© Vitaly Belousov/POOL/TASS
Last Friday, November 12, saw Paris host a regular meeting of the Russian-French Security Council in the 2+2 format. Russia was represented by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, the French side – by Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian and Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly.
Just a reminder: this format of consultations between Russia and France was created almost 20 years ago on the initiative of the two countries' leaders, with its failure-free operation lasting until 2014, when Paris blocked its work over the situation in Ukraine. In 2019 the Council resumed operation after Russian and French President Vladimir Putin and Emmanuel Macron met at Fort de Brégançon, an ancient castle on the Cote d'Azur. The Council's meeting was held in Moscow that year. In 2020, the session had to be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now it's Paris' turn. Moreover, this year's meeting of the Council coincided with the international conference on Libya, where Russia was represented by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
The Council traditionally focused on issues of international and regional security, as well as prevention of incidents in the course of military operations. Sergey Lavrov told reporters about last Friday's scope, emphasizing that their French colleagues have not glossed over the issues where the sides' approaches do not always coincide, and sometimes even contradict each other. This primarily refers to Ukraine.
Let's make it clear that, although Paris affirms the lack of options to the Minsk comprehensive set of measures, their interpretation is getting increasingly different from that of Russia. France is inclined to believe that it is Moscow who should be the first to comply with those. According to Lavrov, the groundlessness of such an approach is obvious to anyone who has had at least a glimpse of the Minsk agreements that were approved by a UN Security Council resolution. Under the document, Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk must agree on a number of key matters that are essential for settling Ukraine’s internal crisis.
It should be noted that the crisis in relations between Russia and the European Union has been a major item on the agenda of the 2+2 meeting in Paris. The Russian Foreign Minister noted that Moscow invited Paris to discuss ways out of the impasse they found themselves in and recalled President Macron's idea of forming a European security architecture in concert with Russia, but not balanced against it. In turn, Sergei Shoigu noted that Russia and France need to jointly analyze the existing security problems to further identify steps to de-escalate the situation in Europe.
Such a hot-button topic as the migrant situation at the border between Belarus, Poland and Lithuania couldn't but come into the picture of the Paris meeting. The French ministers dubbed the Belarusian authorities' behavior "irresponsible and unacceptable." For his part, Sergey Lavrov reproached them with mendacity. "We clarified the situation in which there should not be any double standards, compared to the way migrants are treated in other EU countries, but not at the border with Belarus," the minister stressed. However, Lavrov admitted that the Russian side was unlikely to convince the French, who agreed to differ on the issue.
It should be noted that participants in the Council's meeting touched upon a number of other pressing issues, both international and regional, including the Middle East settlement and the APR situation. The parties also discussed close cooperation between Russia and the EU three (France, Germany and the United Kingdom – ed. note) aimed to achieve a prompt resumption of talks with Tehran on its nuclear program.
Few doubted that the French ministers would raise the issue of Mali. Official Paris is extremely annoyed by Moscow's alleged encouragement of contacts between this African country's authorities and a Russian private military company. In this regard, even before Lavrov and Shoigu's visit to Paris, the local press reported the French side intention to tell Russia the way it should behave globally, including Africa and specifically Mali.
But the French side has failed, as present-day Russia is not a country to be prescribed what to do or how to live its life in the international arena. Sergey Lavrov confirmed this by saying the following: "We have shown the lack of grounds for such accusations. We pointed out that we are providing military-technical aid to Mali and assisting it in organizing the work of its security services and the army as part of our interstate cooperation." The Minister also pointed out that "the scope of what our Western colleagues have done is a far cry from what PMCs set up by Russian citizens are doing." According to the Russian Foreign Minister, they also spoke in favor of joining efforts against terrorist groups in the Sahara-Sahel region and are still waiting for France to respond.
The point to be emphasized is official Paris' hypocrisy. The meeting saw France attempt to throw its weight around and point to Russia's "blunders" on the global stage. But for some reason, French President Emmanuel Macron did nothing of the kind during his recent talks with US Vice President Kamala Harris or American President Joe Biden, when the two met on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Rome. And there was a good reason for him to do so. After all, it was at Washington's initiative in September this year that the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom established the AUKUS military alliance, which entailed Canberra's refusal to buy 12 submarines from France for its Navy. Paris swallowed this pill, despite having lost $66 billion. Who would have any doubt.