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Putin’s Pal on the French Right Wing

Business mogul, newspaper owner, and French senator Serge Dassault pulls out all the stops for the Russian dictator.

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December 5, 2009 - 12:00 am
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Imagine that (a) the Boeing aircraft company launched a major initiative doing business with Vladimir Putin’s Russia, (b) Boeing was run by Pat Buchanan, who was one of the world’s 100 wealthiest individuals, and (c) Buchanan owned the New York Times.

Now imagine the Times’ pages suddenly start overflowing with praise for Putin. Would you find that suspicious and worrying?

This scenario is not hypothetical: it’s happening in France.

Their Dassault Systems struck a major deal with Russian helicopter manufacturer Kamov, operates a significant and expanding business office in Russia, and owns the French “paper of record” Le Figaro, number two in circulation nationwide. The French government is in the process of attempting to sell Russia a $750 million warship to shore up Russia’s rusty, creaking pseudo-navy, causing many of Russia’s neighbors to lose much sleep. French President Nicolas Sarkozy owns a Dassault luxury jet, which he named after his wife, and French private jets have been in vogue with the Kremlin-friendly Russian oligarchs for years.

And what do you know?! Open the pages of Le Figaro and you will find coverage that Robert Amsterdam, attorney for persecuted oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky, calls “tendentious sycophancy.” When Putin himself actually came to town, Le Figaro almost peed in its journalistic pants.

Publishing an op-ed piece by the head of Russia’s Gazprom state-owned natural gas monopoly to welcome Putin, Le Figaro urged France to become even more dependent on Russian energy, not less. It argued that France should be delighted by the Putin dictatorship, which it believes will rule Russia until at least 2024, since it offers stability and predictability. It called the sham “presidency” of Dmitry Medvedev a “tandemocracy” based on “pragmatism.” And most importantly, it totally ignored the horrifying series of murders of political opponents of the regime, including most recently the attorney Sergei Magnitsky — murders that Le Figaro’s competition Le Monde highlighted prominently.

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