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Here’s why Vladimir Putin prefers Francois Fillon to Le Pen as President of France

Hardheaded calculation of Russian national interest unquestionably makes President Putin prefer Francois Fillon as President of France.

Alexander Mercouris

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Unlike the British election, which interests them not at all, the Russians are following the French election closely.

President Putin will never say publicly who he wants to win the French election.  If pressed he will say – rightly – that it is none of his business, and that he will work with whoever the French people elect for their President.  I suspect he even says this in private to his officials.

In the privacy of his Kremlin office or in his office in Novo Ogaryovo, during the solitary meditative periods which like all successful leaders Putin likes to engage in, Putin however undoubtedly asks himself which of the four front-runners – Fillon, Le Pen, Mélenchon, and Macron – would suit Russia best.  I have no doubt what his answer is: Fillon.

This may come as a surprise to many people, who assume that Le Pen or Mélenchon – both hostile to the US, Germany and the EU, both in favour of close relations with Russia, both supportive of Russia’s stand in Ukraine (Le Pen especially so), and both opposed to sanctions – would suit Putin and Russia better.

Le Pen in particular has spoken out strongly of recognising Crimea as part of Russia and in support of the people of the Donbass, and has made no secret of her strong support for better relations with Russia.  Indeed her foreign policy positions on many issues are all but identical to those of Putin and Russia.  Indeed there is a vocal campaign in the West to paint her as “Putin’s candidate” and to say that he bankrolls her.

In reality, though Putin must like many of things Le Pen and Mélenchon say, they are almost certainly not his preferred choice for French President.

From Putin’s point of view the problem  that either Le Pen or Mélenchon poses is that it is far from clear if they won the election that they would be able to consolidate their positions and do successfully any of the things they say they want to do.  In both cases their election would be bound to trigger passionate resistance from the French and European establishments and from a part of the French population, which could easily spill over into economic destabilisation, protests and crisis.

Putin does not want a France wracked by crisis.  Nor – contrary to what many say – does he want France to pull out of NATO or the EU, or to have Europe in crisis.  At this point in Russia’s history what Putin wants is stability in Europe and France.

In the case of Europe, the EU is still Russia’s main trading partner and is likely to remain so for some time.  It is not in Russia’s economic interest that it break up or become destabilised, which would only cause more problems for Russia’s economy at a time when it is coming out of recession.

More importantly, Putin and his advisers much be concerned that an uncontrolled crisis in Europe would have unpredictable consequences.  Given the level of Russophobia in Europe a crisis might easily lead to a situation in Europe more dangerous for Russia than the present very unsatisfactory but nonetheless stable one.   This after all was what happened during the great world crisis before the Second World War, when the hostile but peaceful Europe of the 1920s was replaced by an even more hostile but far more violent and aggressive Europe in the 1930s.

What Putin wants is a strong France in a stable Europe able to counter-balance US and German influence within the EU.  However he wants it to be a France which has turned its back on the geopolitical neocon/neoliberal ‘regime change’ Atlanticist adventurism that France has followed during the Sarkozy and Hollande era – which has had such calamitous results in Libya, Ukraine, Syria and countless other places, and which has brought Europe’s relations with Russia to the point of crisis – and which has returned to its traditional foreign policy of seeking to balance US and German influence in Europe by maintaining close and friendly relations with Russia.

This was the French foreign policy followed by De Gaulle, Giscard d’Estaing and Jacques Chirac, and at this present point in Russian history – with the process of Eurasian construction still very much a work in progress – it is the French foreign policy that suits Russia best.

The person who epitomises this foreign policy best and who is most likely to carry it out is François Fillon, who has the further advantage in Putin’s eyes of being someone who – unlike Le Pen and Mélenchon – Putin knows well and likes.  For that reason he is the person Putin would most want to see President of France.

Fillon has pitched his foreign policy positions at precisely the level Putin currently wants.  He is not threatening a potentially destabilising diplomatic revolution such as the ones promised – or threatened – by Le Pen and Mélenchon.  He has however made very clear his strong disagreement with the Atlanticist ‘regime change’ policies of the Sarkozy and Hollande era, and his support for a rapprochement with Russia.

