Belgian newspaper: NATO worries about France’s “soft withdrawal” from the alliance

European media reported that some NATO member countries are concerned that France could “softly withdraw” from the US-led military alliance.

Belgium-based newspaper Euractiv, citing diplomats, said there were growing fears within the alliance that France could make a “soft exit” from NATO, which refers to leaving the bloc’s military command.

The development comes as the far-right is making gains in French elections and is expected to win many seats in the legislature.

Sources also raised the scenario that France could withdraw support for Ukraine if the far-right takes power.

France’s right-wing National Front (RN) party, which has repeatedly questioned the purpose of NATO and Paris’ aid to Ukraine, took the lead in the first round of the French election, with 33% of the vote.

President Emmanuel Macron’s centrists came in third with 20%, despite Mr Macron calling early elections after his party was defeated by the RN in European parliamentary elections.

The second round of voting is scheduled for July 7 and the RN is expected to win up to 280 seats in parliament.

On July 4, Euractiv quoted unnamed diplomats as saying that RN’s constant criticism of Mr. Macron’s foreign policy, especially military aid to Ukraine, has worried some of NATO’s leading allies.

The newspaper noted that even if the RN does not win a majority of seats, the party could still have significant influence in the French National Assembly in the coming time.

A source at Euractiv said the military alliance was concerned that under new far-right leadership, Paris could opt for a “soft withdrawal” from NATO.

In 1966, former French President Charles de Gaulle withdrew Paris from NATO’s combined military command, despite being one of the alliance’s 12 founding members. This decision was only formally reversed in 2009.

Military expert Michel Duclos told Euractiv that the RN could push for a “soft withdrawal” option, in which France would send fewer troops to participate in joint NATO missions. The Belgian newspaper also stressed that France plays a huge role in the organization, significantly influencing NATO’s long-term strategy.

Marine Le Pen, the former leader of the National Front (RN), the party’s leader in the French parliament, has repeatedly criticized President Macron’s stance on the Ukraine conflict. She has repeatedly warned that the leadership risks dragging France into a war with Russia. The National Front (RN) has also pushed for dialogue with Russia on important shared interests.

In addition, the possibility of former US President Donald Trump returning to power after the November election has also caused some NATO members to express concern. 

Mr. Trump has long complained about NATO, accusing Western allies of neglecting military spending and pushing the burden of defense onto the US.

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