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A French soldier on patrol in Paris in January
A French soldier on patrol in Paris in January
Dominique Moïsi

-OpEd-

PARIS — There's something both pathetic and surrealistic about France's obsession, at the moment, with a rather unremarkable economic reform bill (the "loi Macron") while to the east and to the south, in Ukraine and Libya, real threats are edging closer to our continent.

It's time to wake up! Twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Europe needs to redefine its entire security policy. The question lies in whether it can do so within the EU's institutions or rather through the individual but coordinated efforts of its member states.

In the aftermath of World War II, in the context of the Cold War, Western European countries — with the notable exception of France and Britain — handled defense issues within the framework of the NATO and thus placed their security, for all intents and purposes, in the hands of the United States. The choice proved a wise one. The war remained cold and the Soviet system collapsed, a victim of its contradictions.

But success can be both misleading and dangerous. Lulled by the illusion that security issues were a thing of the past — the Balkan wars being just an anachronism — the EU very quickly looked to a postmodern future, seeing itself as both a guide and model. Europe was from Venus and America was from Mars, as Robert Kagan commented in an essay that hit the bull's eye, even though Mars soon found itself entangled in its contradictions in the Middle East.

To guarantee its security, Europe had three cards at its disposal. The first was the U.S., which you could criticize or denounce at will but served, nevertheless, as a sort of ultimate life insurance. The second, that of EU enlargement, proved particularly effective at the beginning of the 21st century as an incentive mechanism. "Do you want to join our peaceful and prosperous club? Behave." But this policy, which worked well in the Balkans and Central Europe, could never be a universal model.

The EU couldn't nurture the ambition to integrate, in successive waves, all countries around it, close or far. That's why from 2002, and this was its third card, the EU expressed the will to develop an area of prosperity and stability on its extended borders. Thus was born the European Neighborhood Policy. This led in 2008 to the creation of the Union for the Mediterranean and in 2009 of its eastern twin, the Eastern Partnership.

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Geopolitics

The Days After: What Would Happen If Putin Opts For A Tactical Nuclear Strike

The risk of the Kremlin launching a tactical nuclear weapon on Ukraine is small but not impossible. The Western response would itself set off a counter-response, which might contain or spiral to the worst-case scenario.

An anti-nuclear activist impersonates Vladimir Putin at a rally in Berlin.

Yves Bourdillon

-Analysis-

PARISVladimir Putin could “go nuclear” in Ukraine. Yes, this expression, which metaphorically means “taking the extreme, drastic action,” is now literally considered a possibility as well. Cornered and humiliated by a now plausible military defeat, experts say the Kremlin could launch a tactical nuclear bomb on a Ukrainian site in a desperate attempt to turn the tables.

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In any case, this is what Putin — who put Russia's nuclear forces on alert just after the start of the invasion in late February — is aiming to achieve: to terrorize populations in Western countries to push their leaders to let go of Ukraine.

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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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