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June 2, 2017 by Speakers' Spotlight

Speak of the Week: French President Emmanuel Macron

Newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron came out swinging on Monday when he boldly declared – with Russian President Vladimir Putin standing right beside him – that he believed there had been Russian interference in the French election. The criticism stood out not only for its content and the spectacle of its delivery, but because almost no other current world leader has dared speak out against Putin’s government so loudly.

Flanked by the opulent surroundings at the French Palace of Versailles – the opposite of a boxing ring if there ever was one — their joint press conference, held in front of reporters gathered from around the world, initially seemed to showcase the two leaders in agreement, pledging to fight terrorism together.

That facade fell away, however, when Macron was asked by a reporter about his refusal to give access to specific Russian media outlets during his presidential campaign. Unable to hold back his frustration on the matter, Macron spoke out decisively.

“I will not give an inch on this,” he began. “During the campaign, Russia Today and Sputnik were agents of influence, which on several occasions spread fake news about me personally and my campaign….and I will not give into that in any way….Russia Today and Sputnik have not behaved as media outlets and journalists, but behaved as organs of influence, propaganda, and false propaganda.”

Macron’s remarks served as a reminder of the current FBI investigation into alleged Russian tampering during the US presidential campaign – an issue that President Trump has, at least seemingly, continually sought to dismiss.

For his part, Putin countered Macron by denying that Russia had tampered with the French election, just as he has denied any involvement in attempts to influence the US election.

For a newly-minted president to be so uncompromising in his first meeting with Putin, and to make it so abundantly clear that he is taking on firm stance on many of Russia’s actions – be it in relation to the election, to chemical weapon use in Syria, or to Russia’s treatment of their LGBTQ population, which were all points Macron addressed – is unprecedented.

Only time will tell if Macron is able to follow through on his positions with actions, should the need arise, but one thing is certain: Macron is ready for a fight, and Russia had best stay on its toes.

For “not giving an inch”, we chose President Emmanuel Macron as our Speak of the Week.