The Russian and French governments have confirmed that Russian President Vladimir Putin will travel to Paris on 29th May 2017 to meet the new French President Emmanuel Macron.
Just 7 months again Putin cancelled a visit to Paris to open a Russian cultural centre during the peak of the crisis in Syria.
Not only is Macron hosting Putin, but he is apparently intending to roll out the red carpet for him, hosting him the chateau of Versailles where France is staging an exhibition to commemorate the visit to France in 1717 of Peter the Great.
This is an abrupt turnaround by Macron, who had run in the election as the candidate who would stick by the EU position of confronting Russia.
Presumably nothing has really changed, and Macron’s decision to receive Putin is intended to reassure the French business community that France is not “losing” Russia, much as German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to Russia earlier this month seems to have been made for the same purpose.
From the Russian point of view Putin’s visit to France should be seen as a reconnaissance in force, intended to assess the new French President in order to assess what sort of a person he is, and to see whether Russia might be in a better position to work with him than with his hapless predecessor François Hollande.
No important breakthroughs on Russian-French relations or in relation to the Ukrainian or Syrian conflicts or the sanctions issue should be expected.