Vladimir Putin was in Paris today to meet with brand new French president Emmanuel Macron. The meeting was superficially cordial but there were obviously differences, not the least of which was that Russia had unsuccessfully meddled in the 2017 French elections and Macron is not going to forget.

Here is the tick-tock via AP.

4:25 p.m.

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen maintains contacts with Moscow after visiting Vladimir Putin in March, but had no plans to meet with the Russian leader or Russian aides during Putin’s visit to France.

Le Pen tweeted ahead of Putin’s meeting on Monday at the Palace of Versailles with French President Emmanuel Macron that she “rejoices that V. Putin is being welcomed to France. Our relations must be normalized.”

5:22 p.m.

French President Emmanuel Macron is saying after talks with President Vladimir Putin of Russia that he believes they can work together on Syria and that he wants to forge a reinforced partnership against the Islamic State group.

Macron said he wants a democratic transition in Syria, but not at the cost of the war-torn country becoming a failed state.

After talks with Putin at the Palace of Versailles that ran far longer than planned on Monday, Macron said the use of chemical weapons in Syria was a “red line” for France.

He said that any use of such weapons in Syria would lead to “reprisals” from France — without specifying exactly what form they would take.

Macron said he also spoke to Putin about LGBT rights in Chechnya and about NGOs in Russia.

He vowed to be “constantly vigilant on these issues.”

5:30 p.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says he and French President Emmanuel Macron have agreed to discuss pursuing closer cooperation on anti-terror efforts.

The Russian leader says they also discussed the situation in Syria. Putin underlined the importance of securing the Syrian state, adding that it’s essential for combatting terrorism.

5:41 p.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has rejected allegations that Moscow meddled in France’s presidential election.

Speaking after talks Monday with French President Emmanuel Macron, Putin said Moscow didn’t try to influence the French vote.

But he also defended his March meeting with Macron’s rival in the presidential race, far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

5:50 p.m.

French President Emmanuel Macron has made an extraordinary attack on two Russian media outlets, saying they acted as “propaganda” organs during France’s election campaign.

Speaking at a news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, Macron accused the two outlets, Russia Today and Sputnik, of spreading fake news.

He said that’s why he banned their reporters from his campaign headquarters during the race for the French presidency, which he went on to win May 7.
7:30 p.m.


The atmosphere between the two men was cordial and relaxed. They hugged goodbye and shook hands, both smiling, at the end.

The Daily Beast adds more drama.

Then Macron got down to substance. “On Syria, I have reminded President Putin of what our priorities are,” he said, starting with those general principles on which they can agree: the need to fight terrorism and eradicate ISIS; the desire to “preserve the Syrian state” and open the way to a democratic transition. There was no insistence, as there had been with Macron’s predecessor, that Syrian President Bashar Assad must go. But that was implied, and may have been explicit in private.

Then Macron drew what he called two very clear “red lines”: use of chemical weapons, which would invite “immediate retaliation”; and any effort to impede humanitarian corridors to besieged populations.

Macron also said he’d reminded Putin of the importance of civil society in Russia, and of human rights, including those of LGBT people in Chechnya who have been put in what some human rights activists describe as concentration camps.

Putin clearly was chafing as he listened, and also when he spoke. Alluding indirectly to the sanctions against Russia imposed after it subverted and annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, he noted that 500 French companies are operating in his country and none have left. He mentioned the dangers posed by North Korea and its nuclear ambitions, which Macron had not talked about.
Where Syria was concerned, Putin said his position was known: “It is impossible to fight terrorism by destabilizing a state”—a reason to keep Assad, although he didn’t say so in so many words.

Putin said those were the reasons he received Le Pen, not because of any illusion that she might actually win. He and his people read the polls, he said. They were not “children.”
But what Putin could not get around was the fact that he had in fact very publicly backed a loser, his cyber-agents of one description and another had hacked the winner, and he and his policies had failed spectacularly—at least in France.

There is no doubt that Macron is presenting Europe with a fresh new face, and a face that can offer an alternative to the culture suicide being advocated by Merkel. But, ultimately, Macron, is another Euro socialist and despite his charismatic persona he is very unlikely to do much that is different as far as the way France operates is concerned. France can talk all it wants to about red lines and retaliation but the sad fact is that France’s air force can’t deliver munitions in Syria unless someone else, like the US, does the heavy work of finding targets and securing their aircraft. It is French companies and mercantile interests who are exposed to Russian retaliation, not vice versa. Macron is highly unlikely to change internal Russian policy.

So while it was great theater and will give the anti-Trump people someone to swoon over (oh, [sigh, heart flutter, he is so dishy, he’s nearly as cute as Justin Trudeau] why couldn’t Trump talk to Putin like that) the fact is that Macron can talk tough because he’ll never be expected to deliver.