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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




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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Understanding the Holodomor and why Russia says nothing

A descendant of Holodomor victims takes the rest of us to school as to whether or not Russia needs to shoulder the blame.

Seraphim Hanisch



One of the charges that nationalist Ukrainians often lodge against their Russian neighbors is that the Russian government has never acknowledged or formally apologized to Ukraine for the “Holodomor” that took place in Ukraine in 1932-1933. This was a man-made famine that killed an estimated seven to 10 million Ukrainians , though higher estimates claim 12.5 million and lower ones now claim 3.3 million.

No matter what the total was, it amounts to a lot of people that starved to death. The charge that modern-day Russia ought to apologize for this event is usually met with silence, which further enrages those Ukrainians that believe that this issue must be resolved by the Russian acknowledgement of responsibility for it. Indeed, the prime charge of these Ukrainians is that the Russians committed a genocide against the Ukrainian people. This is a claim Russia denies.

To the outside observer who does not know this history of Russia and Ukraine’s relationship, and who does not know or understand the characteristics of the Soviet Union, this charge seems as simple and laid out as that of the Native Americans or the blacks demanding some sort of recompense or restitution for the damages inflicted on these societies through conquest and / or slavery. But we discovered someone who had family connections involved in the Holodomor, and who offers her own perspective, which is instructive in why perhaps the Russian Federation does not say anything about this situation.

Scene in Kharkiv with dead from the famine 1932-33 lying along the street.

The speaker is Anna Vinogradova, a Russian Israeli-American, who answered the question through Quora of “Why doesn’t Russia recognize the Holodomor as a genocide?” She openly admits that she speaks only for herself, but her answer is still instructive. We offer it here, with some corrections for the sake of smooth and understandable English:

I can’t speak for Russia and what it does and doesn’t recognize. I can speak for myself.

I am a great-granddaughter of a “Kulak” (кулак), or well-to-do peasant, who lived close to the Russia/Ukraine border.

The word “кулак” means “fist” in Russian, and it wasn’t a good thing for a person to be called by this label. A кулак was an exploiter of peasants and a class enemy of the new state of workers and poor peasants. In other words, while under Communism, to be called a кулак was to bring a death sentence upon yourself.

At some point, every rural class enemy, every peasant who wasn’t a member of a collective farm was eliminated one way or another.

Because Ukraine has very fertile land and the Ukrainian style of agriculture often favors individual farms as opposed to villages, there is no question that many, many Ukrainian peasants were considered class enemies like my great grandfather, and eliminated in class warfare.

I have no doubt that class warfare included starvation, among other things.

The catch? My great grandfather was an ethnic Russian living in Russia. What nationality were the communists who persecuted and eventually shot him? They were of every nationality there was (in the Soviet Union), and they were led by a Ukrainian, who was taking orders from a Georgian.

Now, tell me, why I, a descendant of an unjustly killed Russian peasant, need to apologize to the descendants of the Ukrainians who killed him on the orders of a Georgian?

What about the Russian, Kazakh golodomor (Russian rendering of the same famine)? What about the butchers, who came from all ethnicities? Can someone explain why it’s only okay to talk about Ukrainian victims and Russian persecutors? Why do we need to rewrite history decades later to convert that brutal class war into an ethnic war that it wasn’t?

Ethnic warfare did not start in Russia until after WWII, when some ethnicities were accused of collaboration with the Nazis and brutal group punishments were implemented. It was all based on class up to that time.

The communists of those years were fanatically internationalist. “Working people of all countries, unite!” was their slogan and they were fanatical about it.

As for the crimes of Communism, Russia has been healing this wound for decades, and Russia’s government has made its anticommunist position very clear.

This testimony is most instructive. First, it points out information that the charge of the Holodomor as “genocide!” neatly leaves out. In identifying the internationalist aspects of the Soviet Union, Ukraine further was not a country identified as somehow worthy of genocidal actions. Such a thought makes no sense, especially given the great importance of Ukraine as the “breadbasket” of the Soviet Union, which it was.

