When this popped up in my newsfeed this morning, I will confess that I was a bit taken aback. In this case, the headline really does summarize the body of the reporting nicely but does so without any underlying rhyme or reason. French President Emmanuel Macron issued a cautionary statement this weekend, urging the world not to do anything that would “humiliate” Russian President Vladimir Putin. Macron made it clear that he sees himself and the nation of France as key mediators in the ongoing crisis and he has continued to have calls and meetings with Putin as the war has dragged on. He wants to leave room for diplomacy, apparently and hopes that an “exit ramp” from the invasion of Ukraine will still come about, but only if Putin can save face. But that won’t happen if Putin feels as though he’s been… disrespected? (Politico)
French President Emmanuel Macron said the West should not “humiliate” Russian President Vladimir Putin in Ukraine so as to preserve the chance to find a diplomatic solution to the “historic” mistake of invading the country.
“We must not humiliate Russia so that the day when the fighting stops we can build an exit ramp through diplomatic means,” Macron said in an interview Friday with regional media, stressing that France would play a key mediating role.
“I think, and I have told him, that he has made a historic and fundamental mistake for his people, for himself and for history,” Macron said. “I think he isolated himself. Taking refuge in isolation is one thing, but finding a way out is a difficult thing.”
Zelensky’s Chief of Staff hit back fairly quickly. Without mentioning Macron by name, Andriy Yermak said that “some countries” are proposing that we don’t humiliate Putin. But he said that at the same time, “we are being shelled. Our cities. Our people.”
I’d like to say that I know where Macron is coming from, but I don’t. Tim McMillan was up and covering this story very early from Germany and he asked the obvious question. What does this even mean?
How exactly does one successfully defend their sovereign existence while simultaneously ensuring not to humiliate the one who is attacking their sovereign existence?
Seriously, WTF does “not humiliating Putin” actually mean?!?! pic.twitter.com/qdqoGtchO9
— Tim McMillan (@LtTimMcMillan) June 5, 2022
I suppose that if we were living in a slightly less insane world I could understand the desire to leave a door open to a diplomatic resolution. But we really don’t seem to be living in that sort of world at the moment. The time for diplomacy is before the war starts. Diplomacy is supposed to avert wars and has done a remarkably good job of it in many places over the past half-century or more.
But the war is already upon us. It’s been grinding on for more than 100 days now and the death toll is staggering when you consider the relatively small amount of territory engaged in battle. Russia may have failed in taking the capital and overthrowing the government of Ukraine. If anything is “humiliating” Putin it’s the performance of his previously vaunted Russian military.
But now the war is mostly confined to the Donbas region and Putin has made it clear that he intends to take and hold parts of Ukrain in that region permanently. Worrying about Mad Vlad’s feelings at this point seems like a colossal waste of time. Is it Macron’s position that we’re just supposed to wait until Russia has further partitioned Ukraine and then allow him to declare a ceasefire and act like none of this unpleasantness ever happened? Demanding that Putin fully pull out of Ukraine and respect its borders hasn’t worked. There is no indication that he will do anything of the sort. And he’s clearly relying on the belief that the rest of the world will eventually just accept it and move on.
Yes, a full withdrawal would be “humiliating” for Putin. But he put himself in this position by making what Macron called “a historic and fundamental mistake.” It’s not the rest of the world’s job to provide a salve for his wounded ego. I realize I’ve written this here before but it bears repeating. I do not believe that Putin is looking for an off-ramp. He’s looking for something he can take home and describe as a win. And if he permanently annexes the Donbas region, he’ll have it. And if he does get away with that, the humiliation will be felt by the civilized world, not Russia.