Le Pen and Trump Could Succeed Where the Russian Army Failed
Breaking NATO from the inside out.
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This is epochal news:
Vladimir Putin’s project has been to break NATO, which would allow Russia to become the dominant player in European affairs. The invasion of Ukraine was a move in pursuit of that goal. It has had the opposite effect:
NATO countries came together more solidly than they’ve been in a generation.
Germany chose to re-arm, meaning that even if NATO breaks apart, there will be a Western European military counterweight to Russia.1
NATO will now expand to put 1,340 km of Article V protection on Russia’s northwest border.
There is no way to read this except as a strategic disaster for Russia. By invading Ukraine, Russia has triggered the first eastward expansion of NATO in 18 years.
This is especially true because while Putin was looking to break NATO via kinetic means, he has also been making moves to weaken the the alliance via political means. Which is the nice way of saying: By cozying up to right-wing politicians within NATO and prodding them to break the alliance for him.
And that strategy has worked better than Vlad could possibly have hoped for:
2. “Nationalists” ❤️ Putin
Here is a thing a certain nationalist politician said in 2014, after Putin invaded Crimea. You tell me who said it:
The [XX]-year-old candidate praised Putin in an interview with [XXX] after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, saying [XX] admired his “coolness” and “the fact that he has succeeded in giving back to a great nation that has been humiliated and persecuted for 70 years a sense of pride.”
Sounds like Trump, yes? But it’s Le Pen. Here are some of Le Pen’s thoughts on Putin, Ukraine, and NATO over time:
Le Pen and Putin met a month before France’s 2017 election that she lost to Macron, when she was in Moscow on a well-publicized trip designed to boost her stature on the global stage. There, the far-right leader said her views on Ukraine coincided with Putin’s and that Crimea had “never been Ukrainian.” . . .
As for NATO, Le Pen has called it a “warmonger” organization and wants France to leave its command structure. . . .
During an April 13 press conference, Le Pen called for a rapprochement between the military alliance and Russia once the war in Ukraine ends, saying a strategic partnership would help prevent ties between Russia and China from deepening. She said she agrees with sending “defense equipment to Ukraine,” but cautioned against delivering weapons, saying that would make France a “co-belligerent.”
Again: This language all sounds very familiar to American ears. As do Le Pen’s weird ties to Russia:
When French politician Marine Le Pen needed cash for her far-right party, an obscure Russian bank agreed to help.
Four years later, the bank has gone bust. The owner is facing a warrant for his arrest. Former Russian military officers are demanding money. And the party’s treasurer is sending off some $165,000 every few months to a woman in Moscow, unsure of where the payments ultimately will go.
The money failed to deliver Le Pen the French presidency in last year’s election, denying the Kremlin a powerful ally in the heart of Europe. Instead, the 9.4 million-euro loan, then worth $12.2 million, dragged her party into the shadowy underworld of Russian cross-border finance, putting it in league with people accused of having ties to Russian organized crime, money laundering and military operations.
The mysterious saga of the loan offers a rare look inside the Russian influence engine, demonstrating how people, companies and networks outside the Kremlin pursue President Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy aims, often without a centralized plan.
“It was in the interest of Russia to support Marine Le Pen,” said Aymeric Chauprade, a member of the European Parliament who advised Le Pen on foreign policy before leaving her party.
It was also in the interest of Russia to support Donald Trump, which you will recall is something they did.2
And—mirabile dictu!—both Le Pen and Trump want to get their countries out of NATO, which is counter to the interests of America and France, but very much in the interest of Russia.
So here is the state of play on Russia’s project to break NATO:
In its quest to break NATO from the outside by invading a treaty partner, Russia has failed.
But in its quest to destroy NATO from the inside?
In two weeks, Russia’s favored candidate may be elected president of France, at which point the central axis of the alliance will be jeopardy.
Seven months from now, Russia’s favored American political party will take control of the U.S. Congress.
And two years from now, Russia’s favored American politician may well be elected president of the United States. At which point, the alliance would be pushed to the brink.
As I said: Russia’s military campaign has been a total failure. But Russia’s political campaign has brought them to the edge of victory.
Vladimir Putin and the Russian army could not break NATO.
But Marine Le Pen and Donald Trump could do it for him.
For discussion today: Why are the West’s “nationalists” always on someone else’s side?
I’ll give you my own tentative answer to start: