Vladimir Putin is cheering the European far-right to divide the continent, the European Commission’s First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said last week after France’s Marine Le Pen had met with the Russian President in the Kremlin. Mrs. Le Pen had previously called for tighter ties with Russia and her visit to Moscow came only a month before the first round of the presidential election in her country. Mrs. Le Pen’s far-right National Front had received a €9m loan from a Russian bank in 2014. President Putin used the occasion to emphasize that Russia did not interfere in European politics.
Emmanuel Macron, pro-Europe French presidential candidate, has, however, accused Moscow of trying to derail his campaign by spreading false rumors through hacked Democrat emails and social media. Across Europe, the hand of the Kremlin has been perceived in an array of cyber attacks on government and state institutions through “fake news” and disinformation as well as in the targeted funding of opposition groups.
According to Mr. Timmermans, “there is a reason why Mr. Putin supports the extreme right all across Europe because he knows the extreme right makes us weak, he knows the extreme right divides us. And a divided Europe means that Putin is the boss”. He also stressed that he did not want to enter into conflict with Moscow but said that Mr. Putin was “trying to create disunity by inviting Mrs. Le Pen to the Kremlin and supporting all sorts of extreme-right parties across Europe”. Russia has been previously accused of meddling in the US election in favor of Donald Trump.