At one point, high-profile speakers close to the French president blamed Russia for alleged cyberattacks against Macron's campaign office in the 2017 presidential election, which Moscow has repeatedly denied. The US Cyber Command also publicly warned Paris of the threats posed by Russia in cyberspace. However, what does the current resumption of dialogue mean?
Cyber strategy expert and Sputnik correspondent Yannick Harrel sees it as “an open door” to a cautious rapprochement between the two nations.
According to the press release on the outcome of the Franco-Russian consultations on international security, the Russian delegation was comprised of representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Prosecutor-General's Office, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Justice, Federal Security Service, Federal Guard Service, Federal Service for Technical and Export Control, Investigative Committee, and the Staff of the Security Council of the Russian Federation.
In fact, the consultations were about the Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace, an initiative launched in 2018 by French President Emmanuel Macron. In turn, the Russian side received with interest a detailed presentation of the initiative made by the French side. The parties discussed issues of ensuring international security in the field of the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) and stressed the need to develop international cooperation in this domain, primarily under the auspices of the UN.
“This meeting confirms the remarks recently made by Emmanuel Macron in The Economist. He called for 'rapprochement' with Russia while being careful not to offend the allies of France who are reluctant. And there are no disagreements on issues of cybersecurity and terrorism”, Yannick Harrel says.
According to the expert, this important meeting opens the door both technically and politically to a thawing of Russian-French relations, while being cautious.
“We are talking about a fairly clear-cut change in direction”, he notes.
French Ambassador for Digital Affairs Henri Verdier recently told the Russian newspaper Kommersant, drawing a line under the several years of more-than-tense cybersecurity relations between Moscow and Paris, that France has not officially blamed anyone for cyberattacks:
“My visit [to Moscow] follows the agreements reached by Presidents Emmanuel Macron and Vladimir Putin in St Petersburg in 2018 and Brégançon last August on the need to intensify the dialogue in all areas and in particular the cyberspace. There are still disagreements and differences between us on some issues, and we recognise that. But at the same time, we believe we need to better understand each other and establish channels of communication, coordination, and rapid response”, Vernier explained.
The Russian Foreign Ministry ensured that an agreement has been reached following the Russian-French consultations to continue bilateral dialogue on international security in the field of ICTs, which would facilitate the rapid resolution of challenges arising in the use of ICTs, including when it comes to responding to computer incidents.
“Besides apprehending cybercriminals, this cooperation will also lay the foundation for future technology relations between France and Europe on the one hand, and Russia on the other one”, Yannick Harrel says.
It is noteworthy that the French press completely ignored the Russian-French talks. Even the official Twitter account of Henri Verdier, the ambassador for digital affairs, did not mention a word about it.
By Fabien Buzzanca