Posts Tagged ‘Nicolas Sarkozy’

George Soros’s worst nightmare is about to become a reality in a key European country – France.

Francois Fillon, former French prime minister and member of Les Republicains political party, delivers his speech after partial results in the second round for the French center-right presidential primary election in Paris, France, November 27, 2016.

In an interview to Le Monde, the likeliest winner of the coming presidential election Francois Fillon called NATO’s promise in 2008 to take in Georgia and Ukraine as “irresponsible.” For Soros, who in his recent article saw Europe as a battleground for a Manichean fight between “democrats” and “dictators,” this must be a sure sign of “Europe falling under the influence of Vladimir Putin.”

In reality, Russia’s hopes for France are much more modest. They are nothing like the monsters which Mr. Soros creates in his imagination. Contrary to the fake generalizations in the mainstream press, Russia has been looking for understanding not so much in the so called far-right parties inside the EU countries as in the established “center” of European politics. Francois Fillon and his Gaullist party The Republicans represent exactly that – the moderate “right of center” in the French politics.

In the years that followed the worsening of relations with the West after the Kiev coup in 2014, Russia invited even the former president Nicolas Sarkozy, the main architect of the Western intervention in Libya, to several forums in Moscow and St. Petersburg. The aim was not “to dominate Europe,” but to find in France a minimally sensible politician, who would not see Russia as a “clear and present danger” (a preferred expression of French Russophobes). Finding such politicians in France would set a stage for a dialogue – an antonym to Mr. Soros’s “color revolutions,” touted by the Western media and despised by the people in the “revolutionized” countries, from Syria and Serbia to Georgia and Ukraine.

This aim of a dialogue could not be achieved through the cruel and duplicitous Sarkozy, who only advised Russia to remove its countersanctions against Western foodstuffs “in a gesture of goodwill.” (Many a previous gesture of this kind from Russia did not deter NATO’s expansion to Russia’s borders or any other hostile moves from the US and the EU.) But Russia suddenly found a lot of sympathy among the less elitist French politicians, who represented the pragmatic interests of French business, and not the imperial designs of “spreading democracy” around the globe.

In April 2016, the French parliament, the National Assembly, recommended the lifting of sanctions against Russia.

And now Francois Fillon, an unexpected winner of the primaries in the French rightist party The Republicans, is voicing similar ideas about EU-Russian relations in general. To an unbiased observer, these truths are simple enough to be coming out of the mouth of babes, but for the mainstream media they are dangerous heresies.

“Has the West always been a reliable partner for Russia?” Fillon asked himself rhetorically during a recent interview to Le Monde daily. “Didn’t we deceive Russia on Libya, on Kosovo, on the economic partnership with the EU?”

Despite his previous characterizations of Russia as a “dangerous” country, Fillon obviously went beyond the limits of the European mainstream on Russia when he called NATO’s invitation for Georgia and Ukraine to join NATO in future “irresponsible.”

“Why did we need to deploy anti-missile defense right near the Russian border? We made a lot of mistakes,” Fillon said in that same interview.

Instead of countering Mr. Fillon by arguments, French politicians and mainstream media prefers “trolling” him by alleging he has “personal connections” to Russia. So far, the only revealed connections were Mr. Fillon’s two visits to Russia in the framework of the Valdai Discussion Club (an organization bringing together people with all kinds of views on Russia, including some very critical ones). Also, Fillon and Putin were prime ministers of France and Russia respectively in 2008-2010 and as such they exchanged a few friendly messages. So much for “personal connections.”

This, however, did not deter Alain Juppe, Fillon’s rival during the primaries of the French right, to “warn” his adversary against “excess of vodka during his meetings with Putin.”

This cheap insult, however, did not play well with voters, who preferred Fillon to Juppe, making the former prime minister the main candidate of the center-right Republicans.

The lesson also did not go down well with Manuel Valls, the former Socialist prime minister, who is going through the leftist primaries right now in the hope of challenging Fillon later this year during the presidential election. Valls said he would “defend France against both the United States of Trump and Putin’s Russia” if elected the president.

Will Russophobia play out for Mr. Valls? There is a strong doubt about this. Valls has already lost the first tour of Socialist primaries to the little known “red and green” candidate Benoit Hamon.

“People like Valls just don’t understand that there is a certain fatigue about business as usual in Europe, and Russophobia is a part of the business as usual there,” said Gevorg Mirzayan, a specialist on foreign relations at the Institute of US and Canada in Moscow.

Hopefully, the Russophobic part of the business as usual will come to an end. Russia wants only as much as that – and legitimately.

It appears the powers that be just are not going to take it anymore. Having mistakenly allowed the people of Britain to exercise their free will, Foreign Policy’s James Traub exclaims, “It’s time for the elites to rise up against the ignorant masses.”

The Brexit has laid bare the political schism of our time. It’s not about the left vs. the right; it’s about the sane vs. the mindlessly angry

Authored by James Traub, originally posted at ForeignPolicy.com,

I was born in 1954, and until now I would have said that the late 1960s was the greatest period of political convulsion I have lived through. Yet for all that the Vietnam War and the civil rights struggle changed American culture and reshaped political parties, in retrospect those wild storms look like the normal oscillations of a relatively stable political system. The present moment is different. Today’s citizen revolt — in the United States, Britain, and Europe — may upend politics as nothing else has in my lifetime.

