Never, it is being said, has a presidential election in France seemed so uncertain. And never has there been so much concern about possible attempts by the Russian leadership to shape — perhaps even interfere with — the outcome. Last month, President François Hollande of France denounced the Kremlin’s efforts to “influence public opinion” through “ideological operations” and its “strategy of influence, of networks” in France. His comments followed another accusation, by Richard Ferrand, the national secretary of the En Marche! (Onward!) movement, who claimed that the Kremlin was responsible for a series of cyberattacks against the party’s website and that it was seeking to undermine Emmanuel Macron, En Marche!’s presidential candidate, for being, among other things, too pro-European Union. The Kremlin has denied this.
The French government is worried that hackings or cyberattacks may occur during the upcoming elections — for president, in April and May, and for the national legislature, in June. Partly as a result, French nationals living abroad will not be allowed to vote electronically in the legislative election. (The option is never available for presidential elections.)
Computer breaches, propaganda, disinformation — even campaign financing — there are indeed many reasons to worry. And all the more so because the Kremlin’s sapping offensive in France is a vast and long-running project.