According to The Wall Street Journal, Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz, during their last meeting with Ukrainian President Zelensky, encouraged him to negotiate a way out of the war with Russia—a proposal rejected by Zelensky.
This particular conversation—according to the American newspaper and based on anonymous sources—took place on February 8th, during a dinner organised at the Élysée Palace in honour of the Ukrainian president. Emmanuel Macron is said to have reminded his Ukrainian counterpart of the tormented history between France and Germany, which did not prevent the two former enemies from concluding a lasting peace at the end of World War II. The French president went so far as to use slightly polemical language, saying that Volodymyr Zelensky had been “a great war leader” up to that point, but that he now had to complete his transformation into a true statesman, i.e., find political solutions to end the conflict, including at the cost of “difficult decisions.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, many officials in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom now doubt Zelensky’s ability to reconquer all of Ukrainian territory. An unnamed French government official is quoted as telling the Wall Street Journal: “If the war goes on for long enough with this intensity, Ukraine’s losses will become unbearable,” before adding, “no one believes they (Ukraine) will be able to retrieve Crimea.”
The prognosis is pessimistic. For the three European states, strengthening ties between NATO and Ukraine would be a way to push Ukraine towards opening peace talks with Russia, putting the country in a stronger position at the time of the inevitable negotiations: “The NATO summit must produce a clear offer to Ukraine, to give Zelensky a political win that he can present at home as an incentive for negotiations,” a British official explained.
The rhetoric used by Macron was certainly not to Zelensky’s liking. He preferred to ignore the suggestion. On the occasion of the commemoration of the first anniversary of the conflict, Zelensky, in an address broadcast on his social networks, announced that Kyiv would do “everything to achieve victory this year.”