Friday, April 21, 2017
In this corner...Vladimir Putin, and in this corner...the rest of the world
The first round of the French presidential election is this weekend, and it has the potential to be as much of a world changer as did Donald Trump's election in the US last year. The big Wild Card will be how well National Front candidate Marine Le Pen does.
The five leading candidates are on this first-round ballot, with the top two going on to the final election ballot next month, assuming no one receives a 50% true majority in this first test. Ms Le Pen is expected to make it to the final round, and that's why much of the western world, and Europe in particular, is holding their breath.
Their unease is because Ms Le Pen is friendly towards Russia, has received campaign financing from a bank close to Putin, and is likely to follow Britain's lead and will try to take France out of the European Union, and perhaps the Euro Zone (the common European monetary system), as well. She isn't too keen on France's NATO participation, either.
Ms Le Pen and her party are anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant (read: anti-Muslim), and ultra-right-wing nationalist. Many say her "France First" theme is a take-off of Donald Trump's "America First". Both she and Candidate Trump slammed international trade agreements (harmful to their economies), NATO (outdated and too expensive), and have questioned sanctions on Russia. Le Pen has even said quite clearly that she would end sanction on Russia if she was elected, and offered no objection to their "annexation" of Crimea.
If Le Pen ultimately becomes the French President, Russia will be the big winner. The thing Russia / Vladimir Putin wants most is to see the West weakened. A European Union without both Great Britain AND France might completely collapse, as might the Euro monetary scheme without the French. Weakened trade relations might see barriers arise again between countries now held tight by their economies, and a NATO without one of its most powerful members may not have the same resolve.
Putin knows he will likely never be able to go toe-to-toe with the power and influence of the United States and a united Europe. He sees that his best chance to restore Russia to its previous glory is to bring his opponents one-by-one down to his level. He likes leaders and countries that he sees as friendly or at least malleable. That's why Putin was so interested in seeing Trump elected President, and why he wants to see Le Pen elected now in France, and a Russia-friendly German candidate win later this year, too. He's been chip-chip-chipping away at us since the day he assumed power, and frankly, he's winning. If he wasn't, I wouldn't be writing this.
Once again, it's an interesting world we live in, and we have a ringside seat to some amazing history in the making.