French president sounds like he is not opposed to going some way to accommodate Moscow on Ukraine
Hollande is hurting politically on sanctions and the Mistral fiasco.
Clearly he would prefer them lifted, but in a way that saves his face and leaves him free to argue they "worked" and he was right to favor them initially.
By tying end of sanctions to some undefined "progress" that Moscow is supposed to deliver he also ducks responsibility if he fails.
He'll claim he had done all he could have and tell French workers they should really be angry with Russia.
This is an excerpt from an article that originally appeared at France 24
The unprecedented two-hour interview with France Inter radio was aimed at championing a string of economic reforms and reversing Hollande’s record-low approval ratings.
It also gave the French president a chance to state his views on a range of foreign policy issues. FRANCE 24 looks at the key international topics he addressed.
- ‘Putin does not want to annex eastern Ukraine – he told me that’
The French president said biting Western sanctions against Russia should be lifted if progress were made in resolving the Ukraine crisis.
"I think the sanctions must stop now. They must be lifted if there is progress. If there is no progress the sanctions will remain," he said.
The sanctions began in March after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea and have since been stepped up amid claims Russia is stoking separatist conflict in the country’s east.
"Mr Putin does not want to annex eastern Ukraine. He has told me that," said Hollande.
"What he wants is to remain influential. What he wants is for Ukraine not to fall into the NATO camp," the French leader added.
Hollande struck an optimistic note ahead of January 15 talks in Kazakhstan, where Ukraine's Western-backed leader Petro Poroshenko is to meet Russia's Vladimir Putin.
The leaders of France and Germany are also expected to attend the meeting in Astana.
"I will go to Astana on January 15 on one condition, which is that there should be a possibility of making new progress.
If it's just to meet and talk without making any actual advances then there's no point. But I think there will be progress," he said.
The crisis in Ukraine has prevented France from completing the delivery of two "Mistral-class" warships to Russia.
Paris has pushed back the delivery of the €1.2 billion vessels "until further notice", and could be liable for a hefty fine if it breaches the contract.