French far right pulls manifesto that included controversial Russia, NATO plans

The now-deleted documents proposed a closer “alliance” with Russia and exiting NATO.

By Giorgio Leali and Laura Kayali
Jun17, 2024

PARIS — With the countdown to the French snap election underway, is the National Rally wobbling on its Russia-friendly defense agenda?

The far-right party has quietly removed part of its defense policy offering from its website, deleting sections that proposed deepening diplomatic ties with Russia, halting cooperation projects with Germany and exiting NATO’s integrated military command.

With the National Rally appearing set to make sizable parliamentary gains, opening the door to entering government, the party is seeking to shore up its credibility on the global stage before French voters head to the polls on June 30 and July 7.

The deleted proposals hailed from Marine Le Pen’s presidential run in 2022, in which her party had laid out 17 thematic booklets outlining its proposals across all policy areas. While 16 booklets remain online, the one on defense was removed from the web page some time after June 11. It can still be found online at a page that is no longer linked to on the party’s website.

In the manifesto, the National Rally had advocated distance from Washington while trying to engage with Moscow. Noting that Washington “does not always behave as an ally to France,” Le Pen’s program in 2022 proposed to seek “an alliance with Russia on certain issues,” such as European security or combating terrorism.

The withdrawn document also said that France should “immediately” leave NATO’s integrated military command.

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The deleted document also proposed “to put an end” to cooperation projects with Germany in the military sector, given “a deep and irreconcilable doctrinal, operational and industrial divergence with Berlin.” Those include plans for jointly developed next-generation battle tanks and next-generation fighter jets.

In recent months, the National Rally has toned down some of its most controversial positions.

In March, National Rally lawmakers abstained on a vote on military aid to Ukraine, while MPs from the left-wing France Unbowed voted against. The same month, the National Rally’s rising star and president, Jordan Bardella, told POLITICO that France should wait for the end of the war in Ukraine before leaving the military alliance’s integrated command. Bardella is slated to become prime minister if the National Rally wins the parliamentary election

In its program for the 2024 European election, the party didn’t reiterate those proposals. Instead, it said that “Russia [was] violating international law and provoking a revision of the international order.”

In recent days, the National Rally has also backpedaled on some of its most expensive economic proposals, as the prospect of having the far right in power is spooking markets.

Contacted by POLITICO, a National Rally spokesperson said that Bardella would outline his program, including on defense, in the coming days.

Pauline de Saint Remy contributed reporting.

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