Contours of Russo-France relations

By Abdul Ruff

Anti- Islamic and anti-Russian mindset of the West is all well known. While Europe hates Islam more than what the USA does, both USA and Europe hate Russia for reasons known to the world. Like Islam which as the final religion of the universe is seen by anti-Islamic forces and nations as a serious threat to their own religions, Russia is also viewed as a threat to global capitalism and imperialism in which the western powers trade in, thereby forcing the world surrender to their joint military will. Though Russia is also somewhat anti-Islam and no more a communist or socialist nation, the West still is suspicious of its actions and very carefully monitors its moves and jointly works for future wars with Russia for global domination.

The western powers aim at weakening the Russian power and strangle Islam and remove Islamic faith from the face of the earth so that colonialism, capitalism,  fascism, Zionism and imperialism could  stay  permanent global fixtures.

Russian attitude towards France is positive as Russia views European civilization rather pensively. However, French view of Russia is not quite encouraging. In a 2013 BBC World Service poll, 25% of French people viewed Russia’s influence positively, with 63% expressing a negative view, while 49% of Russians viewed French influence positively, with 10% expressing a negative view.

Russian relations with France need, therefore, to be seen as a part of the hate politics of the western powers of which France is one. Generally, France is known for its neutrality in world affairs and regional conflicts except in case where USA dominates the regions.

Even during the height of Cold War, France did not pick a side between the USSR and the USA and we had good economical and diplomatic relationships. The relationship like between France and Russia has been normal without any serious direct conflicts on any matter but its close ties with USA always stood between them, at times harming even their normal relations.

Putin’s Visit

Newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in Paris on May 29, 2017 in an unscheduled meeting of the latter to France in which the former chose to lecture Putin on issues like Ukraine, Chechnya, Syria, and Russian interference in the French electoral campaign.

Obviously, the Russian strong man could not digest the “smart” act of Emmanuel Macron during their first ever meeting as presidents. Such a behavior by a host president toward a foreign dignitary is unusual in international politics and it hurt the egoist Putin who later in an interview bombarded the French novice unable to comprehend the niceties in international relations.

Emmanuel Macron just expressed his displeasure and anger for Putin for his support for his opponent candidate in the French presidency poll which he won in a highly surprising manner.

Just before that Emmanuel Macron and Vladimir Putin had a pleasant walk in the Gallery of Battles at the Versailles Palace as they arrived for a joint press conference following their meeting in Versailles, near Paris.

Putin strongly defended his right to welcome Marine Le Pen in the Kremlin during the presidential race. Putin met the newly-elected Macron during a trip to see the official opening of a new exhibition dedicated to Russian ruler Peter the Great. The exhibition, “Peter the Great: a Tsar in France,” will run in the Great Trianon Palace in Versailles until the end of September. The special event celebrates the 300th anniversary of Peter’s first visit to France and the start of full diplomatic relations between the two states.

A few hours after his return from Versailles, Vladimir Putin chose to give an interview to the right-wing newspaper Le Figaro. With hardly veiled resentment, he took issue with his host, newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron, and rebuffed him on the major points of contention that came out during their May 29 press conference: Syria, Ukraine, and interference in the French electoral campaign.

In Versailles, Putin listened sternly to Macron’s moral lesson about Ukraine and human rights in Chechnya, said little, and looked impatient to leave. Now, he played the deciding match—without the contender, on his own terms, and at the new Russian Orthodox center he had belatedly opened on the banks of the Seine.

Vladimir Putin’s methods are well-known to seasoned Russia observers abroad. He is stubborn, denies even established facts—like Damascus’s use of chemical weapons against civilians. He angrily dismisses foreign leaders’ positions on the Ukrainian conflict. And he speaks insincerely about the Russian state media’s smear campaign against Macron and the supposed hacking of his movement’s website and emails.

The new French president is learning the hard way what it costs to have a “very frank and direct” exchange with the master of the Kremlin. The Russian president has spent seventeen years at the helm. Macron, meanwhile, is taking his first steps in international power politics and probably misread his guest’s reasons and expectations for this meeting. Putin was seeking honor and respect, recognition of his stature as dean of the “concert of nations,” and also a benign French response to his aggressive military policies for “restoring legal order and peace” in Syria and Ukraine.

An experienced Putin was not looking for a frank, honest discussion on issues of war and peace. And he certainly did not expect Macron to open the press conference with strong criticisms of state violence against gay men in Chechnya and to hint that he, Putin, should fix this.

Vladimir Putin did not come to Versailles to negotiate a way out of the Syrian tragedy or finding solutions to world issues. He came to drag Macron into his political logic, in which the global struggle against terrorism predominates, no matter what.

To Moscow, the most offensive part of the failed show was that the Russian authorities had worked hard to obtain this invitation from the Elysée Palace. They wanted Macron to repair the humiliation of October 2016, when François Hollande advised Vladimir Putin against visiting Paris to inaugurate the new Russian Orthodox center. At the time, the Russian military was helping Bashar Assad’s army in their brutal assault on Aleppo. The Kremlin’s preference for armed conflict over negotiation has a deeply corrosive effect on its relationship with France, despite a “centuries-long friendship.” Trust is gone.