Fillon has also spoken of lifting EU sanctions against Russia.  Contrary to conventional wisdom in the West, this is not however a priority for Putin or Russia.

On the one hand lifting the sanctions would hand the Russia a very considerable political and diplomatic victory, and they would no doubt savour it.  However that must be counter-balanced against the fact that lifting the sanctions would put pressure on the Russians to reverse the protectionist measures they have taken in response to them – such as the ban on food imports from the EU – which have been so beneficial to their economy.

In the privacy of his Kremlin office and in his office in Novo Ogaryovo I suspect Putin not only thinks this but in this case actually says it quite openly to his officials, and that he and they on balance would prefer the sanctions to stay, foregoing the ephemeral pleasures of a diplomatic triumph in return for the tangible and long-lasting economic benefits they bring.  I cannot help but wonder whether the repeated statements by Russian officials that they expect the sanctions to stay might actually be a reflection of this.

Certainly if the choice is between maintaining the sanctions and a cut-back in French and EU support for the Maidan regime in Ukraine and regime change in Syria, I have no doubt Putin would prefer to keep the sanctions in return for a cut-back in French and EU support for the Maidan regime in Ukraine and for regime change in Syria.  Moreover in the case of such a clear-cut choice I have no doubt Putin would be willing to say it publicly.

All this clearly points to Fillon as Putin’s preferred choice as the next President of France.  I suspect that this is well understood within France’s and Europe’s Atlanticist establishment, which is why there has been such a sustained attempt to destabilise Fillon by cobbling together a ‘scandal’ to stop him.

Before concluding this discussion, which may surprise and disappoint some people, I would make two further points:

Firstly, Putin’s undoubted preference for Fillon reflects Russia’s national interests.

This is not identical to France’s or Europe’s interests.  Those who think that one of the other candidates – Le Pen, Mélenchon or even Macron – is more right for France, Europe or indeed the world, have no need to change their views because of what Putin thinks.

On the subject of who is actually the best choice for President of France, I have been especially struck by the interesting commentary of Diana Johnstone and Adam Garrie.

Secondly, whilst I have no doubt that Putin considers Fillon the optimal choice for French President from the point of Russia’s current national interest, it is important to say that this may not always be so, and indeed it may not be so for much longer.

As the Russian economy strengthens, as the global positions of the Russian-Chinese alliance strengthen, as the process of Eurasian construction accelerates, and as what old-fashioned Russians still like to call ‘the correlation of forces’ in the world changes, Russian national interests concerning Europe and France will change.  At that point it may be that someone like Le Pen or Mélenchon will suit Russia better.  However that is not the situation now.

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Peace on Korean Peninsula within reach, if only Trump can remove Pompeo & Bolton (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 152.

Alex Christoforou

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RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou discuss the results of the Putin-Kim summit in Vladivostok, Russia, aimed at boosting bilateral ties between the two neighboring countries, as well as working to contribute to a final peace settlement on the Korean peninsula.

Putin’s meeting with Kim may prove to be a pivotal diplomatic moment, as North Korea continues to work towards normalizing ties with the U.S. amidst ongoing denuclearization talks with the Trump White House.

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Via the BBC…

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said North Korean leader Kim Jong-un needs international security guarantees if he is to end his nuclear programme.

Such guarantees would need to be offered within a multinational framework, he added, following talks near Vladivostok in Russia’s far east.

Mr Kim praised the summit as a “very meaningful one-on-one exchange”.

Mr Putin said North Korea’s leader was “fairly open” and had “talked freely on all issues that were on the agenda”.

The meeting followed the breakdown of talks between the US and North Korea in February, when Mr Kim met US President Donald Trump in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi.

Those talks reportedly stalled over North Korea’s demand for full economic sanctions relief in return for some denuclearisation commitments – a deal the US was not willing to make.

Speaking after the talks on Thursday, Mr Putin said he wanted to see full denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula.

But he said this could only be achieved through respect for international law.

“We need to restore the power of international law, to return to a state where international law, not the law of the strongest, determines the situation in the world,” he said.

Mr Kim greeted Russian officials warmly when he arrived in Russia on Wednesday.

