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Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) comes to a press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron.
Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) comes to a press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron.
Lucie Robequain

PARIS — The surprise announcement of a massive pact between France and Germany to lead Europe's response to the COVID-19 crisis marks a historic agreement, writes of Paris-based daily Les Echos. Germany's decision to accept the principle of a common debt for European countries, signals the birth of a new union of solidarity, which is essential to claim the title of superpower. Here is Robequain's piece, translated by Worldcrunch:


It's often said that the construction of Europe is never without great difficulty. We point out its divisions. We mock its weakness, its lack of leadership, which is all the more reason to point out those moments when it develops a backbone. By accepting the principle of a mutual debt within the European Union, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel have taken a decisive step in building a united Europe.


This new robust vision has never before been proposed: A union based on solidarity, capable of transcending the particular interests of each individual member. A union capable of holding its own against the two superpowers, China and the United States. In short, it proposes a political project that has been materializing in response to the global crisis caused by coronavirus.


The immense weight of the Franco-German partnership leaves little doubt as to its ability to bring about such change. The financial transfers between rich and poor, northern and southern Europe, were already essential to the smooth running of the EU. Now, they will need an additional 500 billion euros, an amount that was unimaginable even just a few weeks ago.


It is worth noting the major influence German constitutional judges have played, probably in spite of themselves. By challenging the disproportionate role of the European Central Bank, they have forced Angela Merkel to affirm a principle that has never been fully accepted, according to which the euro must walk on two legs — monetary and budgetary — for it to avoid collapse. The fact that Germany will take over the presidency of the European Council on July 1 is also significant. Typically accused of selfishness, the country wants to take on this new responsibility by renewing its commitment to the European project.


After two months of hesitation, this agreement marks the first decisive, and even spectacular, step by the European Union in the face of the crisis. The three previous stages — appealing to the European Investment Bank, the European Stability Mechanism and short-term unemployment benefits — were largely inspired by those implemented in 2009 to counter the financial crisis. This victory marks a culmination of French efforts. It played a central role in initiating the idea of the "coronabonds," rallying northern countries (like Ireland, Luxembourg, Belgium) and ultimately convincing the German Chancellor. The French, who in the current crisis, have shown unparalleled severity towards their own president, should at least give credit where credit is due..

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Geopolitics

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No doubt, strategic errors and corruption at the highest ranks in the Kremlin are partly to blame for the Russian military's stunning difficulties in Ukraine. But the roots run deeper, where the ordinary recruits come from, how they are exploited, how they react.

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Anna Akage

To the great relief of Ukraine and the great surprise of the rest of the world, the Russian army — considered until February 24, the second strongest in the world — is now eminently beatable on the battlefield against Ukrainian forces operating with vastly inferior firepower.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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After renouncing the original ambitions to take Kyiv and unseat the Ukrainian government, the focus turned to the southeastern region of Donbas, where a would-be great battle on a scale comparable to World War II Soviet victories has turned into a quagmire peppered with laughable updates by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov on TikTok.

The Russians have not managed to occupy a single significant Ukrainian city, except Kherson, which they partially destroyed and now find difficult to hold. Meanwhile, Ukrainian civilians are left to suffer the bombing of cities and villages from Lviv to Odessa, with looting, torture and assorted war crimes.

The reasons for both the poor performance and atrocities are many, and include deep-seated corruption and lack of professionalism up through the highest ranks, including Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who had never served in the army, and arrived in his position only because of his loyalty to the No. 1 man in the Kremlin.

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