In the late 1960s, elites were in disarray, as they are now — but back then they were fleeing from kids rebelling against their parents’ world; now the elites are fleeing from the parents. Extremism has gone mainstream. One of the most brazen features of the Brexit vote was the utter repudiation of the bankers and economists and Western heads of state who warned voters against the dangers of a split with the European Union. British Prime Minister David Cameron thought that voters would defer to the near-universal opinion of experts; that only shows how utterly he misjudged his own people.

Both the Conservative and the Labour parties in Britain are now in crisis. The British have had their day of reckoning; the American one looms. If Donald Trump loses, and loses badly (forgive me my reckless optimism, but I believe he will) the Republican Party may endure a historic split between its know-nothing base and its K Street/Chamber of Commerce leadership class. The Socialist government of France may face a similar fiasco in national elections next spring: Polls indicate that President François Hollande would not even make it to the final round of voting. Right-wing parties all over Europe are clamoring for an exit vote of their own.

Yes, it’s possible that all the political pieces will fly up into the air and settle down more or less where they were before, but the Brexit vote shows that shocking change isn’t very shocking anymore. Where, then, could those pieces end up? Europe is already pointing in one direction. In much of Europe, far-right nativist parties lead in the polls. So far, none has mustered a majority, though last month Norbert Hofer, the leader of Austria’s far-right Freedom Party, which traffics in Nazi symbolism, came within a hair of winning election as president. Mainstream parties of the left and right may increasingly combine forces to keep out the nationalists. This has already happened in Sweden, where a right-of-center party serves as the minority partner to the left-of-center government. If the Socialists in France do in fact lose the first round, they will almost certainly support the conservative Republicans against the far-right National Front.

Perhaps these informal coalitions can survive until the fever breaks. But the imperative of cohabitation could also lead to genuine realignment. That is, chunks of parties from the left and right of center could break away to form a different kind of center, defending pragmatism, meliorism, technical knowledge, and effective governance against the ideological forces gathering on both sides. It’s not hard to imagine the Republican Party in the United States — and perhaps the British Conservatives should Brexit go terribly wrong — losing control of the angry, nationalist rank and file and reconstituting themselves as the kind of Main Street, pro-business parties they were a generation ago, before their ideological zeal led them into a blind alley. That may be their only alternative to irrelevance.

The issue, at bottom, is globalization. Brexit, Trump, the National Front, and so on show that political elites have misjudged the depth of the anger at global forces and thus the demand that someone, somehow, restore the status quo ante. It may seem strange that the reaction has come today rather than immediately after the economic crisis of 2008, but the ebbing of the crisis has led to a new sense of stagnation. With prospects of flat growth in Europe and minimal income growth in the United States, voters are rebelling against their dismal long-term prospects. And globalization means culture as well as economics: Older people whose familiar world is vanishing beneath a welter of foreign tongues and multicultural celebrations are waving their fists at cosmopolitan elites. I was recently in Poland, where a far-right party appealing to nationalism and tradition has gained power despite years of undeniable prosperity under a centrist regime. Supporters use the same words again and again to explain their vote: “values and tradition.” They voted for Polishness against the modernity of Western Europe.

Perhaps politics will realign itself around the axis of globalization, with the fist-shakers on one side and the pragmatists on the other. The nationalists would win the loyalty of working-class and middle-class whites who see themselves as the defenders of sovereignty. The reformed center would include the beneficiaries of globalization and the poor and non-white and marginal citizens who recognize that the celebration of national identity excludes them.

Of course, mainstream parties of both the left and the right are trying to reach the angry nationalists. Sometimes this takes the form of gross truckling, as when Nicolas Sarkozy, who is seeking to regain France’s presidency, denounces the “tyranny of minorities” and invokes the “forever France” of an all-white past. From the left, Hillary Clinton has jettisoned her free-trade past to appeal to union members and others who want to protect national borders against the global market. But left and right disagree so deeply about how best to cushion the effects of globalization, and how to deal with the vast influx of refugees and migrants, that even the threat of extremism may not be enough to bring them to make common cause.

The schism we see opening before us is not just about policies, but about reality. The Brexit forces won because cynical leaders were prepared to cater to voters’ paranoia, lying to them about the dangers of immigration and the costs of membership in the EU. Some of those leaders have already begun to admit that they were lying. Donald Trump has, of course, set a new standard for disingenuousness and catering to voters’ fears, whether over immigration or foreign trade or anything else he can think of. The Republican Party, already rife with science-deniers and economic reality-deniers, has thrown itself into the embrace of a man who fabricates realities that ignorant people like to inhabit.

Did I say “ignorant”? Yes, I did. It is necessary to say that people are deluded and that the task of leadership is to un-delude them.

Is that “elitist”? Maybe it is; maybe we have become so inclined to celebrate the authenticity of all personal conviction that it is now elitist to believe in reason, expertise, and the lessons of history. If so, the party of accepting reality must be prepared to take on the party of denying reality, and its enablers among those who know better. If that is the coming realignment, we should embrace it.