French presidential candidate reveals NATO stance — Analysis

Marine Le Pen wants to withdraw France from the alliance’s military command if she gets the country’s top job

French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has pledged, if she wins the election, to withdraw the country from NATO’s Integrated Military Command and to work on “Strategic rapprochement” between the alliance and Russia.

During a press conference on Wednesday, the far-right National Rally candidate who in the past voiced support for leaving NATO, clarified her current position on France’s membership in the alliance.

Saying she’d like “to dispel any misunderstanding,” Le Pen explained that her intention was to return to France’s policy between 1966 and 2009, when France was not involved in NATO’s military affairs but remained a part of its political structure. The presidential candidate pre-empted the likely criticism of her statements, saying that such a stance on NATO membership would “In no way” mean “Moscow submission” but rather would allow her not to place French-armed forces or weapons under any foreign command, whether NATO’s one or a future European entity.

So I would propose not to withdraw NATO but to integrate its command as it was from 1966 through 2009.” she said.

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She said that France, during her presidency of France, would be fully committed to security and the North Atlantic Treaty’s article 5.

The presidential hopeful also pledged to “Demand that NATO and Russia reach a strategic agreement.” once military conflict in Ukraine is over and a peace agreement is signed.

France’s withdrawal from the military command would represent a serious blow for NATO as the country, which rejoined the bloc’s military structures in 2009, represents its third-largest military force and its fourth-largest defense budget.

Meanwhile, Moscow has consistently opposed NATO enlargement and strengthening and cited the alliance’s expansion eastwards as one of the reasons for its military operation in Ukraine.

In France, the first round saw a runoff between President Emmanuel Macron (the incumbent) and Le Pen (23.41% and 27.6%, respectively. The polls show Macron is more likely to win the second round on April 24. France Info published a survey on Wednesday showing that Macron is 10 points ahead of Le Pen and 55% of the voters are planning to support him.

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