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He's off ...
He's off ...

—Analysis—

Back in the 16th century, it took Ferdinand Magellan"s crew more than two years to sail around the world. Yesterday, a new record was set in the prestigious Vendée Globe solo sailing race, as French skipper Armel Le Cléac'h took just 74 days to circumnavigate our planet.

When such records are set, we tend to focus on the technological progress that makes that kind of speed possible. But what may be more remarkable is that the desire to take to the open seas in a vessel powered only by wind still tugs at our imagination. It's a reminder, perhaps, that the forces of nature are ultimately beyond the control of humans, that the world has actually not gotten any smaller.

Much of our planet, nonetheless, will be connected instantaneously today to follow events in Washington D.C., where the new "leader of the free world" will take the presidential oath of office. Donald Trump"s own world appears as small as his voice is loud. The leadership that he has promised is driven by a conviction (perhaps the only fixed political idea he has) that a world moving closer is a threat to the wellbeing of the United States.

From where we sit that looks nothing like progress, neither for the United States nor for the world. Still, popular democracy — a singular mast of human progress that did not exist 500 years ago — has spoken. So hold on, batten down the hatches, and Godspeed to us all.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Ukraine Is Turning Into A "New Israel" — Where Everyone Is A Soldier

From businessmen to farmers, Ukrainian society has been militarizing for the past six months to defend its sovereignty. In the future it may find itself like Israel, permanently armed to protect its sovereignty.

Ukrainian civilians learn how to shoot and other military skills at a shooting range in Lviv on July 30, 2022.

Guillaume Ptak

KYIV — The war in Ukraine has reached a turning point. Vladimir Putin's army has suffered its worst setback since the beginning of the invasion. The Russian army has experienced a counter-offensive that many experts consider masterful, so it must retreat and cede vast territories to its opponent.

The lightning victory that the head of the Kremlin had dreamed of never took place. The losses are considerable — Ukrainian troops on the battlefield now outnumber the Russians.

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On April 5, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky predicted that at the end of the conflict, Ukraine would become a "big Israel". In an interview with Ukrainian media, he said then, "In all the institutions, supermarkets, cinemas, there will be people with weapons."

The problem of national security will be the country's most important one in the next decade. An "absolutely liberal, and European" society would therefore no longer be on the agenda, according to the Ukrainian president.

Having long since swapped his suit and tie for a jacket or a khaki T-shirt during his public appearances, Zelensky has undeniably become one of the symbols of this growing militarization of Ukrainian society. However, the president claimed that Ukraine would not become an "authoritarian" regime: "An authoritarian state would lose to Russia. Ukrainians know what they are fighting for."

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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