French and German approaches to Russia

Convergence yes, EU compatibility no
Research paper Updated 1 December 2021 Published 30 November 2021 ISBN: 978 1 78413 492 1
Photo shows French president Emmanuel Macron looking at German chancellor Angela Merkel while Russian president Vladimir Putin points at Merkel

Dr Céline Marangé

Research Fellow, Service historique de la Défense (historical department, French Ministry of the Armed Forces); Permanent Consultant on Russia and Eurasia, Policy Planning Staff, French Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Dr Susan Stewart

Senior Fellow, Eastern Europe and Eurasia Research Division, Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik – German Institute for International and Security Affairs

Areas of common interest in French and German approaches to Russia make it possible to envisage cooperation between Paris and Berlin in the security and the economic spheres. Both France and Germany are determined to confront hybrid threats and destructive behaviours coming from Russia; both have pushed for more engagement with Russia while upholding sanctions against it; and both see Russia as a necessary actor in future European security arrangements.

However, differences in political style and in priorities have made it difficult for Paris and Berlin to act jointly, even if the Normandy Format – bringing together the leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine – represents an important exception. In general, France is more focused on security, while Germany has put a premium on economic and energy issues.

This research paper explores the extent to which the Franco-German ‘motor’ can be mobilized in the area of Russia policy within the EU. The authors point to the possibility of continued convergence under the newly agreed coalition government in Germany, but underscore that the strength of opposition from eastern member states can be expected to impede potential French and German attempts to develop a consensus approach to Russia at EU level.