Reprinted from www.atimes.com
The three-hour face-off between Vladimir Putin and Emmanuel Macron in Versailles offered some fascinating geopolitical shadow play.
Macron went so far as to say that, "No major problem in the world can be solved without Russia." On Syria's war, which topped their agenda, he said it needs "an inclusive political solution." While on terrorism, his guest offered: "It is impossible to fight a terrorist threat by dismantling the statehood of those countries that already suffer from some internal problems and conflicts."
That's hardly straight from the standard establishment playbook. More like a slight variation on 300 years of Franco-Russian diplomacy.
Putin and Macron got together to inaugurate an exhibition at the Grand Trianon in Versailles, in partnership with the Hermitage in St Petersburg, celebrating the 300th anniversary of Peter the Great's visit to France -- which proved one of the founding stones of a complex cultural-political cross-fertilization.
Peter not only drew on the royal palace of Versailles as part of the inspiration for his new capital, St Petersburg, he also modernized the entire empire using many of the Enlightenment ideals that first took root in France. It was under Peter's rule that Russians were indelibly imprinted with a European identity.
Connections with current geopolitical juncture enhance the Versailles face-off's appeal.
The St Petersburg Economic Forum -- where quite a few CEOs from large European companies will be discussing business in Russia -- starts later this week.
Late last week, a Nato summit in Brussels and a G7 summit in Taormina busted open deep divisions in the Western front, essentially pitting the EU against Donald Trump.
To say that the vast EU bureaucracy has been horrified is an understatement. In places like the Egmont -- the Royal Institute for International Relations in Brussels -- the consensus might best be summarized as: Europeans would only matter if they put in a US$100 billion order for US defense equipment (each, of course), and stopped whining about the climate.
As this is not happening, the letter of the law is that every Nato member must spend 2% of GDP on defense, and "bad, bad" Germany should stop selling cars to the US.
No wonder then that a common European viewpoint is begging to emerge after some serious discussions inside the EU, which is that the only way out is for Europe to get its act together -- politically, economically and militarily.
And it's up to the Franco-German power couple to show the path to the region's real strategic autonomy.
That's the gist of the extraordinary statement by Chancellor Angela Merkel: "The times in which we can entirely depend on others are gone. This, I have experienced in the last few days. We Europeans must take our destiny in our own hands."
This would suggest that not only are there a few icebergs blocking the Atlanticist channels, there must also be a serious reappraisal under way of Europe's relationship with Russia. (There are no significant German or French business interests that want sanctions against Russia to persist.)
Merkel could not have gone out on this limb unless she was fully supported domestically, and prepared to position the economic might of Berlin at the vanguard of this "Reformation."