New French President Emmanuel Macron hosted Russian President Vladimir Putin in Paris on Monday, and the two leaders agreed on the need to work together to try to resolve conflicts in Ukraine and Syria. But they disagreed on the independence and integrity of state-sponsored Russian news outlets RT and Sputnik, which Macron had refused to accredit during his presidential campaign, accusing them of spreading Russian misinformation favoring his pro-Russia rival, Marine Le Pen. On Monday, Putin said Russia did not try to meddle in the French election and argued it would have been strange to not meet with Le Pen.
Standing next to Putin, Macron disagreed about the first part. RT and Sputnik "didn't act like the media, like journalists. They behaved like deceitful propaganda" and "agents of influence," he said, in response to a question from RT France head Xenia Fedorova. "I have always had an exemplary relationship with foreign journalists, but they have to be real journalists," he added. "All foreign journalists, including Russian journalists, had access to my campaign." You don't have to speak French to tell when he's talking about RT and Sputnik, or to catch Putin's expression when the translation reaches his earpiece.
Macron, 39 and in office less than a month, met with President Trump for the first time last week, and their interactions suggest his extraordinary critique of Russian media in front of Putin wasn't impromptu. On Sunday, Macron told the French newspaper Journal du Dimanche that his white-knuckled handshake with Trump "wasn't innocent." It wasn't "the be-all and the end-all of a policy, but it was a moment of truth," he added, putting Trump in the same category as Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
"Donald Trump, the Turkish president, or the Russian president see relationships in terms of a balance of power," Macron said, according to The Guardian's translation. "That doesn't bother me. I don't believe in diplomacy by public abuse, but in my bilateral dialogues I won't let anything pass. ... That's how you ensure you are respected. You have to show you won't make small concessions — not even symbolic ones."