Though the elections in France are to be held in a year, Russia is launching its meddling, playing on anti-Islamic and anti-immigrant mood. As Robert Lansing Institute informs, in its strive it rests upon the far-rightists and exploits the narrative of opposition between the military and the authorities following an open letter by French army officers to President Emmanuel Macron denouncing the rise of Islamism in the country that has already led it to the verge of a civil war.
A conflict with the French military go back to 2017, starting from attempt of President Macron to cut funding for the army by € 850 million as part of the 2018 restructuring actions aiming to reduce, dissolve, reorganize and redeploy the units.
That led to the demarche by Pierre François Marie Le Jolis de Villiers, former Chief of the Defense Staff and his resignation as a result of disagreement with the president. He was supported by the army, and his resignation faced opposition in the armed forces.
After that, Le Figaro published a piece authored by de Villiers, speaking about the challenges the army will come across due to funding shortages. The former Chief of the Defense Staff say that the lack of funds impacts 30 thousand French men and officers together with 7 thousand men who patrol the cities following the terrorist attacks in 2015. In addition some abroad missions were called off over the budget cuts.
Formerly another piece in the Valeurs Actuelles was prepared by his brother, Philippe de Villiers, a Europsceptic and a leader of the right nationalist Movement for France, which opposes the policy of multiculturalism and mass migration. On September 11, 2005, Philippe de Villiers suggested himself officially for the 2007 presidential vote as the candidate promoting national patriotism and opposing progressive Islamization of France.
The military’s demarche obviously comes from an alliance between former Chief of Defense Staff Pierre de Villiers and his brother, Philippe de Villiers. The leading signers of the letter had personal motivation being offended by the government and shared the anti-migrant views. Thus, the open letter to Macron was signed among others by Christian Piquemal, 80-year-old General and former Commandant of Legion, who was arrested during an anti-emigrant demonstration in 2016.
However, the media potential the Russians have in France might change the initial plans by the authors of the letter and, thus, strengthening Le Pen’s influence, including by the military. The army was always close to the right and right-conservative political mood. Still, the Russian stakes on Le Pen fell short of expectations following political and financial support provided by the Kremlin. The internal political competition among the rightists so far may be rapidly radicalized by efforts of Russians as an experience with the yellow vest movement or separatism in Catalonia, Spain has already shown.
Here are some facts: the authors of that letter use far-right terms and words used by the National Rally of Marine Le Pen. Russia’s francophone propaganda channel RT has immediately started demonstrating support for the authors of the letter by the army.
The Kremlin believes the developments could boost the rating for the far-right Marine Le Pen, openly backed by the Russians. Moscow is confident that the far-rightists in Europe are in a position to initiate disintegration for the European Union and NATO, thus strengthening Russia’s hand and enabling it to ignore the international law, human rights, democracy and build relations with European countries on the principles of force and bribery.
The Kremlin has jumped with two feet into the subversion against Macron, staging insolent and offensive efforts against him during the last presidential vote. The Russian intelligence, therefore, is looking into consolidation of the far-rightists for the second round of the presidential vote. Russia is highly likely to set up a series of missions to roil in France by committing terrorist attacks, blaming the responsibility on Muslim migrants.
As the security topic is mainly important for the voters of lower-middle-income, the far-rightists might strengthen their hand and consolidate if Russia meddles in the French voting.