Putin's Pal on the French Right Wing

Dassault Systems is owned and run by 84-year-old Serge Dassault, the Pat Buchanan of France (if Buchanan were successful and had a criminal record) and a close friend of Sarkozy. The company has used its influence with the French government to finagle itself and Russia into a 13-nation European consortium working on high-speed aircraft development.

Monsieur Dassault is deeply involved in French politics in a way Putin would immediately recognize; until this past summer he held both local and national office simultaneously. In June he was ousted from his mayoral position in Corbeil-Essonnes for buying votes and has been convicted in a corruption scandal involving the sale of military helicopters to Belgium. Nonetheless, he still holds a seat in the French senate.

Ultraconservative wackos like Buchanan and David Duke have long been great admirers of Putin, even without a personal financial stake in him. Buchanan calls Putin a man “determined to stand up to a West that Russians believe played them for fools when they sought to be friends.” He urges us to “show Putin some respect.” He puts full faith and credit in Putin’s popularity in opinion polls and wide margins of victory in elections, totally ignoring the fact that the Kremlin owns all the major TV stations and the elections have been shamelessly rigged.

These folks like Putin because they’d like to govern us the way Putin governs the Russians. So if they can get rich by backing him, as Dassault can, that’s only tasty icing on the already delicious cake. Dassault openly proclaims it to be his goal, by fusing commerce, media, and politics, to wipe out democratic discourse because freedom of choice, which might lead to disagreeing with Dassault, is dangerous.

The French chose not to resist Nazi Germany during World War II, but to surrender instead. Perhaps the Sarkozy regime is now adopting the same strategy in regard to Putin. Like Obama, Sarkozy has shown no willingness to stand up for democratic values in Russia; to the contrary, both governments have shown every indication that they will sell democracy down the river in an attempt to appease Putin and win short-term gains.

Indeed, the Wall Street Journal reports that, mimicking Le Figaro, the Obama administration “has toned down its once-strident criticism of two controversial Russian-backed pipelines,” projects designed to increase European dependence on Russian fossil fuels, projects that the Bush administration strongly opposed. The pipelines are also designed to obviate Ukraine as a transit point for Russian fuels, meaning that the country would lose the only leverage it has left against Russian imperialism.

Where, one must ask, throughout all this are the heirs of Ronald Reagan? Where are the conservatives who stood up to the “evil empire” and brought it down without firing a shot? Are they prepared to stand idly by and watch a disturbing alliance of far-right Europeans and leftist Americans turn the clock back on democracy?