Emmanuel Macron’s peace mission to Moscow was fraught with danger from the start and may in the end come to nothing. But no one – least of all Joe Biden and Boris Johnson – can say that the French President wasted his time or that his last-minute attempt to avert war between Russia and Ukraine was a fool’s errand.

There were only three possible outcomes to Macron’s daring démarche. The first was that he would fail totally, and publicly, to persuade Vladimir Putin to draw back on his implied threat to invade Ukraine, in which case his departure for Kiev, en route for Berlin and Paris, would have been the most humiliating for a French leader since Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow in 1812.

That didn’t happen. Putin spent five hours with his guest, including a dinner of reindeer meat, sweet potatoes and blackberries, and described their talks as both serious and substantive.