Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy waves as he arrives at the Elysee Palace for a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron to discuss the Russian attack on Ukraine on February 25, 2022 in Paris, France. (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)


Former French leader Sarkozy claims ‘Europe needs Russia and Russia needs Europe’


Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy held a controversial interview with the French newspaper Le Figaro where he criticised what he called the rhetoric in Europe towards Russia, stating he preferred a more “diplomatic” approach. He was met with some harsh responses.

His view of the Russian war in Ukraine differs from that of the current French President Emmanuel Macron. “We are not engaged on the ground. However, we are providing a continuous supply of weapons to one of the warring parties,” Sarkozy said.

This situation could become unmanageable in the short term, he added. Nevertheless, he said he supported Macron’s intention to maintain dialogue with Russia.

Sarkozy said that Europe should “define its strategy” clearly and aim for a middle-ground with Russia instead of pursuing the notion of financing a conflict without engaging in it.

“The allies affirm that they support Ukraine until the end. Are they right? The words are strong and definitive,” he said.

“But what does ‘until the end’ mean? Is it about retaking Donbas? Or also retaking Crimea? Or to go all the way to Moscow?”

Sarkozy pointed out that Crimea was fully Russian until 1954 and that the majority of people there feel Russian. He said it was “illusionary” to try to turn back the clock there.

“The Ukrainians … will want to reconquer what has been unjustly taken from them. But if they can’t manage it completely, the choice will be between a frozen conflict … or taking the high road.”

He added that he felt Russia’s invasion of Ukraine might be ended with new referendums in occupied territories, under strict international supervision, to ratify the situation.

Sarkozy insisted that Russian President Vladimir Putin was “not irrational” and could be approached through appropriate diplomatic measures from Europe. He referred to Moscow’s 2008 invasion of Georgia, recalling how he had persuaded Putin to withdraw his forces.

“Russia is Europe’s neighbour and will remain so,” he said. “Diplomacy, discussion and talks remain the only way to find an acceptable solution. Nothing is possible without compromise.”

Sarkozy added that Ukraine should remain “neutral” and had no place in the European Union or NATO. “We are selling fallacious promises that will not be held.” He also accused Central European states of “sabotaging” negotiations with Russia.

His statements triggered anger and controversy both in France and abroad.

Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, accused Sarkozy of applying “criminal logic”.

“You cannot trade other people’s territories because you are afraid of someone or because you are friends with criminals,” he said.

He accused Sarkozy of having “deliberately participated in a criminal conspiracy for Russia’s seizure of Ukrainian territories”.

Julien Bayou, a senior Green Party MP, told broadcaster LCI the interview showed Sarkozy “should not be considered as a former president but as a Russian influencer”, adding that the statements he made were “lunatic” and “shocking”.

Bayou referred to an ongoing inquiry into Sarkozy’s profitable connections with a Russian insurance company, which is being investigated on suspicion of influence peddling and concealing illicit activities.

Sarkozy’s former intelligence advisor Jerome Poirot said on LCI that the ex-president’s words were “shameful”.

“He has no perspective on what’s happened or on what he did during his 2007-2012 term,” Poirot said, reminding listeners that in 2008, Sarkozy was a prominent advocate against Georgia and Ukraine joining NATO and that Russia nonetheless invaded both nations.

“What were President Sarkozy’s red lines?,” he asked. “What was his vision for France’s security? Just giving in to whatever Vladimir Putin wanted?”

Poirot went on to further claim the money Sarkozy received from Russia was “unworthy of a former president of the Republic”.

Former Belgian PM Guy Verhofstadt weighed in on Twitter, now X, posting: “To laugh or cry? Mr Sarkozy reminds us of the tragic mistakes made by some of the European political establishment who got us to where we are. Putin’s Russia is a terrorist state. Ukraine defends us all and belongs in EU and NATO!”