Two weeks ago, French president Hollande decided to make an impromptu visit to Russia's president Putin. The visit in itself was, if not courageous, at least different from Western leaders' previous tactics of isolating the Russian president. The good mood of the Russian president made people wonder if something had happened and whether Hollande had been cured of the Bulgarian symptoms.

Hollande Putin
© EPA/LETA
Has Hollande after the meeting with Putin started to stand up and act in favour of the interests of his country?
At the Brussels summit, which finished yesterday, it was Hollande who voiced the desire to scale back the sanctions regime on Russia. In doing so, he caused a split in EU unity, as Bloomberg reported:
Europe stumbled into a debate over the end of sanctions on the economically distressed Russia after French President Francois Hollande became the first major leader to dangle the prospect of easing the curbs. [...]

Hollande urged the EU to offer early "de-escalation" to reward expected peace overtures by Russian President Vladimir Putin in eastern Ukraine, while others including German Chancellor Angela Merkel put off sanctions relief until a settlement emerges.
It's obvious that the sanctions would hurt the EU badly, but that has been known all along by anyone with two neurons firing, so the timing by the French President is interesting, especially given that Canada and the US have announced a new round of sanctions on Russia, although they have yet to be implemented:
Hollande warned that declining demand from Russia knocks out one of the props of Europe's economy.
No doubt! But the fact that a major European leader dared to question the sanctions regime is significant and made it easier for others to follow suit:
Europe's divisions were on display yesterday, with Austria joining the call for early sanctions relief and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi saying: "New sanctions? Absolutely no!"
That Poland and the Baltic states want tougher sanctions, or at least to keep the existing sanctions, shouldn't come as any surprise, but their voice in the EU does not carry much weight.

Voices in Germany are split between those who seek to work with Russia on equal terms and those who seek to destroy Russia to benefit from the takeover of Russian resources. German chancellor Angela Merkel appears to have decided that her masters are in the US, or as Ekaterina Blinova wrote in a recent article:
It seems, however, that despite the domestic pressure German Chancellor Angela Merkel is set on "wasting" the valuable political and economic experience of 10-15 years of Russo-German mutually beneficial relations.
Blackmail from the Empire of Chaos undoubtedly play a significant role too, as Putin is well aware and mentioned recently in his Valdai speech.

As far as Hollande goes, he also appears to have sent a message to the US' favorite poodle nation:
French President Francois Hollande will threaten to veto David Cameron's attempts to renegotiate Britain's relationship with the EU at a meeting on Thursday.

Hollande is expected to rebuff the prime minister's outlined plans by telling him he is "obsessed with his own problems" and block his request for a change to the EU treaty, the Telegraph reports. [...]

A French government source told the Telegraph that France was not willing to pay for the UK's presence in Brussels.

"We will not pay an extra price to keep the UK in the EU," the source said.
Also this week the French police raided ISIS recruiting centers across France:
French anti-terror police Monday dismantled a recruiting network for Syria jihad and arrested 10 people on allegations of sending nationals to fight alongside Islamist insurgents in the Arab-torn country, interior ministry said.

In a nationwide raid, police units targeted presumed Jihad recruiters in the southern town of Toulouse, Paris suburbs and in Normandy, north France.

Official data showed more than 900 French nationals and residents either joined the Syrian civil war or planned to travel to the conflict-torn country.
Now if France is actually getting serious about stopping the recruitment of NATO mercenaries (which is essentially what these takfiri jihadists are), that would be welcome news to Putin, who is well aware of the real source of 'Islamic' terrorism.

So has Hollande come to understand that France does not have anything but chaos to harvest from its support for regime change in Syria and for supporting Syrian rebels, who invariably turn to ISIS?

It has also been encouraging to see that Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov had a long interview on French TV just a week ago, and that even Syrian president Bashar Assad was interviewed by Paris Match. The French people have thereby been exposed to the views of the alleged enemy, whose downfall France has been actively supporting until now.

Whether Francois Hollande has grown a spine remains to be seen. Such a sea-change in attitude does not happen overnight. It involves a lot of work and courage, but the news coming out of France this week has been a welcome change, even if the motivation was largely out of self-interest. Then again, looking after their own interests and not those of the US is what French politicians are supposedly elected to do.