NATO allies: Why Scholz and Macron continue to talk to Putin on the phone

Russian state TV pundits mock Macron's attempts to talk to Putin

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has cut somewhat of an isolated figure on the international stage, ever since he launched his full-scale invasion of Ukraine, last February. Moscow has been widely condemned for returning war back to Europe, and been heavily sanctioned for its actions. A number of countries have chosen to cut communication lines with the Kremlin. But both French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz have opted for open dialogue.

Mr Macron and Mr Scholz are among a handful of leaders from Europe and the West who have spoken directly to President Putin, in recent months.

The duo have used telephone conversations with the Russian President to call for an end to the war and encourage greater access to humanitarian aid.

But their actions have led to criticism from some allies, who believe all forms of communication should be shut off.

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda told reporters on Tuesday: “Of course, as a state, one can try to use every opportunity that appears to be available.

“We in Lithuania, however, think that it is impossible to talk to the leader of a state that is trying to redraw the map in Europe in the 21st century.”

The sentiment was doubled down on by Latvian Prime Minister Arturs Krisjanis Karins who added he was “convinced that Putin will not start talks until he realises that he is starting to lose the war.”

So, why exactly do the leaders of France and Germany still hold phone calls with the Russian despot?

In March, Mr Macron said communication lines needed to be kept open with Moscow to help avoid any risk of “a new world war” developing.

The French President has also said that abandoning phone calls with President Putin would leave negotiations to other powers, such as “the Turkish president [Recep Tayyip Erdogan], the Chinese president [Xi Jinping] or others.”

Mr Scholz has defended his actions through his belief that it’s important to pass on realistic assessments to the Russian President.

He added President Putin needed to be told he could not impose a “dictated peace” on Ukraine.

Both Mr Macron and Mr Scholz have previously said they would first speak with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky before agreeing to any talks with President Putin.

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Germany’s Chancellor has also stressed that sanctions against Russia would not be lifted without a negotiated solution that has the backing of the Ukrainian President, Parliament and people.

To date, penalties imposed against Moscow have been mostly economical, including asset freezes on its banks, sanctions against individuals or companies deemed close to the Kremlin and moves to veer away from Russian oil and gas exports.

A number of countries have also looked to supply Kyiv with military aid and munitions to help fight the war.

But France and Germany have again been criticised for a perceived lack of action.

At present, Paris and Berlin give less than 0.1 percent of their economic output in support to Ukraine, according to the Kiel Institute for the World Economy.

Its Ukraine support tracker shows both France and Germany’s level of support is particularly meagre when compared against the three Baltic countries of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

Each of these has much smaller economies but their output ranks between 0.2 and 0.9 percent.

However, Mr Scholz has defended Germany’s spending package and has pointed to its position as the fifth largest provider of military aid.

France is ranked shortly behind in sixth place and has supplied more than 800 tonnes of humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

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