France and Germany are ready to continue dialogue with Russia, but if Moscow attacks Ukraine the price will be high, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday at a press conference after the talks. with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin.
Macron said Europe and its allies were united on the Ukraine issue, including the need for de-escalation, but were also “preparing a common response” in the event of Russian aggression.
“If there is an attack, there will be retaliation and the price [for Russia] will be very high,” Macron said.
Macron also said recent US-Russian talks on Ukraine were a “good thing” but had yet to show clear results. The French president said he would meet with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, on Friday.
“We call for a de-escalation of tensions and I also want to say how united Germany and France are on this subject,” he added, following speculation that Berlin could promote a softer line towards towards Russia.
“We are preparing a common reaction and response in the event of aggression in parallel,” he said, adding that the Western powers were “completely united”.
Scholz added: “We expect clear measures from Russia that contribute to a de-escalation of the situation. We all agree that military aggression will have serious consequences.
He also stressed that Moscow would have a “very high price” to pay if it violated Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
“Ukraine knows it can count on Germany”
Scholz’s comments came as Germany sent mixed signals on the Ukraine crisis, with Berlin refusing to sell arms to Kiev.
When German navy chief Kay-Achim Schoenbach said last week that Putin deserved respect and that trying to reclaim Crimea, annexed by Russia in 2014, was a lost cause, he resigned.
But the inconsiderate comments have left some Ukrainians wondering if Germany can be trusted to help protect them. Ukraine’s ambassador to Berlin denounced “German arrogance” while Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Germany’s actions encouraged Putin to attack.
Responding to criticism over Berlin’s refusal to follow other Western countries in sending weapons to Kiev to defend itself, Scholz said Germany had “done a lot to actively support economic development and democratic development in Ukraine”.
He noted that there were historical reasons for Germany’s refusal to send lethal weapons to war zones.
“We feel responsible, for example, to ensure that Ukraine remains a (gas) transit country,” he added. “Ukraine knows it can count on Germany.”
Conferences “Normandy format” in Paris
Macron said his conversation with Putin on Friday would be an opportunity for the Russian leader to provide a “clarification” on Moscow’s plans for Ukraine.
The buildup of Russian troops on the border with Ukraine has raised fears of a conflict over Moscow’s pro-EU neighbor, but it remains unclear what the Kremlin’s intentions are.
Several analysts predict that Russia is considering some kind of intervention in Ukraine, although Moscow has insisted that it does not plan a new attack on its neighbor after the annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Senior representatives from Germany, Russia and Ukraine are also expected in Paris on Wednesday to discuss Ukraine with French officials as part of the “Normandy” quadrilateral format.
Macron accused Russia of behaving like an “imbalance power” through its behavior not only in Ukraine but also in Belarus, the Caucasus and Moldova.
He said the situation was worrying and demanded that Europe remain united and prepare a “common response”.
But he added: “It also means that we have to have a dialogue of clarification with Russia because I think this dialogue is necessary to try to remove the ambiguities.”
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AFP)