Vladimir Putin. (photo: Alexey Druzhinin/AFP)
Putin Funds Far Right in France. "It's No Secret," says Marine Le Pen
By Steve Weissman, Reader Supported News
02 December 14
While the US and its NATO allies compete with the Kremlin in a nuclear-tinged and very Orwellian Cold War, Vladimir Putin is bankrolling Marine Le Pen’s Front National (FN) in France.
The story is still breaking, fed by an escalating string of revelations from Mediapart, one of Europe’s most dependable sites for investigative reporting. According to its sources in and around the FN, the party stands to receive some €40 million from Putin to cover campaign expenses for regional and departmental elections in 2015 and the legislative and presidential elections in 2017.
Taking campaign funds from a foreign government would break French law, to be sure. But the money comes in the form of “loans” from the Moscow-based First Czech Russian Bank, whose head – Roman Yakubovich Popov – is a former state banker and well-placed member of the Russian political establishment.
“A first installment has been released from a loan of 40 million,” a member of FN’s political bureautold Mediapart. “The installment of 9 million has arrived, 31 will follow.”
“Mediapart has lost its head,” Marine Le Pen answered on Twitter, adamantly denying the larger figure: “The sums they mention are totally fanciful.”
The €9 million she was forced admit. This “is no secret,” she told Le Monde with her usual sangfroid. She even instructed FN’s treasurer to report the “loans” to the party congress this past weekend, where they were celebrated in the company of two Russian dignitaries and fellow-travelers like Holland’s Geert Wilders and the Italian Matteo Salvini of the League of the North.
Did Putin’s money buy the Front National’s allegiance? Absolutely not, she insisted, calling the implication “ridiculous,” “outrageous,” and “offensive.” The FN had been pro-Russian for years, she explained.
As I reported in September, many European neo-Nazis and former Fascists side with Putin’s Russia as a counter to American hegemony. Marine’s father Jean-Marie Le Pen called for such an alliance in his presidential election campaign in 2007, and again in 2009 in his appeal for “a powerful, independent, [and] respected Europe encompassing the nations of the northern (boreal) continent from Brest to Vladivostok.”
Jean Marie also worked closely at the time with neo-Nazis and followers of Stepan Bandera in Ukraine. But once Washington and its European allies put together their coup in Kiev, (See Part I and Part II), Marine Le Pen and many of her political allies in Europe dropped the Ukrainian Hitlerites like a hot pomme de terre, and loudly sang paeans of praise to Putin.
“He is attached to the sovereignty of his people,” she quickly explained in April. “He is aware that we defend common values. These are the values of European civilization” and of our “Christian heritage.” Marine’s foreign policy advisor Aymeric Chauprade went even further, hailing Putin as the champion of Christian civilization and great white hope against the immigrant and Islamist hordes.
Putting a price on such devotion is not easy, but Mediapart stands by its €40 million figure, adding some needed context from Bernard Monot, Le Pen’s advisor on economic strategy and a Member of the European Parliament (MEP). The Front National had not made a “firm request” for the full €40 million, Monot explained. But the amount had been “without doubt, expressed in the discussions with the bank.”
“The potential need is for 45 million,” added Monot. “We’ll fine tune that as we go along.”
Compared to US political campaigns, the figure seems ridiculously low. But, in French terms, the questions are no less intense. Here are self-anointed ultra-patriots discussing their campaign finances with one of Putin’s bankers. As the Russian business daily Kommersant put it, the bank would not have made the loan “without the approval of the Russian authorities.”
Adding to the intrigue, on Saturday Mediapart added a new zinger. Jean-Marie, the Front National’s founder, long-time leader, and now honorary president, also took Moscow’s money, some €2 million, for his financial group Cotelec. According to Mediapart, the funding came in April from a group in Cyprus called Vernonisa Holdings Ltd., headed by KGB veteran Yuri Kudimov. At the time, Kudimov ran the Moscow-based VEB Capital, a state-owned Russian bank overseen by Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev, and Putin before him. Kudimov channeled the €2 million through the Swiss bank Julius Baer.
Jean-Marie Le Pen has admitted the payment, which he too describes as “a loan.” He has so far refused to disclose the intermediaries who organized it, what rate of interest he has to pay, or how he hopes to pay it back.
Why does Putin bankroll the Le Pens and their party? In part, he is looking to find friends wherever he can, especially those who side with him over Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia. But ideologically, he is increasingly putting his money where his mouth is, supporting those who – as London’s Independent puts it – share his view of the European Union as “a meddlesome, US-controlled enemy of national sovereignty and destroyer of traditional religious and family values.”
Or, as Marine Le Pen put it at her party congress this past weekend, “Our Europe goes from the Atlantic to the Urals, not from Washington to Brussels.”
Europeans – and Americans – need to find a better choice than either one.
A veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the New Left monthly Ramparts, Steve Weissman lived for many years in London, working as a magazine writer and television producer. He now lives and works in France, where he is researching a new book, "Big Money and the Corporate State: How Global Banks, Corporations, and Speculators Rule and How to Nonviolently Break Their Hold."
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