17:27 GMT +320 August 2019
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    Lifting Anti-Russian Sanctions: Which Side Will France Choose?

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    On Thursday, the French National Assembly voted in favor of a resolution calling to lift anti-Russian sanctions. The proposal was submitted by a group of lawmakers who welcome Russia as an alternative to the US in cooperation with France, according to an article in Atlantico.

    Despite the fact that the vote was a symbolic gesture, it proves that Russia is revamping its influence in France. At the same time Washington has long used a host of tools of influence in Europe.

    The proposition was submitted by a group of pro-Russian lawmakers at the "right time," scholar and defense analyst Cyrille Bret told Atlantico.

    "The resolution fits in the framework of upcoming discussions on extending anti-Russian sanctions. The time is right. Recently, the NATO-Russia council held its first meeting after a two-year-long pause. Moreover, Moscow and Paris are cooperating in fighting terrorism," he explained.

    At the same time, it would be a mistake to say that the lawmakers behind the resolution are protecting Russia’s interests in France.

    "They rather protect the interests of the French economy in Russia as well as France’s security interests in the world," Bret said.

    Nevertheless, he noted, Russia has started to revamp its influence in Europe.

    "After the fall of the USSR, the US has continued to use its soft power tools in Europe, including media and think tanks. Recently, Russia has started resurrecting its cultural and intellectual influence in France. Historically, this process is part of secular contacts between Moscow and Paris. The vote in the National Assembly is a political move, but it is also part of a broader trend," the expert explained.

    Russia and France have long been tied economically, despite sanctions and official statements, Bret added.

    "Russia needs investments and consumer goods. In turn, France needs a market to export its products and technologies. Anti-Russian sanctions and Moscow’s responsive measures have damaged bilateral trade. But there is a potential for effective partnership. Possibly, lifting of sanctions may already be in discussion," he said.

    In turn, political scientist Florent Parmentier underscored that using material and non-material resource to influence allies and adversaries is a common practice for a modern state.

    In this context, currently the US has stronger cultural, financial and humanitarian influence in France than Russia, he added.

    "But at the same time, there are political channels in France which Russia can use to represent its interests. While during the Cold War there was only the French Communist Party, now there are a number of political groups and politicians – from left to right – who support Russia’s policies and interests," Parmentier said.

    Journalist Alexis Pinon also noted that France is a country where the US has traditionally had much soft power influence. As for Russia, its influence is notable in the economic field, especially regarding gas supplies to the entire Europe.

    "Europe is a strategic field for both powers [the US and Russia]. There are several economic sectors, including agriculture, energy, big data, and rare metals, which draw attention of Moscow and Washington. There are real strategic motives behind their turn to Europe," the journalist said.

    According to him, numerous flaws of American foreign and domestic policies have damaged the reputation of the US in the global arena. As a result, other countries, including Russia, are now taking advantage of the situation.

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    anti-Russian sanctions, business, cooperation, United States, Russia, France
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