Last Sunday’s results of the primaries of the French Republican Party’s primaries for the election of the French President, by giving victory to former President’s Sarkozy’s Prime Minister François Fillon, has confirmed the prospect of the next French government seeking normalisation of relations with Russia.
At least this is what Fillon and his rival in the contest Marine Le Pen both say.
Coming in conjunction with the statements of the US President-elect Donald Trump, it marks 2017 as a year of huge change in the approach of the West towards Russia.
The lifting of EU sanctions on Russia and the likely cooperation between the US and Russia to defeat ISIS in Syria and Iraq, which had seemed very unlikely just a short time ago, now suddenly seem real and reasonable.
Both Trump and the next French President will probably try to convince Britain to support this enterprise. In that case that will leave Germany as the last major country defending EU economic sanctions against Russia, with France and Italy leading a huge lobby within the EU to have the sanctions lifted – if only because of the effect on their economies of Russia’s counter-sanctions – with Britain increasingly unwilling to interfere in these huge questions because of its need to trigger Article 50 next year (probably in March), starting the process for it to leave the European Union.
The alliance of the US and Russia to defeat ISIS in Syria will probably receive support from France as well. At least that is what both Francois Fillon and Marine Le Pen both say.
Israel – which has already been engaging in the conflict with airstrikes against ISIS – probably will join this alliance as well.
These reshuffles in the international system will completely change the course of the conflict in Syria, probably accelerating its resolution, but will create additional problems in other countries of the region like Libya.
It is very likely that the terrorists currently in Syria will try to flee to Libya or, in the worst scenario, to Europe, following the same path traced by the migrants who have been flooding the continent. Should that happen Europe will need Russia’s cooperation to deal with that as well.
Russia’s current experience detecting Jihadi militants in its soil, as well as the Russian intelligence databases of terrorists, will be extremely important for the European countries in their investigation of migrants entering Europe to claim asylum.
One thing is certain: 2017 will be a year of huge change in the relations of Russia and the West.