Elections in France 2022: ‘Candidate Putin’: the war in Ukraine plans on the presidential campaign in France | International

His name does not appear on any ballot paper, and to this day no candidate openly claims his supporter, but Russian President Vladimir Putin is the unwelcome and omnipresent guest in the French presidential elections on April 10 and 24.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, the destruction of cities and the killing of civilians have forced the pro-Russian candidates to correct their positions. Among these candidates is the leader of the extreme right, Marine Le Pen, whose party is indebted to a Russian bank and who, in the past, has shown her admiration for Putin.

“A victory for Marine Le Pen would be a terrible defeat for Europe and for the cause of liberal democracies and, de facto, a victory for Putin”, analyzes Dominique Moïsi, specialist in geopolitics and advisor to the Institut Montaigne think tank. “[El presidente ruso] it does not manage to prevail in the military field, but it would prevail in the political and ideological field”, he adds.

The polls indicate that, if the first round is held today, Le Pen would qualify for the second round with the current president, the centrist Emmanuel Macron. In the final Macron would win, but by such a narrow margin that surprises cannot be ruled out.

Between Putin and Le Pen there has been a proximity, first, political and ideological. “In recent years, a new world has emerged,” Le Pen summed up in March 2017 when visiting the Russian president in Moscow during the previous election campaign. “It is the world of Vladimir Putin, the world of Donald Trump in the United States, that of Mr. [Narendra] Mod in India. Probably, I am the only one that shares with these great nations a vision of cooperation and not of submission, not the warmongering vision that the European Union has expressed too often”, affirmed the leader of the extreme right.

The link between Le Pen and Russia is also economic. In 2014, his party, the National Front (now National Regroupment) obtained a nine million euro loan from a Russian bank. He hasn’t finished returning it.

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Marine Le Pen (left) and Vladimir Putin, in 2017 in Moscow.
Marine Le Pen (left) and Vladimir Putin, in 2017 in Moscow.Anadolu Agency (Getty Images)

“In several European countries there is an extreme right that has chosen to see in Putin a political and ideological model against the decline of multicultural Western societies, and, at the same time, a financial godfather as well”, denounces the essayist Raphaël Glucksmann, MEP of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats. “As paradoxical as it may seem, all these extreme right-wing movements that spend the day telling us that we are not patriotic enough and that we are sacrificing the French interest to the European interest, are putting themselves at the service of a foreign tyrant whose interests and principles are deeply hostile to our countries and our societies”, he points out.

For Le Pen, the war in Ukraine does not seem to have an electoral cost. By focusing the campaign on purchasing power, his international positions remain in the background and his image, for now, comes out unscathed.

The main victim in the polls has been his competitor on the extreme right, the ultra commentator Éric Zemmour, who until shortly before the invasion declared his admiration for the Russian president. “Vladimir Putin is not set limits,” he said. “[Sus] Claims and demands are totally legitimate.

Both Zemmour and Le Pen condemned the invasion and immediately distanced themselves from the Russian president. After massacres like Bucha’s on the outskirts of kyiv, both are reluctant to point to a culprit. Zemmour said on Tuesday: “You have to be careful and be sure that the massacres are the responsibility of the Russian troops. An international investigation is needed. It is infamous and ignoble if so.” Le Pen said: “It’s not on a movie set France Inter where it is decided what happened, who is guilty and what sanction should be imposed”.

The candidate of the populist left, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, accused by some rivals of excessive complacency with Putin in the last decade, was clearer: “The crimes of the Russian army against the Ukrainians in Bucha are pure murderous savagery. Russian officials must be held accountable. I neither forget nor forgive”.

Mélenchon never declared his admiration for Putin, like Le Pen or Zemmour, nor does he have any connection with Russia, but other candidates on the left, such as the environmentalist Yannick Jadot or the socialist Anne Hidalgo, reproach him for his past positions.

Melénchon applauded the annexation of Crimea

In 2014, for example, when Russia annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, melenchon wrote: “Of course Crimea is lost to NATO. Good news”. In the same text he charged, taking up elements of the Kremlin’s argument, against “ultranationalists, neo-Nazis or puppets of various factions of Ukrainian kleptocratic oligarchs.” Last January 30 held on public television: “It is the United States of America that is in an aggressive position, not Russia (…). Russia has interests and cannot accept NATO coming to its door.”

Pro-Russian or sympathetic positions with Russia have disappeared from the campaign for the presidency, but for years they have enjoyed broad support in France. In the electoral debate of the first round of 2017, the majority of candidates promoted a rapprochement with Russia. Only Emmanuel Macron — victim of a theft and leak of his internal emails after a computer attack of Russian origin — and the socialist Benoît Hamon maintained the European position. Conservative François Fillon ended up sitting on the boards of a Russian petrochemical and oil company.

The president himself has tried throughout his term to woo Putin. Without result. “Emmanuel Macron has been wrong, like almost all European political and intellectual elites, and there must be an examination of conscience,” says Glucksmann, referring to the past policy of the main European capitals towards Putin’s Russia. The MEP insists, however, on distinguishing between these elites, or politicians like Mélenchon, and the extreme Putin-loving right.

Already in your book Revolution, published before his victory in 2017, Macron advocated “working with the Russians to stabilize the situation in Ukraine and allow sanctions to be progressively lifted on one side and on the other.” And he wrote: “In the fight against terrorism or in the energy field, there is material to nurture a useful association.”

In the years that followed, Macron invited Putin to Versailles and his summer residence on the Côte d’Azur. He promoted relations with Russia to “close” it to Europe. The attempt aroused suspicion among Central European partners in the EU. Even among French diplomats, whom the president called a “deep state.” Before the invasion, he multiplied diplomatic activity, and has continued to speak on the phone with the Russian president, convinced that an open channel must be maintained. After the Bucha massacre of civilians was discovered, they have not spoken again.

Regarding the option of keeping the dialogue open, Glucksmann opines: “You are wrong, and it is a form of narcissism to think that talking to Putin will convince him to change. We have to make a break now.”

“The idea that he can seduce Putin or that he could seduce Trump is an act of hubris for his part,” says Moïsi, who uses the term for the Greek sin of arrogance. “If Macron loses,” he adds, “it will be said that he was wrong wasting so much time talking to Putin when he should have talked more to the French. Talking to Putin takes time and energy, and in the end nothing happens.”

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