As I write this, it is already early Sunday morning in France, on the day of the Final Round of the French Presidential Election. The candidates from the two major parties have been eliminated, and the 2017 Presidential Election will choose between: Marion Anne “Marine” Le Pen, of Ultra-Right “Le Front National”, against Emmanuel (Jean-Michel Frederic) Macron of the Centrist “En Marche!” Party.
The Russian cyber-prints seem to be all over the French Election, as was the case in the U. S., Germany and perhaps elsewhere in Europe. Unlike Donald Trump, however, who sent his “Special Advisors” to meet with the Russians, Madam Le Pen made a personal visit to President Vladimir Putin, and even had her photograph taken with him. So, why does Russia care about the French Election?
President Putin seems to have two major problems with the Atlantic Alliance, which includes: Canada; the U. S; and Europe. Following the implosion of he Soviet Union, some of it’s former Soviet satellites either claimed independence, or joined NATO and/or the European Union. Additionally, when Russia annexed Crimea, and began interfering in Eastern Ukraine, the Alliance toughened its economic sanctions on Russia.
The sanctions have greatly hindered Russia’s trade: either for importing goods that its economy needs; or selling its exports—primarily oil and gas—to acquire necessary dollars, or other reserve currencies. The Russian economy, which had never diversified much beyond the energy sector, was further devastated when the price of oil—its major cash source—was cut in half, on local markets, from the $90 per barrel three years ago.
Although Monsieur Macron appears favored to win; as we saw in the U. S. Election, strange things can happen. If Marine Le Pen were to become President, and her avowed Referendum to leave the E. U. were successful, that would mean that two of the three major economies—and largest nations—would be gone.
Also, a FRexit would be even worse than Britain leaving, since breaking-up the 19 member Euro, the common currency, would cause even more of an upheaval—both for France and the E. U. At that point, losing 30% of the trade pact’s GDP—between France and U. K., would certainly cause the relevance of the E. U. to come into question. And then, nations that leave, as they look for trading options, might begin to cozy-up to Russia and, thus, reduce the impact of the economic sanctions.