The North Korean leader was entertained by a brass band in Vladivostok before he got inside a car flanked by bodyguards, who – in now familiar scenes – jogged alongside the vehicle as it departed.

What do we know about the summit?

According to the Russian presidential spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin believes the six-party talks on North Korea, which are currently stalled, are the only efficient way of addressing the issue of nuclear weapons on the peninsula.

Those talks, which began in 2003, involve the two Koreas as well as China, Japan, Russia and the US.

“There are no other efficient international mechanisms at the moment,” Mr Peskov told reporters on Wednesday.

“But, on the other hand, efforts are being made by other countries. Here all efforts merit support as long as they really aim at de-nuclearisation and resolving the problem of the two Koreas.”

What do both sides want?

This visit is being widely viewed as an opportunity for North Korea to show it has powerful allies following the breakdown of the talks with the US in February.

The country has blamed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for the collapse of the Hanoi summit. Earlier this month North Korea demanded that Mr Pompeo be removed from nuclear talks, accusing him of “talking nonsense” and asking for someone “more careful” to replace him.

The summit is also an opportunity for Pyongyang to show that its economic future does not depend solely on the US. Mr Kim may try to put pressure on Moscow to ease sanctions.

Analysts say the summit is an opportunity for Russia to show that it is an important player on the Korean peninsula.

President Putin has been eager to meet the North Korean leader for quite some time. Yet amid the two Trump-Kim summits, the Kremlin has been somewhat sidelined.

Russia, like the US and China, is uncomfortable with North Korea being a nuclear state.

How close are Russia and North Korea?

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union (of which Russia is the main successor state) maintained close military and trade links with its communist ally, North Korea, for ideological and strategic reasons.

After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, trade links with post-communist Russia shrank and North Korea leaned towards China as its main ally.

Under President Putin, Russia recovered economically and in 2014 he wrote off most of North Korea’s Soviet-era debt in a major goodwill gesture.

While it is arguable how much leverage Russia has with the North today, the communist state still regards it as one of the least hostile foreign powers.

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Putin meets Kim for the first time (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 151.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a look at the historic meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the city of Vladivostok in the Russian Far East.

The meeting marks the first ever summit between the two leaders.

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Via RT…

Leaders of Russia and North Korea sat down for a historic summit in Vladivostok, expressing hope it will revive the peace process in the Korean Peninsula and talks on normalizing relations with the US.

The summit on Russky Island, just off Vladivostok, started a little late because President Vladimir Putin’s flight was delayed. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had made the trip by train, arriving on Wednesday.

In brief public remarks before the talks, the two leaders expressed hope the summit will help move forward the reconciliation process in the Korean Peninsula. Putin welcomed Kim’s contributions to “normalizing relations” with the US and opening a dialogue with South Korea.

Kim said he hoped the Vladivostok summit would be a “milestone” in the talks about denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, but also build upon “traditionally friendly ties” between Russia and North Korea.

The North Korean leader also made a point of thanking Putin for flying all the way to Vladivostok for the meeting. The Far East Russian city is only 129 kilometers from the border with North Korea.

The historic summit takes place less than two months after Kim’s second summit with US President Donald Trump in Hanoi fell apart without a breakthrough on denuclearization. The US rejected North Korea’s request for partial sanctions relief in return for moves to dismantle nuclear and missile programs; Washington insists on full disarmament before any sanctions are removed.

Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is the main subject of the Kim-Putin summit, but there will also be talks about bilateral relations, trade, and humanitarian aid. The first one-on-one meeting is scheduled to last about an hour, followed by further consultations involving other government officials.

Following the summit, Putin is scheduled to visit China.

 

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Kim And Putin: Changing The State Of The Board In Korea

The future of Korea could be decided by these two men today.

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Authored by Tom Luongo:


Today is a big day for Korea. The first face-to-face summit of Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un takes place.

At the same time the 2nd annual Belt and Road Forum kicks off in Beijing.

This meeting between Putin and Kim has been in the works for a while but rumors of it only surfaced last week. But don’t let the idea that this was put together at the last minute fool you.

It wasn’t.

The future of Korea could be decided by these two men today.

I know that sounds bold. But hear me out.

