Last week one of the main events in the world politics was Russian president Vladimir Putin’s visit to France at the invitation of French president Emmanuel Macron. The trip was timed to coincide with the exhibition marking Peter the Great’s visit to Paris and 300 years of Russia-France relations. However, foreign readers had almost no opportunity to learn something about current ties between Moscow and Paris as the coverage of negotiations was totally Macron-centered and once again showed that modern political journalism revolves around personalities rather than issues. The majority of the news outlets focused on Macron’s words about RT and Sputnik, which he called “organs of influence” (RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan already reacted claiming that “by labeling any news reporting he disagrees with as “fake news”, President Macron sets a dangerous precedent that threatens both freedom of speech and journalism at large”), and his promises to respond to any use of chemical weapons in Syria and to monitor the situation with gay rights in Chechnya.
It seems that the whole coverage was aimed at portraying Macron as a nice guy, who will be a new considerable factor in the international arena. Meanwhile, some observers pointed at Putin’s peaceful and even pacifist mood during the talks. They believe (quite surprisingly given the situation during the French presidential campaign) that Putin and Macron have many chances to get along as both are interested in each other. Macron wants people to perceive him as a new leader in the European politics and amid disagreements with Trump, which became apparent during the recent G7 and NATO summits, Putin could become a key element to Macron’s success while Putin seeks return to normal business ties between the countries and wants the EU to ease the sanctions. One of the French president’s advisers clearly stated that “there have been missed opportunities with Russia in the recent past, on Syria notably. The idea is to keep Russia close to Europe”. Then later the week the head of the French government’s cyber security agency claimed that the investigation didn’t find any evidence of Russia’s involvement in the attacks on Macron’s computers.
Meanwhile, last week the Saint-Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) took place in Russia and amid reports about Trump’s plans to ease sanctions on Russia during the first days after the inauguration some Vladimir Putin’s remarks at SPIEF became resonant in the foreign press. The Russian president once again denied any involvement of the state in the cyberattacks on the US presidential campaign 2016 and gave foreign journalists two new versions on the hacking. First of all, he suggested that “patriotically minded” individuals, who wanted to make a contribution to the fight against those, who said bad things about Russia, might have organized the attacks. Secondly, he pointed to the fact that those hackers could have been from anywhere and then just tried to shift the blame on Moscow. Nevertheless, it is a big question whether these allegations are heard in Washington.
By Alissa J. Rubin and Aurelien Breeden
The New York Times
France’s newly elected president, Emmanuel Macron, came out of his first meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Monday with a message of stark challenge, promising French military reprisals for any use of chemical weapons by Russia’s allies in Syria and saying he would closely monitor the curtailing of civil rights for gay people in Chechnya.
By Kenneth Rapoza
Whether it’s Reuters or the anti-Putin tabloid The Daily Beast, every headline today about the meeting between newly elected French president Emmanuel Macron and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, reads the same: Macron took it to Putin over fake news, Syria and gay rights. There is nothing else to see.
By Mary Dejevsky
John McCain is sure it’s Putin. There’s room for argument, but he’s right about one thing: our perception of the danger posed by Isis is skewed.
By Pamela Brown, Jim Sciutto and Dana Bash
Russian government officials discussed having potentially “derogatory” information about then-presidential candidate Donald Trump and some of his top aides in conversations intercepted by US intelligence during the 2016 election, according to two former intelligence officials and a congressional source.
By Isaac Chotiner
An American Russia scholar on why he doesn’t believe the New York Times, doesn’t think the DNC was hacked, and just wants the U.S. and Russia to get along.
By Karen DeYoung and Adam Entous
The Washington Post
The Trump administration is moving toward handing back to Russia two diplomatic compounds, near New York City and on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, that its officials were ejected from in late December as punishment for Moscow’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.
By TNI Staff
The National Interest
Three leading experts concurred that while the U.S. sanctions regime on Russia lacks clear objectives, it will likely remain in place for the foreseeable future.
By Andrew Higgins
The New York Times
Shifting from his previous blanket denials, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia suggested on Thursday that “patriotically minded” private Russian hackers could have been involved in cyberattacks last year that meddled in the United States presidential election.
By David Filipov
The Washington Post
Russian President Vladimir Putin compared allegations of Russian hacking in the 2016 presidential election to anti-semitism.
By Michael Isikoff
In the early weeks of the Trump administration, former Obama administration officials and State Department staffers fought an intense, behind-the-scenes battle to head off efforts by incoming officials to normalize relations with Russia, according to multiple sources familiar with the events.
As the proportion of people born after the Soviet Union’s collapse grows in Eurasia, the region will undergo massive political and cultural change.
By Kathrin Hille
The Financial Times
Putin advisers pitched into ‘beauty contest’ for strategies to spark economy.
By Evgenia Pismennaya, Stepan Kravchenko and Ilya Arkhipov
Russian leader reluctant to embrace changes advisers advocate.
By Leonid Bershidsky
In a land without independent media, social media is enabling a new kind of public debate.
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