President Emmanuel Macron has offered his full support to Theresa May and said that France may take its own action against Russia after the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury. On a visit to Touraine on Thursday morning, the president was asked about the incident and he replied:
“Everything leads us to believe that responsibility is in fact attributable to Russia. I will announce in the coming days the measures that we intend to take.”
Macron is hosting German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Paris on Friday and it’s expected that the pair will make a joint announcement in which they reiterate their support for Britain. The president’s intervention came a few hours after France released a statement in which it stated:
“Since the start of the week, Britain has kept France closely informed of the evidence gathered by British investigators and of elements demonstrating Russian responsibility in the attack. France shares Britain’s assessment that there is no other plausible explanation and reiterates its solidarity with his ally.”
The series of supportive comments can be traced to an article that appeared in the Times in which the paper put an excitable spin on comments by Benjamin Griveaux, a government spokesman, who had told reporters on Wednesday that France was still investigating the claims. “We do not do fantasy politics on subjects so serious and so sensitive,” he said. “Once the elements are proven…that will be the time to decide. But we don’t begin by asking what we can do in case or if something might happen.”
If Griveaux was taking a cautious line on Wednesday the Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian was more bullish, expressing his “full confidence in the investigations that are being undertaken by our British partners”, and like his president intimating that there will a French response in the coming days.
Although most of the French media has kept to reporting the facts rather than offering comment on the diplomatic crisis, Le Monde used its editorial on Thursday to call for a united global front against Russia. “In this affair the British government doesn’t just need the support of Westminster, as precious as it is,” said the left-wing paper, which noted with disappointment the failure of Jeremy Corbyn to condemn Russia. “It must also have, above all, the support of its allies. Because this is only the start. If the measures taken by London are to have any effect on the Kremlin it will be only if Moscow knows that other powers, all united, are ready to reinforce them…soft power has its limits when confronted with a country that doesn’t hesitate to assassinate its enemies or former agents in foreign territory.”