Vladimir Putin might not make the lunch table in some international circles, but at least he can still count on Marine Le Pen. The leader of the Front National just accepted a 9-million euro loan from a Russian bank. Bloomberg‘s Leonid Bershidsky writes that the deal “has Kremlin fingerprints”:
A loan to a foreign political party is hardly business as usual for a small financial institution serving medium-sized businesses and private customers. That said, what would be a big and strange bet for Russian citizen Roman Popov would be a tiny and understandable one for Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Russian government spends billions on self-aggrandizing projects like this year’s Sochi Olympics. If Le Pen breaks through, Putin will have a formidable fifth column inside the EU.
The Europhobes and Putin are ideal bedfellows—the Russian autocrat’s own brand of moralistic vigor has a close affinity with the illiberal anti-American creed that unites Europe’s far left and far right. As a result, Marine Le Pen’s long-term admiration of Putin has its logical counterpart among extreme movements in the UK (UKIP), Germany (Die Linke), and Austria (FPÖ). What’s more troubling is the potential for pro-Putinism to hit the European mainstream. And there’s signs that it already has. A four-part exposé in Le Monde details the political, business, academic, and foreign policy connections that already link France’s elite with Russia’s regime.As WRM noted over the weekend, “the European Union, for all its flaws, remains the greatest triumph of American foreign policy.” That the continent’s emerging politicians and power brokers are increasingly looking away from the West should give us pause.