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Geopolitics

Should We Still Even Be Talking To Netanyahu?

After forming a governing coalition with right-wing extremists, will Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu face a chill in relations with the West? The reshuffled geopolitical cards offer a fair share of paradoxes.

-Analysis-

PARIS — No one has yet dared to call for a boycott of Benjamin Netanyahu, who arrived in Paris for talks Thursday with French President Emmanuel Macron. And yet ... the political leaders with whom he's built his ruling coalition in Israel make Europe's far right look like centrists.

In Israel, it's an unsettling question. The government is seeking to defuse the risk of diplomatic isolation resulting from the Jewish state's extreme rightward turn. The first weeks of the new government have been like a storm warning for the region — both because of the outbreak of violence which killed dozens of Israelis and Palestinians in January, but also threats to Israeli democracy itself.

In a sign of the changing times, the Arab countries in the Gulf that have recently normalized ties with Israel after decades of conflict are turning a blind eye to the Palestinian question. Their security ties with Israel are more important.

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This Happened — February 3: Olympics Go Cold

On this day in 1924, during the first winter Olympics, Canada won the gold against the U.S. during an iconic hockey game.

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Calmez-Vous, Americans: It's Quite OK To Call Us "The French"

A widely mocked tweet by the Associated Press tells its reporters to avoid dehumanizing labels such as "the poor" or "the French". But one French writer replies that the real dehumanizing threat is when open conversation becomes impossible.

-Essay-

PARIS — The largest U.S. news agency, the Associated Press (AP) tweeted a series of recommendations aimed at journalists: “We recommend avoiding general and often dehumanizing 'the' labels such as the poor, the mentally ill, the French, the disabled, the college-educated. Instead use, wording such as people with mental illnesses.”

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How Ukraine Keeps Getting The West To Flip On Arms Supplies

The open debate on weapon deliveries to Ukraine is highly unusual, but Kyiv has figured out how to use the public moral suasion — and patience — to repeatedly shift the question in its favor. But will it work now for fighter jets?

-Analysis-

PARIS — In what other war have arms deliveries been negotiated so openly in the public sphere?

On Monday, a journalist asked Joe Biden if he plans on supplying F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine. He answered “No”. A few hours later, the same question was asked to Emmanuel Macron, about French fighter jets. Macron did not rule it out.

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Visiting Paris on Tuesday, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksïï Reznikov recalled that a year ago, the United States had refused him ground-air Stinger missiles deliveries. Eleven months later, Washington is delivering heavy tanks, in addition to everything else. The 'no' of yesterday is the green light of tomorrow: this is the lesson that the very pragmatic minister seemed to learn.

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Society
David Barroux

Gluten-Free In France: Stepping Out Of The Shadows, Heading Upmarket

For those in the haute cuisine world of French food, a no-gluten diet (whether by choice or health requirements) has long been a virtual source of shame. But bakers, chefs and pastry makers are now taking the diet to whole new levels of taste and variety.

PARIS — The "gluten-free" aren’t hiding anymore.

Whether they avoid the grain protein by choice or by obligation — due to taste, allergies or an intolerance — many stick to a diet seen by the outside world as a little bit funny, or perhaps simply just bland.

For some, being gluten-free even came with some amount of self-consciousness: about being that person, the one who announced at the beginning of dinner that they wouldn’t be eating that bread, or that pasta, or that pastry — or about coming across as precious and complicated, or worse, as a killjoy for everyone else’s gustatory pleasure.

For those who feel that it is hard to speak up, it's often easier just to keep the gluten intolerance to themselves and eat only the vegetables at meals, abstaining from bread and dessert to avoid stomach cramps.

But the times, they are a-changin'. Living without gluten used to feel punitive; now it feels more like an option. The number of gluten-free products has exploded, in both quantity and quality, and there’s never been a better time to join the "no-glu" camp.

In supermarkets, bakeries and restaurants, there are increasingly varied alternatives to gluten. And demand is just as high — €1 billion per year in sales in France alone, according to Nielsen. The research consultancy found that 3% of French households were gluten-free in 2019. Now, that number is 4.4%, which is twice as high as the number of “strictly vegetarian” households.

