In 1959, in the midst of the (old) Cold War, the French president Charles de Gaulle gave a speech in which he spoke of his vision of Europe, stretching from the Atlantic to the Urals. This vision of Europe included Russia. It was in clear conflict with the so-called Atlanticist vision, which was grounded in Europe (without Russia) institutionally tied to the U.S. and Canada.
The Atlanticist vision had its military arm, NATO, and its intelligence arm, the CIA and the MI-6. This was no secret to de Gaulle and he acted accordingly. He took France out of NATO, while, at the same time, trying to emancipate the French intelligence agencies from the U.S. tutelage. He was partially successful, but the French society paid dearly for that success. In the early 1960s, it was devastated by the Algerian war for independence and in the late 1960s, especially in 1968, it was repeatedly wrecked by strikes, revolts, and acts of terrorism.
With de Gaulle’s exit from politics, considering that there were no other politicians of his stature, France began a slow but sure return to the Atlanticist orbit. The last act of diplomatic rebellion against the Atlanticist vision was the president Jacques Chirac’s decision not to participate in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. France was thus not a part of George W. Bush’s imperial “coalition of the willing.” However, already the next French president, Nicholas Sarkozy, brought France back into NATO and then engineered NATO intervention and destruction of Libya. As for Chirac, he soon received a payback for his anti-Atlanticist efforts. He was investigated for corruption and almost ended up spending his political retirement in jail.
In 2012, François Hollande was elected president by the French public, in part, as a protest against Sarkozy’s obvious subservience to the Atlanticist agenda. There were other presidential candidates who wanted even firmer and deeper separation from the U.S-imposed policy directives, but they were disposed of in various ways. For instance, Hollande’s biggest rival and the most outspoken critic of the U.S. meddling in the European affairs, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, whose sexual proclivities were familiar to those in the know, was caught allegedly assaulting a New York hotel maid and was promptly discredited. It is also important to remember that the French political scene is no stranger to the suspicious suicides of former high-level officials.
Hollande’s Geopolitical Zigzag
With the eruption of the Ukrainian crisis in early 2014, the most serious breach in the E.U.-Russia relations since the end of the (old) Cold War, Hollande tried to mediate between the Kiev government and Moscow. He met with the Russian president Vladimir Putin at the end of 2014 when Putin was being shunned by all other European and U.S. leaders. In addition, together with the German chancellor Angela Merkel, Hollande provided a diplomatic setting for Putin and the Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko to agree to the so-called Minsk Accords, a formal road-map on how to resolve the conflict. He even began to speak of the necessity of lifting the anti-Russian economic sanctions.
And, then, disasters began to strike. The Charlie Hebdo massacre in January 2015, the terrorist attacks in the center of Paris in November 2015, the Nice massacre in July 2016, etc. Dozens of French and foreign citizens were killed, hundreds were wounded, millions were scared and traumatized. As a result, Hollande quickly got back on the Atlanticist train.
As a prodigal son forced to return “home,” in order to prove his loyalty to the Atlanticist military-intelligence complex, Hollande had to take upon himself the role of the most vocal European anti-Russian spokesperson. In his newly acquired Russo-phobia, he even exceeded Angela Merkel whom many consider the former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s political twin in Europe.
In mid-October 2016, Hollande effectively cancelled Putin’s scheduled visit to France by signaling that he might not meet with him. His statements on the Russian military activities in Syria became as fiercely confrontational as if there were plagiarized from the reports of the Brookings Institution, the Atlantic Council, or the German Marshall Fund of the United States. He accused the Russian military of committing “war crimes” in Aleppo and hence being subject to international prosecution. As though the tensions of the new Cold War in Europe were not already serious enough, he personally added more oil to the propagandistic fire.
Only the nefarious meddling of the Atlanticist lobby could have caused such a radical shift in Hollande’s public statements. Hollande from January 2015 would not even say hello to Hollande from December 2016 if they met on the street. This cannot but lead to Hollande’s tremendous inner psychological turmoil, and even a clear-cut case of depression, as I was told by some informed observers of the French domestic politics.
This can perhaps explain Hollande’s sudden announcement that he would not run for the presidency in the next year’s election that surprised so many on both sides of the Atlantic. But could it also be that Hollande felt the pangs of guilt for abandoning the path of the French foreign policy autonomy charted by de Gaulle? This path was widely approved by the French voters and one of the main reasons he won the presidency. Perhaps, in the end, he came to the conclusion that Russo-phobia pressed on him by his Atlanticist handlers as an electoral trump card was actually a road leading to political self-destruction. He obviously did not want go down the Hillary route, who appears not to be able to confront her own failures honestly and keeps blaming the Russians (and Putin) for her electoral defeat.
