French historian Dr. Edouard Husson has taken issue with Emmanuel Macron's interpretation of history in his remarks in Verdun on Tuesday, including Macron's call to protect Europe from Russia, which the president said was "on our borders and has shown that it can be a threat."
In an op-ed in Atlantico, Husson, former vice-chancellor of the Sorbonne, wrote that he was "surprised, to say the least" to hear the confrontational remarks by the president, "just days before the reception of President Putin as part of the commemorations" dedicated to the end of the Great War.
"Isn't it time to pay homage to the 1.8 million dead of the Russian army? Shouldn't we leave contemporary politics aside to recall the paradox of the fact that a people, an empire, the Russians, who, as coercive as they were, twice save our Republic in the 20th century?" Husson asked.
The historian recalled that between 1914 and 1917, Russian sacrifices enabled France to contain German armies. Two decades later, between 1941 and 1945, the Soviet role in the defeat of Nazism enabled General Charles de Gaulle to return to France.
The Russian Empire and Soviet Union suffered "5 million deaths, civilian and military, during the First World War," and "27 million deaths, civilian and military, between 1941 and 1945," the academic wrote. "Such is the toll paid by the Tsarist Empire and the Soviet Union in the defense of freedom in Europe."
French Policy on Russia: Macron vs. De Gaulle
Criticizing Macron's "real European army" concept for its labeling of Russia as an adversary, the historian pointed out that "when General de Gaulle advocated for the emergence of a 'European Europe', it was aimed at emancipating France from the United States and at the same time building a security architecture with Russia," not against it. "One could not happen without the other in the eyes of the founder of the Fifth Republic," Husson stressed.
Urging Paris to resist being "drawn into the frequent tendency by the Americans and the British to confront Russia," Husson noted that Gaullist reasoning with regard to Russia is as valid today as ever. "Without an understanding with Russia, how can we seriously think about balancing Europe with Asia? How can we claim, in 2018, to seriously fight Islamism and its militias without close cooperation with Moscow?" the historian concluded.