German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron told Ukrainian President Vodlymyr Zelensky that he should start thinking about peace talks with Moscow, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The message was delivered to Zelensky when he had dinner with Scholz and Macron in Paris earlier this month. According to people familiar with the meeting, they told Zelensky that even mortal enemies like France and Germany had to make peace after World War II.
Unlike most Western leaders, Scholz and Macron maintained contact with Russian President Vladimir Putin throughout the war. Macron has repeatedly discussed the idea of a peace deal with Russia that would have to take into account Moscow’s concerns, although he’s still calling for a Ukrainian offensive to retake more territory.
“What we need now is for Ukraine to launch a military offensive which pushes back the Russian front in order to open the way for a return to negotiations,” Macron said at the Munich Security Conference.
The Journal report said that while France and Germany favor the idea of peace talks, they also support a British-proposed plan that would significantly deepen Western military cooperation with a post-war Ukraine. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak presented the blueprint for an agreement this week that would give Kyiv access to more advanced NATO equipment.
The idea of the agreement would be to build up Ukraine’s military after the war as a deterrence to a future Russian invasion instead of providing Kyiv with a war guarantee like NATO’s Article 5.
The UK has been more hawkish than France and Germany, but the Journal report said Sunak backs the idea of the deal being used to incentivize Ukraine to go to the negotiating table. He wants the plan on the agenda at a NATO meeting in July and hopes Ukraine can recapture territory before then.
Sunak’s plan would guarantee that Ukraine would continue receiving military aid and training after the war, and the British are open to sending fighter jets to Kyiv, which could be a non-starter for talks with Moscow. Putin and other Russian officials have said that the more advanced and the longer the range of weapons the West sends into Ukraine, the more territory they will try to take.