Putin is definitely looking to China. In the first quarter of 2023, Chinese imports, into Russia, amounted to USD 24.07 billion year-on-year, up 47.1% year-on-year, while Russian exports reached USD 29.77 billion (+32.6%). On an annual and full-year basis, China-Russia 2023 trade would reach about USD 215 billion. However, this is only 30% of the trade volume between China and the US. Thus, Russia is increasing its dependence on China, without being a key partner for it.
Moreover, these two countries are cultural strangers, they have always been. On the borders of the two countries, the populations remain at a distance from each other, they have no common projects. In view of its size and dependence, Russia is a vassal of China. Will the Russian elites allow this when history traces a European destiny for Russia where it is a giant, the very Europe with which it is at war?
Macron has well understood this line of tension, he wants to offer Putin a way out, and at the same time this would put an end to the conflict.
However, by stubbornly maintaining the dialogue with Putin, despite the opposition of the majority of European countries, Macron is taking a back seat to Europe. The European countries, frightened by Russia, unconditionally support Ukraine in material and human terms. They turn to the United States, which mobilizes exceptional means, not comparable to those of France. NATO is getting stronger, Finland and Sweden have just joined it. Under these conditions, Macron cannot legitimately claim leadership over European defense. Worse, Macron’s isolation also has consequences in the global South, i.e. Mediterranean and African countries, where detestation of the West is growing, especially when it shows enormous financial capacities to fuel a European war, but contains them. France, isolated, is caught between American and Russian ambitions, and is retreating everywhere, in Mali, the Central African Republic and the entire Sahel region.
Putin has clearly identified this line of tension. He is cultivating it, because if Macron collapses, the new French leaders could be pro-Russian and anti-European.
Putin wants to win a war that he has declared in front of the whole planet, if nothing, neither the Russian elite nor the disease, stops him, he will not negotiate. Macron has begun a rapprochement with the United States, proof of this is the collaboration in the Central African Republic, he recognizes the American leadership. And they want the defeat of Russia and the entry of Ukraine in NATO. Europe is becoming a vassal of the United States in its confrontation with the other major strategic bloc in the world, China.