On March 24, one month before the first round of the French presidential elections (April 23), the leader of the populist party Front National, Marine Le Pen, visited Russia, at the invitation of the State Duma. During her visit, Le Pen had a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Journalist Irina Alksnis published an article in the Russian pro-Kremlin media outlet Vz.ru, titled "Marine Le Pen Goes All In," commenting on the French politician's visit to Russia. According to Alksnis, Le Pen's visit to Russia only a month before the presidential election is not a "stupid" whim or an idealist’s rashness; it is a calculated move by an experienced and talented politician. In the situation of an almost guaranteed defeat, there is no point trying to gain more votes from the left. The journalist commented that the determination and commitment to principles demonstrated by the French leader may play into her hands later.
Below are excerpts from the Vz.ru article:
Marine Le Pen with Vladimir Putin (Source: Facebook.com/MarineLePen)
'Marine’s Trip To Moscow Has Become A Clever And… Only Possible Step In Her Election Campaign'
"Marine Le Pen came to Russia at the invitation of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Russian State Duma. She had a meeting, and then a press conference with the Duma Speaker, Vyacheslav Volodin. In addition, the French presidential candidate spoke at a meeting of the State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee.
"The highpoint of the visit was Marine Le Pen’s meeting with the president of Russia.
"This is not Marine’s first visit to Moscow. Her affection for Russia, its leadership and the way it is going are widely known. Nevertheless, this trip stands out, and not only because of its unprecedentedly high status. It is no less important that the visit is taking place exactly one month before the first round (April 23) of the presidential election in France.
"Observers have noted Le Pen’s extraordinary courage; she risked coming to Russia in the midst of an unbelievably dirty election campaign and a large-scale anti-Russian hysteria in the French mass media. Moreover, during her visit the presidential candidate has already made a number of statements, very typical of her style but still very explosive, which go against the West European mainstream.
"In particular, Marine declared that France had lost part of its sovereignty, called anti-Russian sanctions unjust and stupid, spoke in favor of our two countries uniting in the fight against Islamic fundamentalism, and confirmed that her views on the Ukrainian conflict coincided with the Russian position.
"However, Le Pen’s actions are not a stupid and desperate act of a romantic idealist along the lines of 'Praised be the daring of all bold dreamers' [quote from a famous poem by Russian writer Maxim Gorky], but a sober and calculated move of an experienced and talented politician. Marine’s trip to Moscow has become a clever and, on some level, from the point of view of political strategy, the only possible step in her election campaign.
'This Year Has Become An Attempt At Revanche For The Globalists' Against 'Non-System Anti-Globalists'
"After 2016, which saw several landmark victories by non-system anti-globalists at referendums in the West – the highest point of which were Brexit and Donald Trump’s victory, this year has become an attempt at revanche for the globalists. Their first serious success was the recent election in the Netherlands. But much more important is the upcoming presidential election in France.
"François Fillon, an experienced and respectable system politician, whose major sin is his pragmatism and conviction that relations with Russia should be mended, was aggressively and skillfully pushed out from the group of leaders with the help of some compromising material. The French establishment, in fact, does not even conceal the fact that they’ve placed their bets on the 39-year-old investment banker without any political experience – Emmanuel Macron. It was Fillon’s respectability and belonging to the system that were dangerous for Macron. Now, according to all the sociological surveys, it is Macron and Le Pen who will meet in the second round; and there, according to most experts, the leader of the National Front has practically no chances of winning, since she represents political powers too questionable in the eyes of many in France. Moreover, according to a fresh survey, Macron is ahead of Le Pen already in the first round of the election.
"In this practically hopeless situation, it makes no sense for Marine Le Pen to try to look more 'in' for the French establishment. It’s pointless to try and make herself more likeable for the left-wing voters by toning down her rhetoric.
"On the contrary, maximum clarification and elaboration of her position on key issues in a situation like this is the right thing to do – both tactically and strategically. If Le Pen started to equivocate now, she would risk losing the support of her 'core' voters without receiving additional votes from other groups.
"Whereas this clear demonstration of her position can work to her advantage; on the one hand, it may mobilize those supporters she already has, and on the other, attract new voters by her uncompromising attitude, fearlessness and readiness to defend her beliefs to the end. In addition, being received in Russia at such a high level adds more respectability to Marine and will provide Fillon’s supporters who previously hesitated to give their vote to her with a reason to do so.
