Should Le Pen be trusted in her criticism of Russia after years of statements favorable to Putin?

The former leader of the French right-wing populist National Rally, Marine Le Pen, who has a longstanding reputation as a “friend of Putin,” unexpectedly harshly criticized Russia for its war against Ukraine during a parliamentary debate. 

From the rostrum of the National Assembly, Le Pen stated that with the full-scale attack on Ukraine on February 24, Russia “unleashed a war on the EU’s doorstep and the most dramatic geopolitical crisis in the last 20 years” and recalled the thousands of dead and injured, as well as millions of people who had to flee their towns and villages.

France has taken its rightful place in supporting Ukraine’s heroism – Le Pen

By invading Ukraine on February 24, 2022, Russia has unleashed a war on the EU’s doorstep and a geopolitical crisis that is arguably the most dramatic of the last twenty years. We owe the aggressed Ukrainian nation our respect and support. It is thanks to the heroic resilience of the Ukrainian people that Russia has been defeated. Of course, France has taken its rightful place in supporting this heroism.

Marine Le Pen, former candidate for French Presidency

One of the most popular comments under this video on X was: “I beg your pardon? You dare to show the Ukrainian nation your respect and support? By voting against everything to support them?”

Thus, the French noticed that Marine Le Pen’s solemn and unexpected words in support of Ukraine and condemnation of Russia were at odds with her and her party’s vote to provide Ukraine with assistance to repel Moscow’s military aggression.

She noted that France supports Ukraine by providing shelter for Ukrainians who have fled abroad due to the war and offering material assistance, including weapons, stating that France should not be ashamed of the support it provides.

Le Pen criticized President Macron for his statements on Ukraine

At the same time, Le Pen criticized President Emmanuel Macron’s words that he did not rule out the potential presence of Western allies’ troops in Ukraine in the future. 

“By triggering a wave of objections from many capitals to sending troops, Macron has unfortunately ended up giving Vladimir Putin confidence,” Marine Le Pen said, adding that “the best strategic ambiguity is silence.”

She also accused Macron of “instrumentalizing” the war in Ukraine for his electoral purposes. She said, “You either support Macron or get accused of being pro-Putin.”

Le Pen’s party did not support the security agreement with Ukraine

To recap, Le Pen’s party abstained from voting in the National Assembly on the security agreement with Ukraine. Prior to the debate, the current leader of the National Rally, Jordan Bardella, said that they were generally in favor of supporting Ukraine, but up to certain “red lines.” 

In favor of the bilateral agreement on security cooperation between France and Ukraine, 372 members of the lower house of the French parliament voted in favor, while 99 voted against it. The vote is not binding.

Is Le Pen trying to earn points before European elections?

So, it seems that Marin Le Pen is simply earning points for her far-right party before the European Parliament elections in June. Her party could lose the support of many potential voters if they perceive her as supportive of the Kremlin, prompting her to distance herself from the Russian war.

Macron’s recent strong statements against Russia, as Europe’s leader in the anti-Putin coalition, including the possibility to send French troops to Ukraine, also prompted this action.

Many observers do not believe that Le Pen has changed her position, saying that this u-turn in statements is purely for the sake of electoral points.

Le Pen’s statements on Russia-Ukraine war favorable to Moscow

Don’t forget that less than a year ago, she said that “the best way out of the war would be immediate negotiations, because neither a Russian victory nor a Ukrainian victory would be good for the world.”

“If Ukraine wins, it will mean that NATO has entered the war, because I am convinced that Ukraine will not be able to defeat Russia militarily without NATO’s strength.” And this means that World War III has begun.”

“If we continue to slowly deliver weapons to Ukraine, as we are doing now, we will face a new Hundred Years’ War (a long medieval conflict between England and France), which, given the human losses, is a terrible drama.”

Following the full-scale invasion, Le Pen has continued to dissociate herself from the Russian trace in her political career. For example, her “admiration for Putin” in 2011, constant visits to Russia in 2013, 2014, 2015, meetings with Putin in Russia in 2017, a $9 million loan for her party from a Russian bank in 2014, recognition of the results of the 2014 referendum in the seized Crimea on joining Russia, and confirmation of this position in 2023.

From bank loan to war condemnation

She condemned Russia’s attack on Ukraine in 2022, but she was against any measures against Russia, justifying it with “economic protection of the French.” She opposed Russia’s oil and gas embargo and sanctions against Russia. 

Meanwhile, Macron’s increasing political weight worries his opponent, Marin Le Pen, so she is trying to close the gap by condemning Russia’s actions, but at the same time, she tells the French that “Macron is playing the military leader by talking about sending troops to Ukraine; he does not value the lives of our children at all.” 

These statements are rather an internal political struggle, the main task of which, for people like Le Pen, is to lower the rating of Macron, who decided to lead Europe’s efforts to help Ukraine in order to strengthen his leadership in geopolitics and, accordingly, in French politics. 

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