France is about to elect a president. The West is anxiously watching.

From Paris to Putin

Like war rage in eastern UkraineEurope must ponder the unthinkable: a pro-Putin leader of a major European country, who experts fear, could undermine the Western alliance as soon as it comes to fruition. new relevance.

A standout moment in Wednesday’s debate was Macron highlighting Le Pen’s connection to Russia and her admiration for Putin. In 2014, her party took place a 9 million euro loan (about 12 million dollars) from First Russian Czech Bank, accused affiliated with the Kremlin.

“You talk about your banker when you talk about Russia, that’s the problem,” Macron told his opponent. “You depend on the power of Russia, you depend on Mr. Putin.”

Le Pen replied that she was “a completely free and independent woman” and that no French bank would lend her a loan. However she told a BBC interviewer in 2017 that her policies “are those represented by Mr. Trump, they are represented by Mr. Putin”. While many of France’s allies accuse Putin’s forces of genocide and seek to make his regime evil, Le Pen proposes holding a NATO-Russia summit soon after the war ends. .

Marie Jourdain, a member of the Atlantic Council and formerly a senior figure in the French Ministry of Defense, said: “There is no doubt that she has sympathy for Putin. “Since the outbreak of war, she has been careful not to support Putin. But she said that when the war is over, she will have NATO-Russia cooperation as if nothing had happened. “

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In stark contrast to Macron’s established proofs, Le Pen’s primary foreign policy goal is to remove France from NATO’s Integrated Strategic Command – a long-standing promise to end its leadership role. the country’s senior leadership in the alliance. Charles de Gaulle did this in 1966, and it was not until 2009 that France joined again.

France will remain bound by NATO’s Article 5, which guarantees a joint military response should any member come under attack.

Russia’s distrust of NATO is a major factor in the current crisis: One of Putin’s pre-war demands was for Ukraine to rule out joining indefinitely. (President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said that Ukraine will not join anytime soon.)

And because France will retain veto power over new NATO members, a skeptical and Moscow-friendly new Paris could stymie Sweden and Finland’s ambitions to join.

“As things are going, it’s hard to imagine any member state saying no [to new NATO members], but what if Le Pen in? ‘ said Jourdain. “It might not be too hard for her to say, ‘Well, I’m not going to ratify that.’ She may want to return to the dialogue with Putin, instead of provoking him further.”

Le Pen would also reduce payments to the bloc and undermine the principle that member states give priority to EU law – another potential bonus for Russia when in doubt over geographical expansion and EU military.

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