In France, Italy, Germany, Greece and Romania, the capitalist media lords see a clear link between Russia’s military participation in the war and refugees crossing European borders. Even the most pernicious fake news and propaganda cannot whitewash the glaring facts:

True, Russia’s use of military force creates more insecurity and does not help us fight back against terrorists in all cities. But Americans want that to crate alarm about so-called “Islamic terrorism”.


Russo-European relations have been strained for quite some time due mainly to the sanctions imposed, along with its boss USA, on Kremlin for its annexation of Crimea. France and entire Europe considers the Crimea annexation illegal while Moscow has only taken back its territory from Ukraine. Neither USA nor Europe could do anything against Russia’s bold takeover of Crimea expect criticizing Putin.

France–Russia relations date back to early modern period, with sporadic contact even earlier, when both countries were ruled by absolute monarchies, the Kingdom of France (843–1792) and the Tsardom of Russia (1547–1721). Following Russia’s victory over Sweden in the Great Northern War, the foundation of Saint Petersburg as the new capital in 1712, and declaration of an empire in 1721, Russia became a major force in European affairs for the first time.

France–Russia diplomatic ties go back at least to 1702 when France had an ambassador (Jean-Casimir Baluze) in Moscow. Following Russia’s victory over Sweden in the Great Northern War, the foundation of Saint Petersburg as the new capital in 1712, and declaration of an empire in 1721, Russia became a major force in European affairs for the first time. The geographical separation between the two countries meant that their spheres of influence rarely overlapped, but both were crucial states in the European balance of power.

After the French Revolution, Russia became a center of reactionary antagonism against the revolution, and when Russia had a successful October revolution in 1917 France opposed that. Napoleon Bonaparte (later Emperor Napoleon I) came to power in 1799, Russia remained hostile. The establishment of a French-backed Polish state, the Duchy of Warsaw in 1807 threatened Russia and caused tensions that led to the French invasion of Russia in 1812. This was major defeat for France and a turning point in the Napoleonic Wars, leading to Bonaparte’s removal.

Imperial Russia’s foreign policy was hostile to republican France in the 19th century and very pro-German. Germany, Austria and Russia-had as its stated purpose the preservation of the monarchical order in Europe against the France of the Third Republic. After the defeat in the Franco-German war of 1870-71, French elites worked hard to keep France diplomatically isolated. France’s challenges to Russia’s influence led France to participate in the Crimean War, which saw French troops invade the Crimean peninsula. Imperial Russia’s foreign policy was hostile to republican France in the 19th century and very pro-German. Rejected by Germany, Russia cautiously began a policy of rapprochement with France starting in 1891 while the French for their part were very interested in the Russian offers of an alliance. In August 1891, France and Russia signed a “consultative pact” where both nations agreed to consult each other if another power were to threaten the peace of Europe.] In 1893-94, French and Russian diplomats negotiated a defensive alliance meant to counter the growing power of Germany. The alliance was intended to deter Germany from going to war by presenting the Reich with the threat of a two-front war; neither France nor Russia could hope to defeat Germany on their own, but their combined power might, which in turn was meant to deter Berlin from going to war with either Paris or St. Petersburg.

Russia played a complex role in the Napoleonic wars. At the Vienna Congress of 1814-15, Russia played a major diplomatic role as a leader of the conservative, anti-revolutionary forces. Russia was again hostile when the Revolutions of 1848 broke out across Europe, bringing Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte (later Emperor Napoleon III) to power in France.

Under the terms of the Franco-Russian alliance of 1894 if Germany attacked France, then Russia would attack Germany or its close ally and if Germany or its close ally like Italy attacked Russia, France would attack Germany. After France was humiliated by Britain in the Fashoda Incident of 1898, the French wanted the alliance to become an anti-British alliance. In 1899, the Franco-Russian alliance was amended to deal with any power threatening the “equilibrium of forces in Europe” instead of just the “general peace” as before, and in 1900 the alliance was again amended to name Great Britain as explicitly the power that threatening the “equilibrium of forces in Europe”.

To that end, it was agreed that if Britain should attack France, then Russia would invade India and the French provided a loan so that the Russians could start the construction of a railroad from Orenburg to Tashkent. Tashkent in its turn would be the base from which the Russians would invade Afghanistan as the prelude to invading India. Despite their alliance, both Russia and France pursued their own interests.

