PARIS—When France elects a new president in the spring, Russian President Vladimir Putin will likely gain an ally in the heart of Europe.
The two leading candidates, François Fillon and Marine Le Pen, are both avowed opponents of sanctions meant to punish Moscow for its annexation of part of Ukraine and its support for rebels in the country’s east.
Russia’s bombing of Syria’s onetime commercial capital of Aleppo—called a war crime by France’s current leaders—hasn’t deterred either politician from urging closer ties between Paris and Moscow.
The victory of either candidate in the May election threatens to blow a hole in Europe’s sanctions against Moscow, which are a centerpiece of the Continent’s strategy for containing Russia’s military assertiveness.
With U.S. President-elect Donald Trump also promising friendlier relations with Moscow, Western agreement on sanctions against Russia could crumble.
The rise of pro-Russia leaders in France could also soften European opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
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