Where Do The French Presidential Candidates Stand on Russia?

Le Nouvel Observateur recently compiled opinions on Russian democracy from each of the ten French Presidential candidates. While the Left is highly critical of the authoritarian Putin regime, the Right is more favorably disposed to the Russian President-elect. On the eve of the first round of the French Presidential elections, I provide a translation of Russie: Ce qu’en disent les candidats.

Nicolas Sarkozy

“After the crash of the 1990’s, it was at the cost of a takeover that the authority of the state was restored and the economy recovered. There was brutal repression in Chechnya, the war in Georgia, and most recently the contestations about the elections, even if they do not give cause to question the legitimacy of the next President. Today the Russians want political reform and I think it is the will of their leaders too. France’s role should be to encourage this movement, but not to read Russia lectures or stigmatize this great country which, despite our differences, is one of our major partners. Let’s not forget that it is only 20 years since Russia emerged from a long totalitarian night.”

Sarkozy is the current center-right President and head of the ruling UMP, who is likely to lose to Hollande in the second round according to opinion pollsters.

François Hollande

“Russia agreed to commitments, especially those of the Council of Europe, which she must respect. I especially wish this so that we can build the partnership with Russia which we need to create a growth-friendly environment in Europe and to construct other international balances. This is particularly the case in the UN Security Council where Russia cannot continue to go its own way, complicit in the massacres in Syria. Russian society is changing, as evidenced in the recent elections during which a real demand for democracy was expressed. It is now important that the Russian government pursue its announced democratization efforts. All over the world, France must support the rule of law, civil liberties, media independence, and respect for human rights, all while respecting the sovereignty of peoples. This requires a deep dialog and cooperation with Russia, which is a major partner for France and the EU, both economically and strategically.”

Hollande is the center-left head of the Socialist Party, and is the pollsters’ favorite to take the French Presidency.

François Bayrou

Russia’s society and economy have undergone profound changes, but nonetheless fundamental liberties are still too often stymied, notably those which concern press freedom and freedom of speech. The current situation is clearly not comparable to that which prevailed under the Communist regime, but democrats cannot be satisfied. We must convince Russia to make further progress, though the decisive impetus will come from the Russians themselves.

Bayrou is a centrist politician who is head of the Democratic Movement and polling about 13%.

Marine Le Pen

There is no evidence to suggest that Russia is not a democracy from a constitutional perspective. It is not a one-party state and no serious analyst can assert that Vladimir Putin does not enjoy a solid majority and popular legitimacy. If you read Russian newspapers, you will see that the tone of the opposition press is much freer and more virulent against Putin than it is in France against Sarkozy. The problem we have as regards Russia is that our perceptions are influenced by the strategic representations that American and European ideologized networks, hostile to the Russians’ policy of national pragmatism, installed in the heart of our mainstream media.

Marine Le Pen is a far-right politician who is head of the Front National and polling about 15%.

Eva Joly

The recent Russian elections have shown us that Vladimir Putin considers elections and democracy as mere formalities before reattaining his full powers, which he had never ceased exercising in the first place. This can be described as the exercise of autocratic power, while hundreds of thousands of Russian citizens simply asked for free elections worthy of a modern democracy. But the most lamentable thing in all this is the deafening silence of French and European leaders as regards the disputed re-election of Vladimir Putin on March 4. So during this campaign I called upon all the Presidential candidates to make a clear commitment to democracy and human rights in Russia.

Eva Joly is the head of Europe Écologie–The Greens and has insignificant support.

Philippe Poutou

If Putin’s party arrived well ahead in local elections in Russia, it is the result of massive fraud, intimidation, and arrests of activists. For the first time in Russia, the voters went out into the streets to express their anger. In Moscow, many opposition candidates did not have the right to stand and the opposition parties did not have access to the media. In Astrakhan, the incumbent mayor used gangster methods to prevent his opponent from getting elected. So I obviously do not consider the Putin regime to be a democracy.

Philippe Poutou is the head of the New Anticapitalist Party and has insignificant support.

Nicolas Dupont-Aignan

Putin’s Russia is a complex country that has come a long way since not only Communism, but also since the decade of transition that profoundly destabilized it. Putin ended a period of decline and ended the looting of the country by the oligarchs and we can understand that the Russians are grateful to him. Russia is not yet a Western democracy but it is democratizing. We hope that the coming years will bring new progress in this domain and in the struggle against corruption. Either way, I do not think that provoking Vladimir Putin through external interventions, as some will have it, will bring any progress in this field. We must give it time.

Nicolas Dupont-Aignan is a Gaullist and former UMP member, who has insignificant support.