According to market research firm Kantar, the frequency and number of purchases, as well as the average amount spent for gluten-free products, continues to increase — up 6% compared with 2019.

In this context, it’s hardly surprising that gluten-free alternatives are becoming increasingly chic.

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Society
Fabio Benedetti Valentini

NFTs Are Not Dead — They May Be Coming Soon To A Theater Near You

Despite turbulence in the crypto market, NFT advocates think the digital objects could revolutionize how films and television series are financed and produced.

PARIS — Advocates of a "participatory internet" (or Web 3.0) dream of an NFT future for cinematic works and animated films, despite the fact that Bitcoin (and cryptocurrency generally) is struggling. Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are digital assets based on blockchain technology.

NFT converts say that digital objects could profoundly change the link between the general public and creators of cinematic content by revolutionizing the way animated films and TV series are financed. Even if, by their own admission, none of the experiments currently underway have so far amounted to much.

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Geopolitics
Pierre Haski

Ukraine Is The Ultimate Test Of The Franco-German Alliance

If symbols were sufficient to govern international relations, France and Germany would be in total and absolute agreement today. But much more than that is needed, especially with a full-fledged war burning just to the east.

-Analysis-

PARIS — The Élysée treaty, which sealed post-war reconciliation between France and Germany, celebrated its 60th anniversary on Jan. 22, symbolizing six decades of friendship between the two old enemies.

Symbols are not enough, but they are important. Generations after post-war German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and French President Charles de Gaulle signed the treaty, the gesture — made while the legacy of the war was still fresh — remains meaningful.

To say that the construction of Europe has brought lasting peace to the continent had become a time-worn cliché. But the war unleashed by Russia has given new meaning to this old story.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Pierre Haski

Paris-Berlin, Warsaw-Kyiv: Europe's Balance Of Power Will Never Be The Same

A new future is unfolding in real time, one that leaders in France, Germany and beyond could not have envisioned even a year ago.

-Analysis-

PARIS — Quick question: do you know which country is on its way to having the largest army in Europe? The obvious answer would be France, the Continent's only nuclear power since the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union, and a military that has been tested in multiple foreign operations in recent years.

But the answer is about to change: if we put aside the nuclear factor, Europe's leading military will soon be that of Poland.

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This is one more direct consequence Russia's invasion of Ukraine: a close neighbor of the conflict zone, Poland is investing massively in its defense. Last year, it concluded a huge arms purchase contract with South Korea: heavy combat tanks (four times more than France), artillery, fighter jets, for 15 billion euros.

Warsaw also signed a contract last month to purchase two observation satellites from France for 500 million euros.

This former country of the Warsaw Pact, today a leading NATO member, intends to be ever more consequential in European affairs. The investments in defense are one way of doing that. Yet this is not the only impact of the war in Ukraine.

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Sources

This Happened—January 18: Peace In Versaille

The Paris Peace Conference, also known as the Versailles Peace Conference, opens to draw up the treaties formally ending World War I. It happened on this day in 1919.

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Geopolitics
Pierre Haski

European Defense: How Russia's War Changed Everything And Nothing

The EU and NATO have vowed to expand cooperation, which may mean a major long-term shift in European defense strategy. Still, the French know that the reality on the ground means that European defense effectively still means NATO.

-Analysis-

PARIS — It's undoubtedly one of the great paradoxes of Vladimir Putin's war: It triggered a rapprochement between the European Union and NATO — the exact opposite of what the Russian president hoped. Yet for the EU's leading military, France, this has not exactly been the dream scenario.

Even though NATO and the EU's headquarters are only a few kilometers apart, their leaders have long kept their distance from each other.

On Tuesday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, and Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel, the European Commission's and European Council's top representatives, finally met and signed a declaration that promised “a higher level” of collaboration between both institutions.

It may seem trivial, but there is nothing obvious about this newly formed alliance. For most of its existence, the European Union has mostly been keeping at bay from defense issues.

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This Happened

This Happened—January 9: Photography Is Born

The daguerreotype photo process, which gave the first photograph of a person, is announced at the French Academy of Science on this date in 1839.

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