The Cable

Putin to Meet Macron in Versailles

Does the date dash Russian hopes of an early meeting with Trump?

cheeky vladimir

Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet French President Emmanuel Macron in Versailles next week, the Elysée announced on Monday.

Over the course of his campaign, Macron pledged to deal firmly with Russia. This stance set him apart from the other three of the top four finishers, including the far-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the center-right François Fillon, and especially Macron’s second-round adversary, the far-right Marine Le Pen.

Le Pen recognized Crimea as part of Russia, spoke out against sanctions on Russia by the United States and European Union, had taken at least one loan from a Russia-based bank, and met with Putin at the Kremlin in the final weeks of her campaign. Russia was widely suspected of trying to meddle in France’s elections in favor of Le Pen — a move the Macron team anticipated by creating fake email accounts and content as a trap for Russian hackers.

The French presidency’s announcement did not mention if the Kremlin’s alleged electoral interference would be discussed during the visit. The Kremlin’s statement on the meeting, as shared by Russian state-backed outlet RT, said the two presidents would discuss “the state and the prospects of development of Russo-French relations in political, trade, economic, cultural, and humanitarian spheres.”

The visit is set to coincide with an exhibition on Tsar Peter I’s trip to France (the expedition took place 300 years ago this year).

It was previously suspected — at least by Russian media outlet Kommersant — that the visit might coincide with Trump’s trip to Europe. In late April, Kommersant quoted anonymous Russian and U.S. administration sources saying Trump and Putin would have their first, highly-anticipated meeting in a then-unspecified European country. This account wasn’t entirely off — the late May visits are separated by just a few days, and Brussels and Paris are in relatively close proximity.

Still, being on the continent is not the same thing as being in the same room. On Monday, Kommersant noted that Putin will be in Versailles at roughly the same time as Trump will be in Brussels for his NATO meeting — but the official line is that the two will meet for the first time in July, when both men are scheduled to be in Hamburg for the G20 summit.

That announcement was made by the Kremlin readout of the latest phone call between Trump and Putin. The White House readout made no mention on the planned meeting.

Photo credit: Thaer Ghanaim/PPO via Getty Images

Emily Tamkin is the U.S. editor of the New Statesman and the author of The Influence of Soros, published July 2020. Twitter: @emilyctamkin

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