Jacques Cheminade (Solidarité et Progrès)

There are no more democracies left in the world. Europe is not an example when it sends Greece to the garrote. If she had a real policy, which is impossible with Mlle. Ashton, it should initiate peace through mutual development starting from the complementary economic interests of Russia, China, and the other Asian countries.

Jacques Cheminade is the head of Solidarité et Progrès, the party of the LaRouche movement in France, and has insignificant support.

Nathalie Arthaud

Even going by criteria accommodating to Great Powers claiming to be “democratic”, the Putin regime is an authoritarian regime. Putin’s predecessors, from Stalin to Gorbachev, betrayed the Communism which they themselves laid claim to: They were in fact defending the interests of the bureaucratic layer that usurped the revolutionary power founded by the workers and peasants in 1917. Putin, however, does not betray the values of the capitalist world to which he lays claims to, judging by the methods of other heads of state.

Nathalie Arthaud is the head of Workers’ Struggle and has insignificant support.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon (Left Front)

Declined to answer the questions of La Nouvel Observateur.

The leader of the French communists declined to answer the question. He is predicted to get about 13%.


  1. Looks like the left in France is solidly compromised by neo-liberal interests. Like Tony Blair’s Labour Party they are no longer real leftists but corporate bootlicks who spout talking points created by thinktanks such as the AEI.

    The only candidate who presented the objective view was Le Pen and she is being sabotaged in her electoral bid by various “state instruments”. The only thing the Greens are good for is shutting down France’s Superphenix fast neutron breeder reactor. They probably hate Russia because they can’t pull similar idiotic stunts there.

  2. As between Sakorzy and Hollande I doubt that there would be much practical difference.

    Across the rest of the political spectrum I am afraid Kirill is right. What calls itself the Left in western Europe tends to be much more hostile to Russia than the Right. Certainly that is so in Britain. It seems to be especially true of the Greens pretty much everywhere. The Greens in what I regard as a total betrayal of the ideals of Petra Kelly the first leader and original founder of the German Greens (ultimately the founding Green Party and still far and away the most influential) have also become the most aggressive liberal interventionists.

  3. Francois Hollande has won the first round. Sarkozy was second. That makes it virtually certain that Hollande will be President.

  4. Philippe Poutou must be living in a fantasy world. His position and statements on Russia are so patently absurd that they don’t even warrant commentary. Unfortunately, there are MANY in the west who believe this drivel, thanks to the ceaseless dedication in the western media to paint Putin’s Russia as Soviet Union redux with Putin as the new Stalin. Why is it that every article I read on Putin is preceded by “ex-KGB” agent? I can’t recall reading a single article on George Bush 41 which desginated him “ex-CIA director,” the core difference being that Bush was actually the CIA director! I believe Putin was a low-level liaison officer stationed in East Germany. Poutou’s notion that the elections were “disputed” and that Putin’s victory was a result of “massive fraud” is not supported by any evidence—but don’t ask them for any, because if you do then you’re an RSB stooge!

  5. Interestingly the vote for Le Pen was very high at 20% though that obviously was not because of her pro Russian stance. Still there has been a pro Russian tradition in French politics since the two countries fought each other in the Crimean War. De Gaulle was of course strongly pro Russian. In many ways (eg. on economics questions and even on immigration) I think Le Pen is much closer to De Gaulle than is Sarkozy.

    • “pro Russian stance”
      i don’t know if “pro Russian” is little bit exagerated or oversimplified as explanation, anyway somehow slightly of the target.
      I think that she wanted to be objective,
      celebral in her judgement about Russia (and France).
      Specially by making comparaison between Russian and (local) French situation.

      “There is no evidence to suggest that Russia is not a democracy”
      It is normal that she is saying that, be cause she belongs to the party that was and still is labled as “fascist” (to be disqualified from competition) so she has understanding for Russia that was permanently labeled by the (same people) in the West saying – “Russia is not a democracy”.
      Marine (and FN) by not being in service of ultra rich like most of the parties from left-right spectrum in EU, is watching without prejudice, capable to recognize(facts) authentinc popularity of V.Putin.

      She doesn’t play game of politically corect, usual (EU-“Atlantisme”) speech-propaganda. She is opposed to Western established way of thinking.
      So impression of being “pro Russian” comes maybe also from the fact that
      she adheres to many of political principals that were introduced in Russia by Putin.
      She would like to see France strong and independant (from NATO,EU)patriotic (Gaullist tradition) nation rallied arround traditional national values.Nation that looks to restitute her own strength and glory from the past.
      To me that sounds lot like V.Putin.

      “you will see that the tone of the opposition press is much freer and more virulent against Putin than it is in France against Sarkozy”
      These words are comment on absence of democracy in France as much as they are praising Russia in the same time .So she is saying from Fernch point of wiev that Farnce (and West in general) are hypocrites asking Russia for the freedom they don’t give at their homes.

      And these are I think, the key words thet spell out whole problem in France and EU today;
      “our perceptions are influenced by the strategic representations that American and European ideologized networks hostile to the Russians’ policy of national pragmatism, installed in the heart of our mainstream media”
      She is diametrically opposed to those “American and European ideologized networks” and to their censorship “installed in the heart of our mainstream media”!
      Marine endorses “national pragmatism” just like V.Putin.
      But globaly “National pragmatism” is equal to evil, because opposed to globalist ambitions of U.S.& EU strategy of world domination.

  6. Amused that the CP leader had no comment that he wished to give. I wonder what he actually thinks.

  7. Jennifer Hor says:

    Melenchon supported French participation in the NATO invasion of Libya. He worked for (with?) Francois Mitterand in the past. I think that his views about Russia and Vladimir Putin will be similar to those of Hollande, Poutou and Joly. That he has refused to answer Le Nouvel Observateur’s questions is no surprise as his past political record suggests he won’t have an original vision for the Left Front (this is actually a coalition of the French Communist Party and a few other smaller socialist, not necessarily Marxist / Communist parties) and France’s future generally.


  8. http://www.gallup.com/poll/148862/Russia-Leadership-Not-Popular-Worldwide.aspx

    Of European countries, Russian leadership’s approval rate is one of the lowest in France. Dissaproval rate is also one of the highest.

    • So from this perspective, it is probably unsurprising that (with the exception of Le Pen and to a lesser extent, NDA) all of the French Presidential candidates have negative political opinions towards it.

  9. Very surprising to see the hard rightie the most supportive of Russia. If I had known Hollande’s views in advance, I would not have been so excited about Sarkozy taking the high jump, because there’s little difference – at least where Russia is concerned – in their worldviews. Maybe Hollande won’t be such a shameless asskisser to the USA, or such an eager warmonger that a protest movement is no more than started before the leader of France is recognizing them as the legitimate national government. That at least would be something.

    It looks like Russia would be wise to make some investment in its military, since it appears increasingly likely it will have to fight or accept encirclement. The good news is that, for now, it has China on its side. That ought to give any but the boldest pause.

    • …or such an eager warmonger…

      Олланд настроен не менее воинственно. В одном из своих последних выступлений он, в частности, пообещал, что Франция направит свои войска в Сирию в случае, если ООН даст на это добро. «Если это будет операция в рамках ООН, мы примем в ней участие», – приводит его слова «Интерфакс».”

      / “Hollande has similarly hawkish views. In one of his last speeches, among other things, he promised that France would its troops to Syria if given the go-ahead by the UN. “If this is an operation within the framework of the UN, we will participate in it,” as reported by Interfax.”

      • The Fifth Crusade?

      • Obviously France still regards this part of the world as its colony. It was the one that drew up the borders of Syria and still thinks it should decide what is best for it. France should keep its nose out of other people’s business. One of its stellar colonial meddling triumphs was Rwanda. For some reason France and the US were not in a hurry to save the lives of 800,000 people in Rwanda (Albright, the mad bomber of Serbia blocked UN intervention resolutions) but in Syria they are prepared to support an al Qaeda infested guerrilla organization. After Libya and Syria it is clear that al Qaeda is really al CIAda.

    • The only practical difference between Hollande and Sarkozy seems to be that Hollande is against austerity while Sarkozy is for it. Given Russia’s recent offering of billions of dollars to the IMF to help the eurozone, ultimately Hollande might find himself touting a more pro-Russian line (that is, if Russia’s offer still stands) as he almost certainly won’t be getting any money from Germany to pursue the exact opposite of what Merkel recommends.

  10. There was never the pushback on Libya there is on Syria. Hopefully it will be enough, because the arming of the “rebels” by the west and its Middle-Eastern surrogates will not likely be enough to overthrow the government militarily. There’s only so much a ragtag group of poor rebels would reasonably have been able to secure on their own, and if they come screaming over the horizon in squadrons of Rafale fighters, the game would be up. But Hollande’s views, as I say, are disappointing. Perhaps that accounts for the unexpectedly strong showing by le Pen, but it will not likely be enough, and she might not be that good a leader anyway based on just this one issue. France has a lot of problems other than that.

    In any case, Sarkozy gone is a victory that cannot be spun into a defeat no matter who replaces him.

    • “unexpectedly strong showing by le Pen”
      Only “unexpectedly” for those who do not live in France.
      People are fed up and there is no much difference between left and right anyway (unless you opt for facists).

      “In any case, Sarkozy gone is a victory that cannot be spun into a defeat no matter who replaces him.”
      I think Hollande will be worse than Sarko Napoleon.