The Presidential Hopefuls
Historically speaking, in France, as I emphasized when I referred to de Gaulle’s vision of Europe, Russia is perceived much more positively than is the case in the U.S. In the U.S., the 19th century historical tradition of cooperating with Russia (the most notable instance being the tsarist Russia’s assistance to Lincoln during the Civil War) has been almost completely excised from academic discourse and popular consciousness, whereas in the capital of France, for instance, there is even a metro station in the city center bearing the name of Stalingrad. This is something that one has trouble finding even in Russia today, though the political legacy of Stalin is being evaluated in more positive light than at any time since Stalin’s death (murder) in 1953. The marches of the largest opposition party in Russia, the Communist party, for instance, as a rule, include carrying Stalin’s portraits, and sometimes even the portrait of Stalin’s NKVD (secret police) chief Lavrenty Beria can also be seen. This, however, is not the official policy of the Russian government.
Among the known contenders for the French presidency in 2017, most are calling for the strengthening of political and economic cooperation with Russia, which – as a necessary condition – includes the lifting of the anti-Russian economic sanctions. This view is far from being limited to the political outliers as was the case when the sanctions were imposed in 2014. At that time, only Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right Front National, and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the leader of the French Communists, took a public stand against them. Le Pen, for instance, openly called the sanctions “stupid” and counter-productive.
Now it is even the mainstream political candidates, such as a Gaullist François Fillon, seen by many observers as being the most likely winner of the election, who take a firm stand against the sanctions. Fillon, for instance, recently called them “inept and strategically devastating for our farmers.” The fact that he is being simultaneously cast in a negative light by the Economist, the Financial Times, and POLITICO is the sign that the Atlanticist lobby is very concerned that the enthusiasm for the sanctions as well as the consensus on aggressive Russo-phobia in Europe is melting as fast as snow in July. “Langley, we have a problem.” And the phone keeps ringing and ringing.
In addition, the recent visit to Paris by Kirill I, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, demonstrated the extent to which there is a wide-spread respect and appreciation for the Russian culture in France. Kirill was in Paris to consecrate the new Russian Orthodox cathedral and the Russian Spiritual and Cultural Center in the most prestigious part of the city. He not only met with the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo and the Roman Catholic archbishop, André Vingt-Trois, required by the diplomatic protocol, but, surprisingly, also with the president Hollande. The meeting took place behind the closed doors and there was no official statement for the media. Who knows, perhaps, Hollande asked the patriarch for forgiveness and spiritual guidance and, no doubt, received it.
Even though the presidential election is still several months away (it will take place on April 23, 2017) and Hollande’s party still does not have an official candidate, it is already clear that whoever gets elected will likely abandon the Atlanticist geopolitical vision and assume the Gaullist tradition of independent French foreign policy. This means that the Paris-Moscow axis will once again rise from the ashes.
This state of affairs will also greatly affect the relations between Russia and the EU in general and is likely to strengthen the anti-Merkel forces in Germany, which is scheduled to have parliamentary elections in the Fall. The Paris-Berlin-Moscow axis, even as a long-term approximation, would definitively shatter the power of the Atlanticist narrative in Europe and lead to the rapid withering away of NATO in the foreseeable future.
Filip Kovacevic, Newsbud-BFP Analyst, is a geopolitical author, university professor and the chairman of the Movement for Neutrality of Montenegro. He received his BA and PhD in political science in the US and was a visiting professor at St. Petersburg State University in Russia for two years. He is the author of seven books, dozens of academic articles & conference presentations and hundreds of newspaper columns and media commentaries. He has been invited to lecture throughout the EU, Balkans, ex-USSR and the US. He currently resides in San Francisco. He can be contacted at email@example.com
 http://www.eho.com.hr/news/on-23-november-1959-in-a-speech-in-strasbourg-de-gaulle-announced-his-vision-for-europe/9341.aspx . It is curious, but not surprising that this speech cannot be found on the English website of the Foundation Charles de Gaulle, http://www.charles-de-gaulle.com/l-homme-du-verbe/speeches.html .
 Apparently, the maid Nafiassatou Diallo has since opened her own restaurant in the Bronx. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2938500/Maid-paid-1-5-million-Dominique-Strauss-Kahn-drop-rape-allegations-runs-New-York-restaurant.html
 http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21711030-fran-ois-fillons-win-bodes-ill-eu-sanctions-frances-election-shows-europes-line-against ; https://www.ft.com/content/8832b0ea-b33b-11e6-9c37-5787335499a0 ; http://www.politico.eu/article/west-provoked-russia-says-former-french-pm-francois-fillon/