French conservative favourite Francois Fillon says Russia poses no security threat

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 November, 2016, 2:48pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 November, 2016, 9:33pm

Former prime minister Francois Fillon, favourite to become the French centre-right’s candidate for president in an election next year, said that Russia did not constitute a security threat and it was “completely stupid” to push it away.

French officials have been pressing for an extension of European Union sanctions against Moscow over its actions in Ukraine and suggested that further sanctions over its role in Syria may be necessary given the Russian-backed Syrian government attacks on rebel-held areas of Aleppo.

“You spoke about an enthusiasm to get closer to Russia. There’s no enthusiasm,” Fillon told TF1 television on Monday.

“I just see that it (Russia) is the biggest country in the world and we’re pushing it towards Asia in a completely stupid way. In no way does it threaten our security.”

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After the US election of Donald Trump, who has said he wants closer ties with the Kremlin and has questioned the cost of protecting Nato allies, some analysts predict an emboldened Moscow could become more assertive in eastern Europe after already annexing Crimea in 2014.

A senior pro-Kremlin lawmaker said on Monday that Moscow will deploy S-400 surface-to-air missiles and nuclear-capable Iskander systems in the exclave of Kaliningrad in retaliation for Nato deployments in the region.

Fillon’s comments are in tune with some in the French foreign policy establishment who accuse President Francois Hollande of pursuing an American-aligned “neo-conservative” agenda and thus weakening Europe as a whole.

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Fillon meets another former prime minister Alain Juppe in a runoff vote on November 27 for the conservative ticket.

But, given the 44 per cent of the votes he secured in Sunday’s first round of voting for the centre-right nomination, many see him as being in pole position for a showdown with far-right leader Marine Le Pen in the election next spring.