The Russia Whisperer
The editorial from the May-June 2023 issue of The American Conservative.
France has always had a special relationship with Russia. From the days when the Marquis de Custine (1790–1857) arrived in St. Petersburg to discover that his Russian hosts were more comfortable speaking his language than that of their own peasants to the heady decades before World War I when France was the biggest investor in Russia’s industrialization, the two countries maintained strong ties even when other European nations kept the tsar’s autocracy at arm’s length.
Emmanuel Macron tried to uphold that tradition in the early days of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Newspapers carried photographs of the French president looking haggard after long calls with Vladimir Putin trying unsuccessfully to broker a diplomatic settlement.