Le Pen Backs NATO-Russia Reconciliation and Reduced French Role in Alliance

PARIS — Rejecting a “herd-like conformity” with the Biden administration, Marine Le Pen, the French far-right candidate for the presidency, said Wednesday that France would quit NATO’s integrated military command if she were elected and would seek for the alliance “a strategic rapprochement” with Russia.

As Russia’s war in Ukraine rages on, Ms. Le Pen effectively signaled that her election would terminate or at least disrupt President Biden’s united alliance in confronting President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, and perhaps create a breach in Western Europe for Mr. Putin to exploit.

Dismissing multilateralism, blasting Germany, criticizing the European Union, relegating climate issues to a low priority, attacking “globalists” and maintaining a near silence on Russia’s brutal assault in Ukraine, Ms. Le Pen gave a taste of a worldview that was at once reminiscent of the Trump presidency and appeared to directly threaten NATO’s attempts to arm Ukraine and defeat Russia.

A lurch to the far right by France, a nuclear power and permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, would realign the world, with unpredictable and disruptive consequences.

In a wide-ranging 75-minute news conference devoted to international relations, and apparently conceived to bolster her credentials on the global stage, Ms. Le Pen said France would remain in NATO and respect its core Article 5, which says an attack on one alliance member is an attack on all.

But, she added, “I would place our troops neither under an integrated NATO command nor under a European command.”

Her position, she said, was “no submission to an American protectorate exercised on European soil under the cover of NATO” — a stance she compared to that taken by Gen. Charles de Gaulle in 1966, when he took France out of NATO’s integrated military command, where it remained until 2009.

Her position, she said, did not signal “submission to Moscow.” But her promise to withdraw France from the command was consistent with the policy of “equidistance” from great powers she said she would pursue if she defeats the incumbent, President Emmanuel Macron, in a runoff vote for the French presidency on April 24.

Polls show Mr. Macron with 53 to 55 percent of the vote, ahead of Ms. Le Pen with 45 to 47 percent. But the political situation is volatile as the president, scurrying around the country, scrambles to make up for a lackluster initial campaign. The French nationalist extreme right is closer to attaining power than at any time since World War II.

The proposed rapprochement with Russia, “once the Russian-Ukrainian war is over and settled by a peace treaty,” would even be in the interest of the United States, Ms. Le Pen suggested, because Washington would not be served by a “close Russian-Chinese union.”

Ms. Le Pen, the leader of the National Rally, formerly the National Front, a fiercely anti-immigrant party, dismissed the Biden administration as “too aggressive toward Beijing,” saying the United States “needs enemies in order to unite its allies under its domination.”

It was one of very few references to the United States, none of them positive, as Ms. Le Pen embarked on a kind of world tour of her preoccupations that also omitted Russia but did include a long exegesis of why France has solemn obligations in Lebanon.

“France is not France without grandeur,” she declared.

Nor is it France without protests. The news conference was briefly disrupted by a protester carrying a heart-shaped image of Ms. Le Pen and Mr. Putin. The protester was wrestled to the ground and dragged out by security guards.

Ms. Le Pen said that the “nonaligned” France she imagined “would threaten enemies of the Western camp in a more effective way because the country would no longer follow an alignment with the United States and so would cause greater, dissuasive uneasiness in the calculations of all adversaries.”

Mr. Macron has attacked Ms. Le Pen as intent on the destruction of the European Union and compared the April 24 vote to a referendum on Europe. Nationalism, he said Tuesday in Strasbourg, leads to “an alliance of nations that want to make war.”

Ms. Le Pen said that a British-style exit from the European Union was not in her plans but that she favored a “European alliance of nations,” rejecting Mr. Macron’s frequent references to “European sovereignty” and “European strategic autonomy.” In practice she favors a series of measures — including favoring French over E.U. citizens for jobs and housing — designed to undermine the 27-member union.

The same objective appeared to lie behind her diatribe against Germany, France’s most important partner in the construction of a united Europe. Franco-German friendship has stood at the heart of postwar Europe, the symbol of the continent’s healing after the devastation of two world wars.

Ms. Le Pen declared that France and Germany confronted “irreconcilable strategic differences.”

She said she would stop all cooperation with Germany on the development of new military equipment in order to pursue national programs. She denounced the “discreet and clever hegemony over Europe” orchestrated by Angela Merkel, the former German chancellor. She suggested that Germany has embarked on a surreptitious plan to subvert France’s centralized model with a German federal model or even the creation of “big border-crossing regions.”

Germany would not be allowed to “destroy the French nuclear industry,” Ms. Le Pen vowed. She insisted that Germany’s interests diverged from France’s in that Germany “considers NATO as the natural pillar of its security, yesterday and today, which leads it to buy American.”

Driving home her point, Ms. Le Pen said, “Germany thus represents the polar opposite of France’s strategic identity.” Nevertheless, she said, “I want to underline that I have no hostility to the German nation.”

The overall message was clear enough. Dismissive of French-German cooperation, hostile or suspicious toward the United States and NATO, seeking rapprochement with Russia and a softer approach to China, Ms. Le Pen would take France in a direction that, for the Biden administration, would severely test one of America’s oldest alliances at a time of war in Europe.

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