And while no one seems to think this meeting is important or that anything of substance will come from it I do. It is exactly the kind of surprise that Putin loves to spring on the world without notice and by doing so change the board state of geopolitics.

  • Russia’s entrance into Syria in 2015, two days after Putin’s historic speech at the U.N. General Assembly
  • 2018’s State of the Union address where he announced hypersonic missiles, embarrassing the U.S. Militiary-Industrial Complex which accelerated the Bolton Doctrine of subjugating the world
  • Flying 2 TU-160 nuclear-armed bombers to Venezuela, creating panic in D.C. leading to the ham-fisted regime change operations there.
  • Nationalization of Yukos.
  • The operation to secure Crimea from U.S. invasion by marines aboard the U.S.S Donald Cook during the Ukrainian uprising against Viktor Yanukovich.

Both Putin and Chinese Premier Xi Jinping are angry at the breakdown of the talks in Hanoi back in February. It was clear that everyone expected that meeting to be a rubber stamp on a deal already agreed to by all parties involved.

In fact the two meetings between Kim and Trump were only possible because Trump convinced them of his sincerity to resolve the ‘denuclearization’ of North Korea which would clear a path to rapid reunification.

It’s why they went along with the U.S.’s increased sanctions on North Korea as administered through the U.N. in 2017.

That John Bolton and Mike Pompeo destroyed those talks and Trump was unwilling or unable (who cares at this point, frankly, useless piece of crap that he is) to stop them embarrassed and betrayed them.

They are now done with Trump.

He’ll get nothing from either of them or Kim until Trump can prove he’s in charge of his administration, which he, clearly, is not.

And they will be moving forward with their own agenda for security and Asian economic integration. So I don’t think the timing of this meeting with that of the Belt and Road Forum is an accident.

And that means moving forward on solving the Korea problem without Trump.

It is clear from the rhetoric of Putin’s top diplomat, the irreplaceable Sergei Lavrov, that Russia’s patience is over. They are no longer interested in what Trump wants and they will now treat the U.S. as a threat, having upped their military stance towards the U.S. to that of “Threat.”

If Bolton wants anything from Russia at this point he best be prepared to start a war or piss off.

This is also why Russia took the gloves off with Ukraine in the run up to the Presidential elections, cutting off energy and machinery exports with Ukraine.

To put paid Putin’s growing impatience with U.S. policies, he just issued the order to allow residents of Lugansk and Donetsk People’s Republics to apply for Russian passports.

This will send Bolton into apoplexy. Angela Merkel of Germany will be none too pleased either. Putin is now playing hardball after years of unfailing politeness.

It’s also why Lavrov finalized arms and port deals all over the Middle East in recent weeks, including those with Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey and India.

Bolton, Pompeo and Pence are ideologues. Trump is a typical Baby Boomer, who lives in a bubble of his own design and believes in an America that never existed.

None of them truly understand the fires they are stoking and simply believe in the Manifest Destiny of the U.S. to rule the world over a dim and barbaric world.

Putin, Xi, Rouhani in Iran and Kim in North Korea are pragmatic men. They understand the realities they live in. This is why I see Putin willing tomorrow to sit down with Kim and flaunt the U.N. sanctions and begin the investment process into North Korea that should have begun last year.

Putin would not be making these moves if he didn’t feel that Bolton was all bark and no bite when it came to actual war with Russia. He also knows that Germany needs him more than he needs Germany so despite the feet-dragging and rhetoric Nordstream 2 will go forward.

Trade is expanding between them despite the continued sanctions.

Putin may be willing to cut a deal with President-elect Zelensky on gas transit later in the year but only if the shelling of the LPR and DPR stops and he guarantees no more incidents in the Sea of Azov. This would also mollify Merkel a bit and make it easier for her politically to get Nordstream 2 over the finish line.

There are moments in history when people go too far. Bolton and Pompeo went too far in Hanoi. He will pay the price now. Putin and Kim will likely agree to something in Vladivostok that no one is expecting and won’t look like much at first.

But the reality is this summit itself marks a turning point in this story that will end with the U.S. being, in Trump’s transactional parlance, a “price taker” since it has so thoroughly failed at being a “price maker.”

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