In a eureka moment for the small-minded, French President Emmanuel Macron, after his latest phone call with Vladimir Putin, has rushed to his nearest microphone to announce to the world that, as a Washington Post headline puts it, he is “convinced that ‘the worst is yet to come’ and that Russia wants to take all of Ukraine.” Oddly, I have never shared a single phone call with Vladimir Putin, and yet I have known that this was his intention for many years. Why is that?
Macron is a classic example of the small man whose great accomplishment and pride in life is to have been permitted entry to an elite club (whereas, for comparison, Donald Trump’s great pride was to exact revenge against the club for rejecting him). His dream is to be accepted as a lifetime member in good standing, to enjoy all the perceived privileges of membership — especially its perceived (i.e., seen) privileges — such as having phone calls with “important individuals” as a representative of the club, however gofer-like and trivial these interactions might be. He loves this elite club, because he belongs, he feels accepted and embraced, and therefore, like any gratified lover, he believes in it.
But as we all know, love is blind. In the first flush of adoration, the lover is no sensible judge of what he loves, and therefore cannot be trusted as a source of even the most basic and straightforward information about anything related to his beloved. And so President Macron, besotted by the privileges and public respectability of being seen by his countrymen and all the world, talking on the line with (perhaps even, shall we say, “on the arm of”) a leader so consequential as the Russian president — dare we say his Russian counterpart? (oh no, that’s too much, we mustn’t think it) — needs to believe, for the sake of his pride and the dignity of his membership, that all club members are truly the best of men, the best of women, the best of the best. Understand, it is not Vladimir Putin that he loves, but rather the elite club itself, to which, after all, he and Putin — or let’s say it like proper club members, which will really impress Mother, “he and Vladimir” — are gold class keyholders.
And so, a week into a massive military invasion, eight years after the initial annexation of territory, and following upon many years of Putin’s boisterous nationalistic rhetoric aimed at reviving the dream of the Soviet empire, the penny has finally dropped for Emmanuel Macron. Hanging up the phone slowly, half-startled and half-perplexed, uncomfortable making eye contact with anyone at this moment, Emmanuel, staring blankly at the phone while speaking deliberately and with only the slightest tremble noticeable in his voice, says to his aides, barely revealing the first shock of a broken heart, “He means to take all of Ukraine.”
But seriously, for the rest of us, who are non-members and therefore enjoy the benefits of critical distance so intrinsically impossible to an insider, I offer this consideration: Would those Western propagandists for Putin, such as Trump administration foreign policy advisor Colonel Doug Macgregor, have been advocating so openly for Putin to take Ukraine, and for Ukraine to surrender without a fight, if they did not know full well that this was Putin’s intention all along? Would they, clearly believing they are speaking (surreptitiously, as they imagine) on behalf of the Kremlin’s interests, have been repeatedly, loudly making the case on Fox News for a full Russian takeover, if Putin had not given any indication that such was his plan?