What François Fillon’s Victory Means for Syria

This article is a guest contribution for the website BeingLibertarian.com. You can check it out here.

French Republican candidate François Fillon won last Sunday’s primary vote with over two-thirds of the ballots cast for him. Unlike the French left, Fillon is reconcialiable with Russia and seeks to find a diplomatic solution for the situation in Syria. Can the de-escalation candidate make a difference?

66% of French voters chose former Prime Minister François Fillon as the Republican candidate for president in last Sunday’s open primary. Only weeks ago, Fillon was one of the contestants polling very low in the 7-head conservative race. His success is that of advocating cutting government spending and taking on the trade unions, yet the 62 year-old Member of Parliament also represents a major shift in French foreign policy.

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France’s current policy regarding Syria

France is one of two Western countries (with the US) actively supporting the Syrian opposition and the first country to join the US-led Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF) in Syria.

ISIS militants have claimed that the November 2015 Paris attacks were retaliation for France’s deep involvement in the fight of Islamic extremism:

“Let France and those who walk in its path know that they will remain on the top of the list of targets of the Islamic State, and that the smell of death will never leave their noses as long as they lead the convoy of the Crusader campaign, and dare to curse our Prophet, Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, and are proud of fighting Islam in France and striking the Muslims in the land of the Caliphate with their planes, which did not help them at all in the streets of Paris and its rotten alleys.”

The République has been involved in attacking key infrastructure of ISIS extremists, an important investigator into the war crimes of the Syrian government and is the only EU-country to deploy an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean Sea in order to fly attack with fighter jets in Syria and Iraq. President Hollande’s government has been continuous in calling on the United Nations Security Council to find a solution (last call for a meeting on the 29th of November), yet he has shown no efforts to solve the situation with the Russian Federation. Russian president Vladimir Putin had cancelled a visit to Paris in October after Hollande had told a French TV station that Russia could face an ICC indictment for the bombardment in Aleppo.

The strengthening of French involvement in Syria after the Paris attacks were a way for Hollande to show his country’s importance on the world stage and served as a method of retaliation for a terrified France. In every aspect, the French reaction is very similar to the US reaction after 9/11: rising popularity for the president, military intervention, internal religious tension and the broadening of mass surveillance programs.

Fillon’s Putin-proximity and its effects

Vladimir Putin has complimented François Fillon by saying that he is a “great professional” and a “very principled person”. Indeed Putin claims that both men practice a “good relationship”, stemming form the time when they were both Prime Minister of their respective countries. Fillon had previously stated that the situation in Ukraine wasn’t the lone fault of Russian foreign policy. Fillon’s former primary rival, Bordeaux mayor Alain Juppé attacked him by saying:

“This must be the first presidential election in which the Russian president chooses his candidate – that slightly shocked me.”

Fillon intends to restore diplomatic relations with Russia and to consider a restoration of talks with the Syrian government as a “window” to find a solution in the region. The former Prime Minister is also calling for lifting the sanctions that were implemented as a reaction to the Russian annexation of the Crimean peninsula and supports Moscow on the backing of the Eastern Ukrainian secessionist movement in Donbass.

François Fillon’s foreign policy proposals will manifestly influence the debates in the general election until the first round vote next May. He will face a Socialist Party which is likely to follow Hollande’s footsteps in maintaining a frozen relationship to Russia as well as Marine Le Pen’s National Front, whose own proximity to Vladimir Putin and non-interventionism will have them agreeing with the Republican candidate. With the low polling numbers of the French left, this could mean that France will spark foreign policy conflicts over Syria inside the European Union, and might just find itself aligned with the Trump administration.


Pictures are Creative Commons.

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