France’s upcoming presidential election has turned into a de facto referendum on whether to halt or strengthen the nationalist fervor sweeping the west that propelled US President Donald Trump into the White House last year and spurred Britain’s exit from the European Union.

Russian president Vladimir Putin, who has been accused of meddling in both the US election to help elect Trump and the Brexit vote to help fracture the EU, has two horses in France’s race — the far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen, and the center-right Republicans candidate Francois Fillon.

Both candidates have touted policies that are at once Russia-friendly and hostile to two institutions Putin abhors: the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). They also oppose western sanctions on Russia and advocate a closer relationship between France and Moscow.

Le Pen has vowed to pull France out of both the EU and NATO, comparing Europe to a prison and calling NATO “obsolete.” Fillon’s view of the institutions is more nuanced, but he has indicated that he would like to see the EU’s power diminished and has characterized NATO as an arm of “American imperalism.”


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Featured image courtesy of Reuters.