The big winner in the French election will be Vladimir Putin

Quartz reports: Vladimir Putin’s fortunes may be declining in the United States, but he is still well placed to win big in the French presidential election.

Three of the four leading candidates in the race for the Elysee Palace—all with a realistic chance of making it through the first round of voting next Sunday (April 23) and into the final run-off on May 7—are unabashed pro-Putin populists.

Former Trotskyist Jean-Luc Melenchon, extreme right anti-immigrant candidate Marine Le Pen, and hardline Christian conservative Francois Fillon have all exhibited what French political commentators and scholars agree is an ideological affinity and fascination for the boss at the Kremlin.

Russia specialist Michel Eltchaninoff, the author of books about Putin and Le Pen, says the right-wing candidates admire the Russian leader’s moral conservatism, opposition to gay marriage, and call for a return to Europe’s Christian roots, as well as his resistance to American hegemony. On the far left, Melenchon is drawn to Putin’s anti-Americanism and Soviet-style dismissal of smaller Eastern European states’ desire for independence. “Three of the four candidates are clearly adopting a pro-Russian line on foreign policy,” says Benjamin Haddad, a fellow at the Hudson Institute. A former Fillon party official, Haddad now backs liberal centrist Emmanuel Macron.

Importantly for global observers, this Russophilic push is leaving Macron, an enthusiastic champion of a stronger EU and a critic of Putin, isolated and possibly endangered. If he is in trouble, so is potentially the entire European project, transatlantic alliances and even the liberal international order. And that’s the way the Russian president wants it. [Continue reading…]

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