Sixty pages to understand everything. Or almost. You must not miss “Ukraine-Russia, the mental map of the duel” (Gallimard, Tracts collection) by the French geographer Michel Foucher. The author has always navigated between cards and diplomacy. He was French Ambassador to Latvia, one of the Baltic countries most exposed to Putin’s threats, given its large Russian-speaking community.
Emmanuel Macron has read it and will no doubt take it with him
This book, Emmanuel Macron has read it and he will probably take it with him if he goes to kyiv this Thursday, June 16, after his trip to Romania and Moldova this Wednesday. The content of this sober and detailed work can even explain, in part, the controversial assertion of the French head of state, who warned his peers against a “humiliation” of Russia. So you have to read it.
In particular to understand how Ukraine has become, since gaining independence from the former USSR in August 1991, a “democratic bridgehead” for the West, in the words of former US national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski.
Michel Foucher looks at the maps. He deciphers them. He explains them. The most telling of is on page 12 of his little book, very easy to read. It encompasses, in a vast whole, the entire European space made up of France, Germany, Poland and Ukraine. This map is the one the United States has had in mind since the collapse of the Soviet Union. For Washington, it is a matter of holding together this ensemble which crosses the continent from one side to the other. Map title: “Beyond 2010, the critical core of European security”. All is said. The famous NATO summit in Bucharest in 2008, which half opened the door of the Atlantic Alliance to the Ukrainians in a declaration considered by Putin as pure and simple aggression, has its origins in this concept.
Warning: the author absolutely does not fall into the scenarios of Western destabilization brandished by all those who seek today to make people forget the abuses committed by the Russian troops and the horrors unleashed by this merciless dictator that Vladimir Putin has become. This is why you should read his book. For him, Russia is very guilty. The fault of the West is that it served it up on a plate as an excuse to awaken the Stalinist monster that slumbered in it and that so few intellectuals in love with this country wanted to face it, preferring to bury their blindness in a narrative questionable history.
The double heritage of Russian leaders
“The leaders of Russia in 2022 are cultivating a double heritage that underlies the current backward flight,” writes Michel Foucher. The first is that of the Soviet experience, according to which the stability of the system is better ensured in time of war, the second is that of the Tsaro-Stalinist autocracy, which wants Russia to be listened to and heard only when it is scary.”
You read that right: chaos on its borders, massacres and bloodshed are vital weapons for Putin. This is why man and his power are today a formidable threat to European democracies.
The story is also present in this book. It undoubtedly explains Emmanuel Macron’s oratorical precautions, greeted by a flood of understandable criticism from pro-Ukrainians. Independent and democratic Ukraine? Impossible for Moscow. Unacceptable. Unthinkable. “Russian imperial patriotism mobilizes Orthodoxy, the Russian language and a diffuse image of nationality, continues Michel Foucher. ‘Little Russia’ occupies a prominent place there alongside Belarus, under the protective but jealous wing of ‘Great Russia’. The ‘Russians’, big or small, are the building blocks of the All-Russian nation.
A matter of symbols
The strength of the observation of the French geographer is not to seek to accuse or settle scores. Difficult for example, to read it, to understand why the President of the Republic has not already been to kyiv. Because everything in this Ukraine-Russia duel is a matter of symbols. Going now to the Ukrainian capital, possibly alongside German Chancellor Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Draghi, therefore seems like a perilous political catch-up. Continuing to give diplomacy a chance and rejecting any “humiliation” is one thing.
NATO must be strong
But for Foucher, NATO must not stop flexing its muscles and telling Putin that any attack on the security of one of its members would be a declaration of war. “It is in the logic of the ongoing duel, which goes beyond the Ukrainian nation alone and could affect Central Europe, therefore the European Union as a whole”, he concludes. With this sentence that should make all supporters of appeasement think, when the escalation cannot be ruled out: “Would the deliquescent regime of Putinian personal power survive the catastrophe it would have caused?”
Emmanuel Macron would do well to re-read this little book on the train or the convoy that will take him to kyiv, before the European summit on June 23 and 24 who will decide on Ukraine’s application for membership of the European Union. The NATO summit will follow him in Madrid on June 29 and 30.