"Le Pen’s visit to Russia looks even better thought-out when one takes into account the recent debate of the presidential candidates. Emmanuel Macron said during the debate that 'rapprochement with Putin' will be damaging to France.
"As a result, Le Pen as an experienced politician who is practically doomed to fail chooses an open confrontation and a clear delineation of her and her opponent’s positions, providing the voters with the maximally clear and transparent choice. Taking into account the numerous electoral surprises of the recent years, one cannot exclude the possibility of a surprising turn of events even now.
"And if everything goes according to the sociologists’ predictions, and Le Pen loses, even in this case she won’t lose much. Marine has proven her commitment to principles yet again. And that means that next time, in another election, this may become an important factor of success. Politics is a long distance race."
Marine Le Pen with Vladimir Putin (Source: Kremlin.ru)
APPENDIX I - Meeting with Marine Le Pen – Kremlin.ru, March 24, 2017
Putin: "Ms. Le Pen, this is not your first time in Moscow, and I am pleased to welcome you here. I am aware that you came at the invitation of the State Duma – the parliament of the Russian Federation. We value highly our relations with France and try to maintain good relations with incumbent government and the opposition.
"I am, of course, aware of the ongoing election campaign in France. In no case do we want to influence the events as they unfold, but we reserve the right to communicate with all representatives of all political forces in France, just like our partners in Europe and the United States are doing.
"Of course, it would be very interesting to exchange opinions with you on our bilateral relations and the situation in Europe. I know that you represent a European political force that is growing quickly.
I am very pleased to see you."
Le Pen: "Thank you, Mr. President. As you know, I have long been urging the restoration of cultural, economic and strategic ties between Russia and France, which is especially important now when we face a serious terrorist threat.
"The fight against terrorism can only be truly effective if the largest nations stand side by side and join forces. Russia is fighting in Syria. France has contributed by waging Operation Barkhane in Chad and by fighting terrorism in Mali. I believe that our countries are taking a very active part in this struggle, including by providing assistance to the countries that had to fight the rise of terrorism in the past and are still fighting this threat.
"Mr. President, you know that terrorist blows have been delivered to France. Yesterday terrorists delivered a terrible blow with many casualties. They continue their attacks every day, using new forms of terrorism, including so-called economy-class terrorism, when the blows are delivered by individuals some of whom enter our countries together with migrants to strike at the population on orders from terrorist organizations, such as ISIS. I believe that in this situation we must do everything in our power to create conditions for an effective exchange of intelligence information in order to protect our nations from the threat that has hit France and has recently delivered a blow to our British friends.
"I would like to say that I see it as a big problem that Russian MPs cannot meet with their colleagues from the EU countries. I believe that meetings between representatives of our democratic forces can help all of us find an effective solution to the ongoing terrorist crisis, which, apart from the military aspect, has many other components, as I could see during a meeting with President of Chad Idriss Deby.
"As we have said at the meeting with the State Duma Speaker, I believe that all countries should also think about human trafficking, that is trade in people for purposes of financing terrorism."
Putin: "As you know, there have been many terrorist attacks in Russia. France, Belgium, the United States and many other countries have also suffered. Unfortunately, the erosion of traditional values in many Middle Eastern countries has intensified violence and migration flows.
"Tragic events are taking place in Syria and in Iraq’s Mosul, where hundreds of thousands of refugees were forced to flee from their homes. I fully agree with you that we can effectively fight terrorism only by pooling our efforts.
"Today, so soon after the tragedy in London, a tragic event happened in Chechnya in the North Caucasus, where terrorists attacked a National Guard unit. We all live in difficult conditions. We must open our eyes to this threat and join forces to fight terrorism.
Le Pen: "Mr. President, I would like to begin by saying that in addition to solidarity and joint actions, which we definitely need, such countries as Russia should consider ways to promote the development of African countries, in particular, in Saharan and Sub-Saharan Africa. The African countries that are fighting terrorism say this struggle requires significant financial resources. As a result, they have to reduce spending on healthcare, education and agriculture.
"Besides, many young people face the temptation of escaping economic problems by joining armed terrorist groups. In other words, I believe that we need a truly global strategy that will bring together all the countries that want to preserve or restore security around the world.
"In my opinion, this strategy should include attention to the economic development of the countries that have become the object of the terrorist threat and have to defend themselves against it."
Putin: "I fully agree with you. You are quite right."
 See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6780, French Elections - The Moscow Times: Russia Launches Operation 'Anyone But Macron', February 13, 2017.
 Vz.ru, March 24, 2017.