Photo: Chesno/Getty Images
Result The upcoming presidential elections in France are poised to have a major impact on European security at a time when the continent is once again at war. In a second round of voting scheduled for April 24, centrist incumbent Emmanuel Macron will face far-right rival Marine Le Pen, whose National Rally party is on the verge of taking power for the first time in its history.
Le Pen, well known for her unfavorable treatment of immigrants and minorities in France, has made nativism the main message of her campaign. What may be even more important for the future of the entire continent is Le Pen’s warm relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the man responsible for fueling the most serious conflict in Europe since the collapse of the former Yugoslavia.
Since Putin launched his brutal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine two months ago, France has been a staunch member of the coalition against Russia. Under Macron, she helped create an international sanctions regime against Russia and was involved in supporting Ukraine’s defense through NATO. If Le Pen, whose hostility towards the European Union and sympathy for Putin is notorious, comes to power, these initiatives are likely to be curtailed.
The cozy ties between Le Pen and Putin have been maintained even as the latter has become a threat to European security. In 2017 Le Pen visited Kremlin, where she criticized EU sanctions on Russia following its annexation of the Ukrainian territory of Crimea, reportedly calling the measures “unfair and stupid.” She later defended Putin in the French media, arguing that the annexation was legal – a dubious claim – and reflected the will of the people of the region. Le Pen has long advocated closer ties with Russia on ideological grounds. She has even been criticized for take loans from a politically connected Russian bank to finance her party’s political operations in France.
Given Le Pen’s past, there is little reason to believe that she will refrain from reorienting France with multilateral European institutions towards Russia. Such a move could be the most significant change in European security since the end of World War II, and comes at a time when Europe is threatened more than ever by a resurgent Russia.
“I think if Le Pen had won, our national security would have been at stake.”
“I think if Le Pen had won, our national security would have been at stake,” said Rim-Sarah Aluan, a French legal scholar and Ph.D. PhD in Comparative Law at the University of Toulouse 1 Capitol. “France would be marginalized both within Europe and around the world. Alliances with our allies will be weakened or broken, and instead we will find ourselves joining undemocratic countries with which we should not be allying.”
She continued: “Le Pen has an ideological fascination with Putin, as well as financial connections in Russia. She is a Euroskeptic, so France would naturally lose its position as one of the leaders of the EU. If she wins, we must expect France to pay a serious price in her foreign relations.”
this one that small Eastern European states like Hungary or Serbia be pro-Russian; for a major EU power like France to take such a stance would be a completely different matter. Le Pen has been prudent in her actions, but if her views determine her policies as president, France’s major alliances will be reorganized under her leadership.
Like many other far-right leaders on the continent, Le Pen is hostile to the EU, seeing it as an obstacle to French sovereignty. Le Pen has already made it clear that she will withdraw French troops from the NATO zone. integrated team – where various national armies contribute to the forces led by generals subordinate to the alliance. While she has so far denied any intention of completely excluding France from NATO or the EU, observers say Le Pen is simply biding his time until he gains control of the levers of power in Paris.
The skepticism of these large alliances is inextricably linked to its attitude towards Russia. She called for reconciliation between Europe and Putin, unlike other European leaders who have been gripped by hostility towards Russia since its invasion of Ukraine. Le Pen pushed back against calls to stop buying Russian gas, warning that such a move would be suicidal for French businesses, even as other European countries have announced plans to phase out purchases from Russia in the coming years.
Her public comments have put her at serious odds with other European leaders who are almost united against Russian aggression. At a time when the unity of the EU countries was most dramatically undermined by the war, the ability to break a key member of the European alliance against Russia would be a huge strategic victory for Putin.
A Le Pen victory could be a boon to Russia’s geopolitical goals and in other, more subtle ways. French society remains highly polarized not only along political lines, but also along ethnic lines. The election of Le Pen is sure to exacerbate these divisions. It is this dynamic that actors like Russia have often tried to exploit for their own purposes, namely to weaken Western Europe. A Le Pen victory could give Putin the opportunity to split France along social fault lines.
The ability to tear apart a key member of the European alliance against Russia would be a huge strategic victory for Putin.
For observers like Alwan, the explosion of internal unrest in France could push the country towards right-wing politics, as seen in Hungary, where pro-Putin President Viktor Orban has used reactionary politics to consolidate his power. .
“If she wins, there will definitely be massive protests,” Le Pen’s Alwan said. “Declaring a state of emergency in France at this stage is not difficult, and there is a real possibility that after her election, we could turn into an illiberal state in the style of Viktor Orban.”
Although Macron still has a slight lead over Le Pen in the personal polls, his victory is far from certain. The French should recognize that what is at stake is not only the future of France, but also the future of Europe.