NATO fears French withdrawal – media

The claim comes shortly after the right-wing National Rally came out ahead in the first round of a snap election in France

NATO member states are growing increasingly worried about France’s future commitment to the US-led bloc and its efforts to support Ukraine, as the French far-right is poised to win a large number of seats in parliament, Euractiv has reported, citing several anonymous diplomats.

The right-wing National Rally (RN), which has repeatedly questioned the purpose of NATO and its aid to Ukraine, came out on top in the first round of France’s snap election, securing 33% of the vote. President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist Ensemble bloc only came in third with 20%.

The second round is slated for July 7, with the RN projected to win up to 280 seats in the National Assembly. Macron called the surprise vote after RN’s earlier triumph in the European Parliament elections last month.

On Thursday, Euractiv quoted unnamed diplomats as saying the French  right-wingers’ repeated criticisms of Macron’s foreign policy, particularly military aid to Ukraine, were concerning a number of leading NATO allies.

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Even if the RN ends up being consigned to the role of opposition, the party will likely still wield considerable clout in the French Parliament, the outlet noted. 

Euractiv quoted one of its sources as saying that Paris under the new leadership could opt for a “soft exit” from NATO, leaving the bloc’s military command – a move that has precedent in French history.

In 1966, then President Charles de Gaulle withdrew Paris from the bloc’s  integrated military command, despite France being one of the 12 founding NATO members. The decision was only officially reversed in 2009.  

The RN could push for a “soft and subtle” exit in which France would simply send less qualified troops in smaller numbers to participate in NATO joint missions, military expert Michel Duclos told Euractiv. The outlet also stressed that France plays an outsized role within the organization, significantly affecting NATO’s long-term strategy. 

Marine Le Pen, the former long-time RN leader, who currently heads the party’s faction in parliament, has on multiple occasions criticized President Macron’s position on the Ukraine conflict. She has repeatedly stated that the national leadership is risking dragging France into a war with Russia. The party has also promoted dialogue with Russia on key shared interests.

However, the RN’s current leader Jordan Bardella has displayed a softer stance toward the block, saying on Friday that “there will be no exit from NATO integrated military command while the war is on.”  

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