During the Cold War, the U.S. spent billions trying to keep Western Europe from falling into Russian hands.

Some of our best foreign policy minds, from Dean Acheson to George Shultz, concentrated their intellectual firepower on containing, if not rolling back, Kremlin influence.
Now along comes Marine Le Pen, and all this effort may have been for naught.
The head of France’s nationalist party, National Front, Le Pen found herself visiting Moscow over the weekend, making personal calls on Russian President Vladimir Putin and at the Lower House of the Duma.

The visit was odd not least because Le Pen is a candidate in the presidential elections in just a month. She is one of two leading contenders in the French race, with a good chance to get through to the second round, according to polls.
When asked by the media about the propriety of meeting with Le Pen so close to the polls, Putin defended his actions. “Of course I know that the election campaign in France is actively developing,” he was quoted as saying by the BBC. “We do not want to influence events in any way, but we reserve the right to talk to representatives of all the country’s political forces.”
It helps a great deal, of course, that Le Pen has consistently called for dropping sanctions on the Kremlin—travel bans and asset freezes on companies, businessmen, and senior officials linked to Putin. Western countries imposed those sanctions after Russia invaded the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, which it later annexed.
Since then, Moscow has led a campaign of destabilization in mostly Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine.
“I find it problematic that Russian deputies cannot meet with French deputies or with [European Union] deputies,” Le Pen said, according to Russia Today.
Le Pen has been hard-pressed to find funding for her campaign ever since the Russian bank that had loaned her millions of euros saw its license revoked by the Central Bank of Russia.
Her party’s treasurer, however, was quoted by the Associated Press as saying this Moscow visit is not a cash-raising trip.
The attention that has been paid to the FBI investigation on Russia and the Trump campaign had made her shy, until now, of rekindling her Russian connections.
Le Pen is hardly the only French presidential candidate with a pro-Russian dalliance, but she’s the only one likely to make it to the second round of voting. The other top candidate, socialist Emmanuel Macron, says he’s a target of Putin’s propaganda.
The Heritage Foundation has long called for NATO to present a united front on Ukraine, to reiterate calls for Russia to end its illegal occupation of Crimea (an invasion which Le Pen denies ever happened), and to abide by the terms of the Minsk II agreement calling for a cease-fire in Ukraine.
Signed in February 2015, the Minsk agreement remains a cease-fire in name only, with Russian-backed separatists daily violating its terms. Whoever wins the election should reaffirm their commitment to the current sanctions, as should President Donald Trump.
Indeed, NATO should consider providing Ukrainians with the means to defend themselves. This would magnify the political message.
The Heritage assessment of Putin remains that:
  • He runs a regime that combines a lack of respect for political, civil, and economic rights with a dysfunctional economy.
  • Russia poses a series of worldwide strategic and diplomatic challenges, including buildup of its nuclear arsenal and military.
  • It also poses threats to discrete U.S. friends and allies such as France.
  • Russia’s cooperation with bad actors and its increasing tendency to play a spoiler role pose another set of threats.
All Western governments, including whoever wins the French election, must understand the nature of this regime and the threats it poses.