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European Elections Threaten Ukraine’s Western Path

French National Front's Marine Le Pen, center, with Dutch Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders, right, and Austria Freedom Party's Harald Vilimsky gather May 28 after the European elections.

French National Front's Marine Le Pen, center, with Dutch Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders, right, and Austria Freedom Party's Harald Vilimsky gather May 28 after the European elections.

Voters in Ukraine elected a new president last Sunday. Wealthy businessman Petro Poroshenko won the election. Pro-European candidates also received many votes.

In other European countries last weekend, many people were voting in European Parliament elections. Voters there supported parties that want to close Europe’s doors.

The results of the European Parliament elections may reduce Ukraine’s chances of stronger ties with the rest of Europe.

Almost one-third of the members who will sit in the parliament come from parties hostile to the European Union and to EU expansion. In many cases, the new members are fully supportive of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Maria Lipman works for the Carnegie Moscow Center, part of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. She predicts that members opposed to the EU will seek to block financial aid to Ukraine.

“The result of the European election is not good for Ukraine. It presages more difficult decisions, having to do with aid to Ukraine. The European Union already has serious burdens. It is not in excellent shape economically. To assume yet another burden that Ukraine is, and to allocate, actually, huge funds to Ukraine, is (a) difficult decision.”

In Ukraine, pro-European candidates won over 80 percent of the votes on Sunday. The winner, Petro Poroshenko, won 54 percent.

On Monday, the head of the EU Parliament delegation in Ukraine said the EU is ready to sign a free trade zone agreement with Ukraine, and to continue talks on visa-free travel.
But back in Brussels, a growing number of European parliament members may want to close Europe’s doors. They say Ukraine is Russia’s problem. And the Russian government is reaching out to these anti-EU politicians.

Last month, the leader of France’s National Front, Marine Le Pen, visited Moscow. She praised President Putin, and said there was “no point” in Ukraine joining the EU.

Last Sunday her party won the most seats of any French party in the European elections.

Peter Kreko is head of the Political Capital Institute in Hungary. He says Europe’s nationalist parties are anti-EU and against the United States. And they find common ground with President Putin.

“What is the benefit of radical forces for Russia? They are anti-EU -- both from the far left, and on the far right. In Europe, we can find forces that are openly talking about the end of Europe, and that, in the current form, the European Union should be demolished.”

Russian state media have produced a number of reports about Europe’s nationalist and Euroskeptic parties. The Russian government provides financial support for the Russian television station RT. Over the past four years, RT has reported on Marine Le Pen 144 times. The station spoke with Nigel Farage, the leader of the UK Independence Party, a total of 17 times. Peter Kreko has been watching Mr. Farage.

“He makes a lot of statements praising Russia, and making lots of statements about the greatness of Putin, and how he handled the Syrian, and then the Crimean conflict. And Nigel Farage has a lot of coverage in the pro-Russian media, including Voice of Russia, Russian television.

In the elections on Sunday, UKIP won the most votes of any party in Britain.

In Moscow, government officials are clearly pleased with the turn of events. But criticism came from Wall Street Journal reporter John Vinocur in Paris. He wrote that, “Mr. Putin can count at the least on Marine Le Pen as being appeasement’s loudest cheerleader.”
In the struggle over Ukraine’s future, it appears that some Western Europeans are pushing East. I’m Christopher Cruise.

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