How the French presidential election could impact the war in Ukraine

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France‘s capital may be thousands of miles from eastern Ukraine’s battlefields, but what happens at French polling stations this month could have repercussions there.

PARIS — France’s capital may be thousands of miles from eastern Ukraine’s battlefields, but what’s happening in French polling stations this month could have repercussions there.

Here are some of the ways the French election could impact the war in Ukraine:

ARMAMENT OF UKRAINE

Macron’s government has sent 100 million euros worth of weapons to Ukraine in recent weeks and said on Wednesday it would send more as part of a Western military aid effort. France has been a major source of military support for Ukraine since 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 from Ukraine and backed separatist fighters in eastern Ukraine.

Le Pen on Wednesday expressed reservations about supplying additional weapons to Ukraine. She said if elected president she would continue to help with defense and intelligence, but would be ‘cautious’ about sending weapons as she believes the shipments could drag other countries into war with Russia.

RELAXATION OF SANCTIONS

Le Pen’s campaign was able to tap into French voters’ frustration over rising inflation, which worsened following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine and Western sanctions that followed against Russia, a major gas supplier and trading partner of France and Europe.

The European Union has been exceptionally united in agreeing to five ever tougher rounds of sanctions against Russia. If she becomes president of France, Le Pen could try to thwart or limit additional EU sanctions, as new measures require the unanimous backing of the bloc’s 27 member countries.

France is the EU’s second largest economy after Germany and key to EU decision-making. France also now holds the rotating presidency of the EU, giving the next French leader significant influence.

Le Pen notably opposes sanctions on Russian gas and oil. She has also said in the past that she would work to lift the sanctions imposed on Russia for its annexation of Crimea, and even to recognize Crimea as part of Russia.

Courting Putin

Earlier in his first term, Macron tried to reach out to Putin, inviting him to Versailles and a presidential resort on the Mediterranean, in hopes of bringing Russia’s policies back into greater alignment with the ‘West.

The French president also sought to revive peace talks between Moscow and Kyiv over the long-running conflict in eastern Ukraine between the government and Russian-backed separatists. Macron visited Putin in the Kremlin a few weeks before the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24 and continued to speak to the Russian leader during the war. At the same time, Macron has backed several rounds of EU sanctions.

Le Pen says the war in Ukraine has partly changed Putin’s mind, but she said on Wednesday that the West should try to restore relations with Russia once the conflict is over. She suggested a “strategic rapprochement” between NATO and Russia to prevent Moscow from allying itself too closely with China.

WEAKENING OF NATO AND THE EU

While Macron is a strong supporter of the EU and has recently boosted France’s participation in NATO operations in Eastern Europe, Le Pen says France should keep its distance from international alliances and chart its course. own way.

She is in favor of the withdrawal of France from the military command of NATO, which would remove the French general staff from the body that plans operations and would lead to the country’s loss of influence within the military alliance. western.

France withdrew from the NATO command structure in 1966, when French President Charles de Gaulle wanted to distance his country from the US-dominated organization, and reintegrated under the conservative president. Nicolas Sarkozy in 2009.

If it were up to her, Le Pen would cut French spending on the EU and try to diminish EU influence by shrinking the bloc from within while no longer acknowledging that EU law has primacy. on national law.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the French presidential election at https://apnews.com/hub/french-election-2022

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Follow all AP stories on Russia’s war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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