In 1908-09 during the Bosnia crisis, France declined to support Russia. Japan later fought Russia in the Russo-Japanese war. France remained neutral in this conflict. At the time, Nicholas seriously considered abrogating the alliance with France, and was only stopped by the lack of an alternative. In 1911 during the Second Moroccan Crisis, the Russians paid the French back for their lack of support in the Bosnia crisis by refusing to support France when Germany threatened war against the French over Morocco Further linking France and Russia together was a common economic interests. Russia wished to industrialize, but lacked the capital to do so while the French were more than prepared to lend the necessary money to finance Russia’s industrialization. By 1913, French investors had put 12 billion francs into Russian assets, making the French easily the largest investors in the Russian empire. The industrialization of the Russian Empire was largely the result of a massive influx of French capital into Russia.

During World War I, France was allied with Great Britain and the Russian Empire. The alliance between the three countries formed the Triple Entente. However, after the communist Bolsheviks seized control of the Russian government in 1917, Russia left the war.

Soviet era

France’s bilateral relations with the Soviet Union have experienced dramatic ups and downs due to Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, and France’s alliance in the NATO. Previous Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev made a visit to France in October 1985 in order to fix the strains in the Franco-Soviet relations. Nevertheless, France’s bilateral activities continued with NATO, which furthermore strained the bilateral relations between France and the Soviet Union. After the breakup of the USSR, bilateral relations between France and Russia were initially warm. On February 7, 1992 France signed a bilateral treaty, recognizing Russia as a successor of the USSR.

One of the major news has been the sale of Mistral class amphibious assault ships to Russia. The deal which was signed at 2010, is the first major arms deal between Russia and the Western world since World War II. The deal has been criticized for neglecting the security interests of Poland, the Baltic States, Ukraine, and Georgia. Before Syrian Civil War, Franco-Russian relations were generally improving. Ever since the financial crisis took hold, European powers have been forced to court emerging markets more and Moscow meanwhile wanted to diversify its own economy.

Era of terrorism, reactivated by USA and NATO following the Sept-11 hoax perpetrated to destabilize oil rich Arab world and totally destroy Afghanistan brought Russia and France together alongside USA. François Hollande and Vladimir Putin agreed on ordering their respective armed forces to “cooperate” with one another in the fight against the terrorist organization. The French President has called upon the international community to bring “together of all those who can realistically fight against this terrorist army in a large and unique coalition.”[16] The French-Russian bombing cooperation is considered to be an “unprecedented” move, given that France is a member of NATO. Seeking closer ties between Russia and Europe alongside USA, a Russian newspaper recalled that “WWII had forced the Western World and the Soviet Union to overcome their ideological differences”, wondering whether ISIS would be the “new Hitler”. According to French counterintelligence sources in 2010, Russian espionage operations against France have reached levels not seen since the 1980s.

Like in other western countries, the increasingly fanatic corporatist media continues to create illusions about the “dangerous” Russian boar and terrorize the people on “monstrous” Russia. Since (Jewish) President of France Sarkozy and his open “Atlantist” foreign policy, it has become more complicated, and Russia is more and more seen as an enemy more than an ally. The whole Ukrainian situation and the refusal to sell the French made Mistral boats to Russia are a good example of that. There is in the French media network (TVs, radios, newspapers) an almost systematic propaganda against Russia, so most of the French people are highly misinformed on the matter.


Notwithstanding the visible cooperation and coordination between them in Syria and elsewhere, the West-Russian conflict is real. The deliberate smear campaign by western media against Russia is real.

Russia through Putin is taking an opportunity to make a comeback on the European stage, after the G7 summit in Sicily held without him.

For the new French president Emmanuel Macron, Versailles was an eye-opening experience. He say a calm and iron like leader in his guest from Moscow. Vladimir Putin cannot be seduced, lectured or talked into a rational, “fully inclusive” (Macron’s words) multilateral diplomatic negotiation. There is no bait that he is willing to take.

Putin wants to talk with Western leaders on his own terms—and those terms alone. He has shown he is not willing to compromise in order to restore a broken partnership with Europe.

For Macron, the path forward is clear—the further strengthening of the EU and Franco-German tandem and of Europe’s political, economic and military unity.

Given the current unpredictability of US policies and its shaky commitment to NATO, European states will likely close ranks. In this renewed strategy of common security and foreign policy, France might play a leading role.

And Putin, seeking genuine ties with Europe, may have given to the world one more incentive to ensure ideas of narrow national interest do not get in the way of a unified European position toward the Russian leadership.

Recent history has shown that France or any other European country for that matter is incapable of making its foreign policy choices on its own and all of them have to take cognizance of what Washington wants from them in order advance its own so-called national interest at global level.

History reveals the Russo-France relations can never be stable, unless, of course, world order changes entirely. There is no chance for any open conflict between Russia and France, however.

Russo-France ties, meanwhile, have to adapt themselves to the existing reality and US directives from time to time!

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Abdul Ruff

Dr. Abdul Ruff is an independent analyst; columnist contributing articles to many newspapers and journals on world politics; expert on Mideast affairs, chronicler of foreign occupations & freedom movements (Palestine, Kashmir, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Xinjiang, Chechnya, etc.); Chancellor-Founder of Center for International Affairs (CIA); commentator on world affairs & sport fixings, former university teacher and author of eBooks/books

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