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Russian influence operations in France

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Russian influence operations in France

France–Russia relations



France–Russia relations (Russian: Российско-французские отношения) date back to the early modern period.

In a 2013 BBC World Service poll, 25% of French people viewed Russia's influence positively, with 63% expressing a negative view.[1]


France–Russia relations date back to early modern period, with sporadic contact even earlier, when both countries were ruled by absolute monarchies, the Kingdom of France (843–1792) and the Tsardom of Russia (1547–1721). Diplomatic ties go back at least to 1702 when France had an ambassador (Jean-Casimir Baluze) in Moscow.[2] Following Russia's victory over Sweden in the Great Northern War, the foundation of Saint Petersburg as the new capital in 1712, and declaration of an empire in 1721, Russia became a major force in European affairs for the first time. The geographical separation between the two countries meant that their spheres of influence rarely overlapped. When involved in the same war, their troops rarely fought together as allies in or directly against each other as enemies on the same battlefields. However both were crucial states in the European balance of power. They were on opposite sides of the 1733–1738 War of the Polish Succession and were allies during the Seven Years' War of 1756 to 1763.

After the French Revolution Russia became a center of reactionary antagonism against the revolution, and Russia fought in the War of the Second Coalition. Once Napoleon Bonaparte (later Emperor Napoleon I) came to power in 1799, Russia remained hostile and fought in the Wars of the Third and Fourth Coalitions, which were victories for France and saw French power extent into Central Europe. This led to the establishment of a French-backed Polish state, the Duchy of Warsaw in 1807, which threatened Russia and caused tensions that led to the French invasion of Russia in 1812. This was major defeat for France and a turning point in the Napoleonic Wars, leading to Bonaparte's removal and the Bourbon Restoration. Russia was part of the conservative Concert of Europe which sought to stifle revolution. Russia was again hostile when the Revolutions of 1848 broke out across Europe, bringing Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte (later Emperor Napoleon III) to power in France. Napoleon III favoured a "policy of nationalities" (principe des nationalités) or support to national revolutions in multinational countries like Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire, something fervently opposed by the Tsarist regime in Russia. France's challenges to Russia's influence led France to participate in the Crimean War, which saw French troops invade the Crimean peninsula.

In 1902, the Japanese Empire formed an alliance with the British Empire, which built up an Anglo-Japanese alliance. In response, the Russian Empire became allied with France in order to renege on agreements to reduce troop strength in Manchuria. On March 16, 1902, a mutual pact was signed between France and Russia. Japan later fought Russia in the Russo-Japanese war. France remained neutral in this conflict.

During World War I, France was allied with Great Britain and the Russian Empire. The alliance between the three countries formed the Triple Entente. However after the Bolsheviks seized control of the Russian government in 1917, Russia left the war.

France's bilateral relations with the Soviet Union have experienced dramatic ups and downs due to Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, and France's alliance in the NATO. Previous Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev made a visit to France in October 1985 in order to fix the strains in the Franco-Soviet relations. Nevertheless, France's bilateral activities continued with NATO, which furthermore strained the bilateral relations between France and the Soviet Union.

After the breakup of the USSR, bilateral relations between France and Russia were initially warm. On February 7, 1992 France signed a bilateral treaty, recognizing Russia as a successor of the USSR. As described by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the bilateral relations between France and Russia remain longstanding, and remain strong to this day.[3]

During the 2008 Georgia-Russia War, Sarkozy did not insist on territorial integrity of Georgia. Moreover, there were no French protests when Russia failed to obey Sarkozy's deal to withdraw from Georgia and recognizing governments in Georgia's territories.[4]

One of the major news has been the sale of Mistral class amphibious assault ships to Russia. The deal which was signed at 2010,[5] is the first major arms deal between Russia and the Western world since World War II.[6] The deal has been criticized for neglecting the security interests of Poland, the Baltic states, Ukraine, and Georgia.[4]

French intelligence services in Russia

France recruited Vladimir Vetrov.

Russian intelligence services in France

Further information: Russian influence operations

During the Cold War, Russian active measures targeted French public opinion. Some indication of the success is given by polls that showed more French support to the Soviet Union than the United States.[7]

According to French counterintelligence sources in 2010, Russian espionage operations against France have reached levels not seen since the 1980s.[8]

Examples of operations

Examples of suspected or verified Soviet and Russian operations:

  • Agence France-Presse - The Mitrokhin archive identified six agents and two confidential contacts.[9]
  • Le Monde - The newspaper (codename VESTNIK, "messenger") was notable for spreading anti-American, pro-Soviet disinformation to the French population. The Mitrokhin archive contains two senior Le Monde journalists and several contributors.[9]
  • La Tribune des Nations - Effectively KGB-run.[10]
  • Various bogus biographies.[10]
  • Infliration of Gaullist movement: "More than any other political movement, Gaullism was swarming with agents of influence of the obliging KGB, whom we never succeeded in keeping away from de Gaulle"[11]
  • Almost 15 million francs to De Gaulle's campaign, delivered by a businessman recruited by the KGB.[12]
  • KGB hired people close to François Mitterrand.[13]
  • Agents close to President Georges Pompidou were ordered to manipulate him with disinformation so he would become suspicious of the United States.[14]
  • Pierre Charles Pathé - KGB codename PECHERIN (later MASON) run one of Moscow's disinformation networks for 20 years until French counterintelligence decided to arrest him during a financial transaction.

See also


External links

  • Embassy of France in Moscow
  • Embassy of the Russian Federation in Paris
  • - French Influence in Russia
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