On the hundredth day of the war unleashed against the Ukrainians by Russia, one heard a significantly different language than at its beginning.
On the television screens, which are all vying for nationalism and support for the army, information on the “special military operation” is giving way to rants against the West, which is accused of wanting to destroy Russia. On 24 February, the self-confident Russian regime proclaimed to the world its new role as the eradicator of Nazism, which had been re-established in Ukraine. Today, in a paranoid move, it presents itself as the victim of a war that the West would surreptitiously wage against it.
The rhetorical process of accusatory inversion does not remind us that it was the Kremlin that started this war against Ukraine, but implies that it is the West that is responsible for the hostilities, in order to weaken Russia.
Diplomat Dmitry Peskov, Vladimir Putin’s press secretary for the past ten years, has seen fit to point out that Russia has never in its history attacked a foreign country. It is true that over the last four centuries it has had to defend itself successively against Polish, Swedish, French and German invasions. But Mr Peskov has forgotten the invasion of eastern Poland on 17 September 1939, as well as the war that Moscow launched against Finland on 30 November 1939.
The Russian tanks sent to “restore order” in Berlin (1953), Budapest (1956), Prague (1968), were not mentioned by the diplomat. Above all, Dmitri Peskov fails to recall that in December 1994, the Russian president guaranteed the territorial integrity of Ukraine, a country that had just, at the urging of the United States, abandoned its nuclear weapons.
In history, untruths have always fuelled wars. They have prolonged them. It is therefore important to remind the Russian people that, no, the western part of Europe is not at war with Russia, nor does it wish to be.
When Emmanuel Macron invited Vladimir Putin to dinner on 19 August 2019, the two leaders have different views on the Syrian and Ukrainian issues. But it is not an adversary that the French president invites to Brégançon. It is a potential partner, for a “Europe that goes from Lisbon to Vladivostok”, according to Emmanuel Macron’s words that evening. France is doing everything to avoid throwing Russia into the arms of China.
When the German Chancellor was about to leave office, she travelled to Moscow on 20 August 2021 to say goodbye to Vladimir Putin. The Russian leader was a difficult partner for Angela Merkel. But together they had presided over the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, linking Russia directly to Germany via the Baltic Sea.
American strategists were strongly opposed to this project. But Joe Biden lifted US opposition as a gesture of goodwill before meeting Putin in Geneva on 16 June 2021. A summit that went well, by the Kremlin’s own admission.
It was sincerely, and without any aggressive ulterior motive, that Germany, France and Italy increased their trade with Vladimir Putin’s Russia. These Western powers did not flinch during his war in Chechnya (1999-2006), a territory of the Russian Federation. It was not illegitimate for them to decide on mild sanctions after the annexation of Crimea and the 2014 “hybrid” war in Donbass.
Pacta sunt servanda (treaties must be respected): this is the basis of international law. No one can accept Russia’s amputation of a neighbour’s territory after it has freely recognised its independence.
Delivering weapons to Ukraine is not waging war on Russia because the West has taken steps to ensure that they cannot strike Russian territory. Helping a country resist aggression is morally and politically legitimate.
Good diplomacy is also diplomacy that takes into account the feelings of others. Russia has an obsidian complex. We must avoid feeding it. It is wrong to ban the plane of the Russian head of diplomacy from flying to Belgrade. In history, punitive sanctions have always been counterproductive.
Relentlessly and in parallel, we must help Ukraine and remind Russia of its virtuous destiny. Which is to stop picking quarrels with its European neighbours and to develop its Siberian territory, which the Chinese are lording over.
The day it is ready to do so, we will have to help it all the way, with our technology and our investments. This is the only way to build a lasting peace on the Eurasian continent.
This article was first published in Le Figaro.