Emmanuel Macron was “lucky to get the nod” when Volodymyr Zelensky travelled to western Europe last week, says Nicholas Vinocur in Politico. The French president has hedged his bets throughout the conflict, initially continuing talks with Vladimir Putin and stressing the need for “security guarantees” for Moscow. And whereas Olaf Scholz has suffered “bruising criticism” for his hesitation over donating German tanks, France’s “substantially smaller” military contribution has been largely glossed over. As of December, the UK had pledged €7bn in aid, Germany €5.4bn and France a measly €1.4bn. Macron didn’t even formally invite Zelensky to visit Paris; he’d planned a theatre trip with his wife that evening, and it was only after his aides watched the Ukrainian president’s solemn Westminster address that they hurriedly fixed up a late-night rendezvous.
By failing to adequately support Kyiv, Macron has also fumbled the bag on his larger ambition to position himself as Europe’s leader. The irony is that, as one think tanker puts it, “the road was open” for France to become the continent’s supreme power. Britain has left the EU, and Scholz has been hampered by coalition politics and the impact of Berlin’s “failed bet on Russian energy”. Paris, in comparison, has enjoyed stable government and the benefits of “relative energy independence” thanks to its embrace of nuclear power. As Macron drags his feet on Ukraine, his “golden opportunity is fading”.