On Thursday contradictory messages were reported out of Europe and Russia after the Kremlin announced French President Emmanuel Macron had told Moscow he was ready to seriously consider Russia’s proposal to impose a moratorium on the deployment of missiles in Europe following the collapse of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), which formally ended in August. The INF had for decades been effective in preventing just such a ‘new Cold War’ scenario and weapons build-up.
But despite the Russian side touting this new ‘diplomatic opening’ with a lead NATO power, which was initially reported in Interfax and TASS, the declaration appears premature. Hours after the initial claim, Reuters reports the following:
French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday denied having accepted a Russian proposal to impose a moratorium on missile deployments in Europe, but said it was important the Kremlin initiative not be simply dismissed.
The report notes that Macron had been meeting face to face with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in Paris where he stressed that France had “absolutely not accepted” the proposal.
“But we considered that, as a basis for discussion, we shouldn’t just brush it off… Let’s be serious, this is the security of Europe we’re talking about,” he said according to Reuters.
It appears that was enough of an opening for Russian officials to run with, indicating a potential thawing on the issue.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Macron had was vague but his intention for an opening of dialogue on the issue with NATO was clear: “Of course, (Macron’s) answer is not detailed. But at least, it expressed an understanding of (Russia’s) concern and a readiness for dialogue on this score,” Peskov said.
NATO has maintained that Russia is the main offender which led to the demise of the short to medium-range missile pact, despite the Trump administration being the first to vocalize that it’s obsolete and should be abandoned for a better, more encompassing treaty.
Concerning Russia’s offer for a missile ban in Europe, Reuters points out: “NATO has called the proposal not ‘credible’ and said Moscow has already deployed illegal missiles, something Russia denies.”