former president to the Elysee Palace.
Such contacts are essential in the rapidly changing international realities, in conditions of instability and significant cooling of relations. May such visits and the dialogue do not have a direct impact on the decision-making process. However, such contacts allow sides to continue to talk, to discuss, even to argue, and give the assurance that the weapons would not speak. They provide an opportunity to discuss sensitive issues directly, without excessive political correctness and politeness, thereby clearly delineating each other’s views and understanding of the situation, what is needed for further successful cooperation and rendering of strategic steps and decisions.
The visit is important both globally and individually. This visit, like the visit of French deputies and senators in the summer of this year, signifies that the generalising declarations of solidarity of the Western countries united against Russia do not correspond to the reality. Particular political establishments in power at a particular time in particular countries stand united. And it i these political figures do not necessarily have strong support within their own country, and, most likely, they serve while humbly waiting for the end of their term, but they are still desperate to leave footprints in history.
From the point of view of the two figures – two rather peculiar politicians – this visit was urgently needed for both of them. For Sarkozy, this arrival to Moscow is a major political step and a decision requiring a fair share of courage. He needs to state his intentions and foreign policy ambitions, to proceed subsequently without delay to implementing them in life. Russia and Putin – are a kind of trump card for him which he can now safely use in the future, as well as in the construction of its foreign policy agenda in the run-up to the elections, and in building and reconquering lost France’s geopolitical position in the European and international arenas. For Putin – Sarkozy is a necessary ally, or at least a reliable partner, whose presence alone destroys the myth about the unity of the Western political and public opinion and about Russia’s isolation. Sarkozy and France as a whole need Russia for the successful functioning on the international arena and for the successful cooperation on a variety of issues on the international agenda, in particular – on terrorism and the settlement of the situation in the Middle East – spheres in which the two countries have much to offer to the world, working together. But it is a different story.