Secondly, it shows a very western-style of “divide to conquer” with a conveniently incendiary single-word propaganda tool that is no doubt able to excite any Ukrainian who may be neutral to slightly disaffected about Russia, and then after that, all Ukrainians are now victims of the mighty evil overlords in Moscow.

How convenient is this when the evil overlords in Kyiv don’t want their citizens to know what they are doing?

We saw this on Saturday – taken to a very high peak when President Petro Poroshenko announced the new leading “Hierarch” of the “Ukrainian National Church” and said not one single word about Christ, but only:

“This day will go down in history as the day of the creation of an autocephalous Orthodox church in Ukraine… This is the day of the creation of the church as an independent structure… What is this church? It is a church without Putin. It is a church without Kirill, without prayer for the Russian authorities and the Russian army.”

But as long as Russia is made the “problem”, millions of scandalized Ukrainians will not care what this new Church actually does or teaches, which means it is likely to teach just about anything.

Russia had its own Holodomor. The history of the event shows that this was a result of several factors – imposed socialist economics on a deeply individualized form of agrarian capitalism (bad for morale and worse for food production), really inane centralized planning of cropland use, and a governmental structure that really did not exist to serve the governed, but to impose an ideology on people who really were not all that interested in it.

Personal blame might well lay with Stalin, a Georgian, but the biggest source of the famine lay in the structures imposed under communism as a way of economic strategy. This is not Russia’s fault. It is the economic model that failed.

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Mueller Finally Releases Heavily Redacted Key Flynn Memo On Eve Of Sentencing

Alex Christoforou



Via Zerohedge

Having initially snubbed Judge Emmet Sullivan’s order to release the original 302 report from the Michael Flynn interrogation in January 2017, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has finally produced the heavily redacted document, just hours before sentencing is due to be handed down.

The memo  – in full below – details then-national security adviser Michael Flynn’s interview with FBI agents Peter Strzok and Joe Pientka, and shows Flynn was repeatedly asked about his contacts with former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and in each instance, Flynn denied (or did not recall) any such conversations.

The agents had transcripts of Flynn’s phone calls to Russian Ambassador Kislyak, thus showing Flynn to be lying.

Flynn pleaded guilty guilty last December to lying to the FBI agents about those conversations with Kislyak.

The redactions in the document seem oddly placed but otherwise, there is nothing remarkable about the content…

Aside from perhaps Flynn’s incredulity at the media attention…

Flynn is set to be sentenced in that federal court on Tuesday.

Of course, as Christina Laila notes, the real crime is that Flynn was unmasked during his phone calls to Kislyak and his calls were illegally leaked by a senior Obama official to the Washington Post.

*  *  *

Full document below…

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Don’t Laugh : It’s Giving Putin What He Wants

The fact of the matter is that humorous lampooning of western establishment Russia narratives writes itself.

Caitlin Johnstone



Authored by Caitlin Johnstone:

The BBC has published an article titled “How Putin’s Russia turned humour into a weapon” about the Kremlin’s latest addition to its horrifying deadly hybrid warfare arsenal: comedy.

The article is authored by Olga Robinson, whom the BBC, unhindered by any trace of self-awareness, has titled “Senior Journalist (Disinformation)”. Robinson demonstrates the qualifications and acumen which earned her that title by warning the BBC’s audience that the Kremlin has been using humor to dismiss and ridicule accusations that have been leveled against it by western governments, a “form of trolling” that she reports is designed to “deliberately lower the level of discussion”.

“Russia’s move towards using humour to influence its campaigns is a relatively recent phenomenon,” Robinson explains, without speculating as to why Russians might have suddenly begun laughing at their western accusers. She gives no consideration to the possibility that the tightly knit alliance of western nations who suddenly began hysterically shrieking about Russia two years ago have simply gotten much more ridiculous and easier to make fun of during that time.

Couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the emergence of a demented media environment wherein everything around the world from French protests to American culture wars to British discontent with the European Union gets blamed on Russia without any facts or evidence. Wherein BBC reporters now correct guests and caution them against voicing skepticism of anti-Russia narratives because the UK is in “an information war” with that nation. Wherein the same cable news Russiagate pundit can claim that both Rex Tillerson’s hiring and his later firing were the result of a Russian conspiracy to benefit the Kremlin. Wherein mainstream outlets can circulate blatantly false information about Julian Assange and unnamed “Russians” and then blame the falseness of that reporting on Russian disinformation. Wherein Pokemon Go, cutesy Facebook memes and $4,700 in Google ads are sincerely cited as methods by which Hillary Clinton’s $1.2 billion presidential campaign was outdone. Wherein conspiracy theories that Putin has infiltrated the highest levels of the US government have been blaring on mainstream headline news for two years with absolutely nothing to show for it to this day.

Nope, the only possibility is that the Kremlin suddenly figured out that humor is a thing.

The fact of the matter is that humorous lampooning of western establishment Russia narratives writes itself. The hypocrisy is so cartoonish, the emotions are so breathlessly over-the-top, the stories so riddled with plot holes and the agendas underlying them so glaringly obvious that they translate very easily into laughs. I myself recently authored a satire piece that a lot of people loved and which got picked up by numerous alternative media outlets, and all I did was write down all the various escalations this administration has made against Russia as though they were commands being given to Trump by Putin. It was extremely easy to write, and it was pretty damn funny if I do say so myself. And it didn’t take any Kremlin rubles or dezinformatsiya from St Petersburg to figure out how to write it.

“Ben Nimmo, an Atlantic Council researcher on Russian disinformation, told the BBC that attempts to create funny memes were part of the strategy as ‘disinformation for the information age’,” the article warns. Nimmo, ironically, is himself intimately involved with the British domestic disinformation firm Integrity Initiative, whose shady government-sponsored psyops against the Labour Party have sparked a national scandal that is likely far from reaching peak intensity.

“Most comedy programmes on Russian state television these days are anodyne affairs which either do not touch on political topics, or direct humour at the Kremlin’s perceived enemies abroad,” Robinson writes, which I found funny since I’d just recently read an excellent essay by Michael Tracey titled “Why has late night swapped laughs for lusting after Mueller?”

“If the late night ‘comedy’ of the Trump era has something resembling a ‘message,’ it’s that large segments of the nation’s liberal TV viewership are nervously tracking every Russia development with a passion that cannot be conducive to mental health – or for that matter, political efficacy,” Tracey writes, documenting numerous examples of the ways late night comedy now has audiences cheering for a US intelligence insider and Bush appointee instead of challenging power-serving media orthodoxies as programs like The Daily Show once did.

If you wanted the opposite of “anodyne affairs”, it would be comedians ridiculing the way all the establishment talking heads are manipulating their audiences into supporting the US intelligence community and FBI insiders. It would be excoriating the media environment in which unfathomably powerful world-dominating government agencies are subject to less scrutiny and criticism than a man trapped in an embassy who published inconvenient facts about those agencies. It certainly wouldn’t be the cast of Saturday Night Live singing “All I Want for Christmas Is You” to a framed portrait if Robert Mueller wearing a Santa hat. It doesn’t get much more anodyne than that.

Russia makes fun of western establishment narratives about it because those narratives are so incredibly easy to make fun of that they are essentially asking for it, and the nerdy way empire loyalists are suddenly crying victim about it is itself more comedy. When Guardian writer Carole Cadwalladr began insinuating that RT covering standard newsworthy people like Julian Assange and Nigel Farage was a conspiracy to “boost” those people for the advancement of Russian agendas instead of a news outlet doing the thing that news reporting is, RT rightly made fun of her for it. Cadwalladr reacted to RT’s mockery with a claim that she was a victim of “attacks”, instead of the recipient of perfectly justified ridicule for circulating an intensely moronic conspiracy theory.

Ah well. People are nuts and we’re hurtling toward a direct confrontation with a nuclear superpower. Sometimes there’s nothing else to do but laugh. As Wavy Gravy said, “Keep your sense of humor, my friend; if you don’t have a sense of humor it just isn’t funny anymore.”

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