Le Maire backtracks after talking of ‘economic and financial war’ against Russia

French minister of finance Bruno Le Maire. [European Union]

French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire, a key figure in implementing sanctions against Russia, caused an outcry after saying France and the EU would “wage a total economic and financial war on Russia”. Later in the day, he backtracked on his “inappropriate” remarks.

While being interviewed on public radio France Info, Le Maire said that the objective of this “economic and financial war” was to “cause the collapse of the Russian economy”.

Faced with this offensive, former Russian President and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who is currently the vice-president of the Russian Security Council, warned the minister on Twitter to “watch [his] tongue” because “economic wars quite often turned into real ones”.

Le Maire went back on his remarks, which he described as “inappropriate” and acknowledged that they were not part of the “de-escalation” strategy that the European and French authorities have been pursuing for weeks now.

Asserting that the opposition between the Western bloc and Russia involves its leaders, he added that “we are not in conflict with the Russian people”.

Prime Minister Jean Castex took a more conventional choice of words, considering that “the essential thing was […] to target our measures so that they would have a massive effect on the Russian economy” while keeping open the possibility of tightening them in the future if necessary.

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