AP: How the French presidential election may affect the war in Ukraine

Updates: 04/15/2022 09:40
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Paris – The capital of France is thousands of kilometers from the battlefields of eastern Ukraine, but the results of the French elections could have an impact on events in Ukraine. Far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has close ties to Russia and wants to weaken the European Union and NATO, which could undermine Western efforts to stop Russia’s attack on Ukraine. Le Pen is trying to oust centrist Emmanuel Macron, who is only slightly ahead in the polls ahead of the April 24 election. The AP summarizes how the French elections could affect the war in Ukraine:

Armament of Ukraine

In recent weeks, the Macron government has sent military equipment worth 100 million euros (2.4 billion crowns) to Ukraine. On Wednesday, it announced that it would send more material as part of Western military aid. France has been a major source of military aid for Ukraine since 2014, when Russia annexed Ukrainian Crimea and supported separatists fighting in eastern Ukraine.

Le Pen on Wednesday expressed reservations about supplying additional weapons to Ukraine. She said if elected president she would continue to provide defense and intelligence assistance, but would be ‘cautious’ about sending weapons as she believes the supplies could lead to other countries in the war with Russia.

Mitigation of penalties

In his campaign, Le Pen managed to capitalize on French voters’ frustrations over rising inflation, which worsened following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine and sanctions. Western powers that followed against Russia. It is at the same time a major gas supplier and a commercial partner of France and Europe.

The European Union got unusually close and approved increasingly tough anti-Russian sanctions in five rounds. Should Le Pen become French president, she could try to thwart or reduce further EU sanctions, as new measures require the unanimous backing of all 27 member states.

France is the EU’s second largest economy after Germany and has a decisive influence on EU decisions. Moreover, France currently holds the presidency of the EU, which gives the next French leader significant influence.

Le Pen is strongly opposed to sanctions on Russian gas and oil. She has also said in the past that she would push for the lifting of sanctions imposed on Russia over its annexation of Crimea, and that she would even recognize Crimea as part of Russia.

Friendship with Putin

Early in his term, Macron tried to make contact with Putin and invited him to Versailles and a presidential resort on the Mediterranean coast, hoping to bring Russian politics back to greater harmony with the West. .

The French president also sought to revive peace talks between Moscow and Kyiv over a long-running conflict in eastern Ukraine between Russian-backed separatists and the government. Macron visited Putin in the Kremlin weeks before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which began on February 24, and negotiated with the Russian leader during the war. Macron has also backed several rounds of EU sanctions.

Le Pen’s National Association (RN) has deep ties to Russia. The politician met Putin as a candidate for the French presidency in 2017 and congratulated him in the past. She is warmly welcomed at the Russian Embassy in Paris and her far-right party has also received a loan of nine million euros (nearly 220 million crowns) from a Russian-Czech bank because French banks refused to lend to the party.

Le Pen says the war in Ukraine has partially changed his view of Putin, but said Wednesday the West should try to restore relations with Russia once the conflict is over. She proposed a “strategic rapprochement” between NATO and Russia so that Moscow does not form a very close alliance with China.

Weakening of the EU and NATO

While Macron is a strong supporter of the EU and has recently stepped up France’s involvement in NATO operations in Eastern Europe, Le Pen argues that France should keep its distance from international alliances and open the way.

He supports France’s withdrawal from NATO’s military command, which would exclude the French military from the corps’ planning operations and lead to the country’s influence in the Western military alliance.

France withdrew from the NATO command structure in 1966, when French President Charles de Gaulle wanted to distance himself from an organization controlled by the United States. In 2009, it met under the leadership of conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy.

If it were up to her, Le Pen would cut France’s contributions to the EU and try to weaken EU influence by cutting the bloc from within. Among other things, it would reject the primacy of European law over national law.

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