In April, centrist politician Emmanuel Macron overcame populist, nativist Marine Le Pen to win the presidency in France. Macron’s election helped ease fears—at least temporarily—of a growing populist wave aided by Russia-induced chaos. The French race had many of the same elements of Russian disruption that infiltrated the U.S. election, including online Russian propaganda and a hack and late WikiLeaks dump of Macron campaign emails. Vladimir Putin even went so far as to meet with Le Pen in Moscow a month before the election. Macron still prevailed and, on Monday at the Palace of Versailles, met with the man at the spiritual heart of Russian meddling, President Vladimir Putin.
Two weeks into his term, the 39-year-old Macron struck an assertive, principled tone that you would have expected from an American president meeting with an increasingly assertive adversary. Macron met with his Russian counterpart privately, and then stood at a podium next to Putin and accused Russian state news organizations of an intentional disinformation campaign (via the AP):
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.
“It’s indispensable to talk to Russia because there are a number of international subjects that will not be resolved without a tough dialogue with them,” Macron told reporters at the G-7 summit Saturday. “I will be demanding in my exchanges with Russia.” Macron’s assertiveness is noticeably absent in American interactions with Russia, which have melted into a bizarre sycophancy. Macron, like an increasing number of European leaders, seems to have sensed the softening in Washington and has indicated he will strike an equally tough pose in his dealings with the Trump White House. “One must show that you won’t make small concessions, even symbolic ones, but also not over-publicize things, either,” Macron said of his tight-gripped handshake with Donald Trump during his recent visit.