French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday urged Europe to extricate itself from dependence on American weapons systems while also defending France’s recent diplomacy with Russia.
“We, some countries more than others, gave up on our strategic independence by depending too much on American weapons systems,” Macron said during a debate with students at the University of Vilnius in Lithuania.
“We cannot accept to live in a bipolar world made up of the U.S. and China,” the French president continued.
Macron also attempted to reassure the presidents of Lithuania and Latvia during his three-day visit visit to the two countries that France’s recent diplomatic efforts with Russia are aimed to benefit their countries, which remain skeptical of Russian intentions after the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Macron vowed that Russia would face unspecified consequences for Navalny’s poisoning and called on Russia to provide an explanation for his death.
Stronger European defense systems would support NATO, not replace it, Macron argued.
“We are conscious of your neighborhood as well as your history and it is in this spirit of mutual understanding and transparency and of protection of your security that we wanted to contribute to relaunching a strategic dialogue with Russia,” Macron said at a press conference alongside Latvian President Egils Levits.
“This dialogue doesn’t deny any parts of our European histories, but wants to face our history and our geography,” Macron said.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius expressed skepticism Monday about French overtures to Russia, saying that while dialogue can be productive, it must bear fruit.
“We understand the desire to have dialogue because channels are always important in diplomacy,” Linkevičius told Politico. “Dialogue for the sake of dialogue is not what we want to see, it creates an impression of business as usual.”
France’s relations with Russia stiffened after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, but Macron attempted to reopen diplomatic channels last year.
Macron’s remarks echo his previous call in November for Europe to develop independent defense systems to maintain “strategic autonomy,” when he warned about “the brain death of NATO” due to the U.S. taking a more distant approach to the alliance.