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Jacques Chirac and Vladimir Putin. Wikipedia

Macron mulling withdrawal of Putin’s Legion of Honour award

At the end of Jacques Chirac's term in 2007, France and Russia still maintained cordial relations. During his speech at a tripartite summit, the French president had even mentioned bilateral relations that were "excellent in all respects, particularly in the fields of energy, infrastructure and aeronautics".

Published: February 23, 2023, 5:13 am

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    Jacques Chirac and Vladimir Putin had notably brought about a rapprochement thanks to their common opposition to the war in Iraq in 2003. Russia was a member of the G8, the club that brought together the richest countries in the world, and even organised the G8 summit in St Petersburg in 2006, French broadcaster France Info reminded its audience.

    Before France became subservient to the EU and the US, it still cultivated its independence and retained its diplomatic credentials and President Jacques Chirac still embodied a certain form of resistance to American dictates. The young head of the Russian state, Vladimir Putin admired him for this.

    “When he spoke of Jacques Chirac, he called him the professor,” French sources said.

    Four presidents

    In a little over two decades, France has had four presidents. During this time, the two countries also witnessed a deterioration in the quality of these presidents and in the relationship with their Russian counterpart.

    Even if Macron received Putin like a king in Versailles in May 2017, he has since sided with President Biden and ditched the notion that Europe stretches from the Atlantic to the Urals, as President Charles de Gaulle had famously declared.

    It is especially under Sarkozy, the openly pro-US, pro-NATO and pro-EU French president, that relations between France and Russia crumbled.

    Legion of Honour award

    In 2006, Jacques Chirac awarded the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour to the Russian leader, the highest distinction awarded by the French Republic.

    In 2023, in the midst of Russia’s war against Ukraine, the question of withdrawing this medal from the Russian president is being raised by pro-Atlanticists. Without taking a clear position, Emmanuel Macron has not ruled out this possibility. He is likely to once again cave in to their demands.

    On 22 September, President Chirac pinned the small red decoration on Vladimir Putin’s jacket. The French media had not been informed of this ceremony. Without the presence of a photographers, the scene left almost no trace, except of course at the Élysée Palace.

    The former French president had decorated his Russian counterpart to celebrate the “friendship” between the two countries. Today, with the war in Ukraine, the context has changed and according to France Info, this has become a “cumbersome decoration” even if few people remember it.

    A ‘private’ ceremony

    The event was not included in the Agence France-Presse (AFP) forecasts and the AFP correspondent accredited to the Élysée Palace learned the news after the fact, as the programme Arrêt sur images on France 5 reported at the time.

    The journalist did relay the information in the evening, but it was not picked up by many outlets, due to a lack of images. The latter arrived a little later via Russian television, which did not fail to underscore the honour given to the Russian president.


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