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How To Really Hurt Google, Europe-Style

How To Really Hurt Google, Europe-Style
David Barroux


PARIS — There are always worse things in life than money troubles. The record $2.7-billion fine that the European Commission slapped on Google for breaching competition rules is a major financial blow for the company. But for a firm making billions of dollars like Google, the mega-penalty isn't the main problem.

It's never enjoyable to be punished financially for past mistakes. But if the incriminated practices have allowed the company to establish its domination — in other words, if the harm has already been done — such a sanction, no matter how heavy, is hardly insurmountable. For the Californian technology giant, the real trouble isn't the fine for for past mistakes — it's what it could mean for the future.

Implicit in what the European Commission just did is that Google cannot take advantage of its power as a search engine to develop the rest of its activities. The decision is reminiscent of the one made in 2008 that forced Microsoft to open the door to other Internet browsers beyond its own Internet Explorer. For Google now, this is the beginning of an imposition of "neutrality in search." The folks in Mountain View know their company is now under surveillance.

Though shaken, Google is still on very strong footing.

The European Commission didn't go as far as imposing a functional separation between the Google search engine and the other activities of the group. But should there be any further abuses, this is the "nuclear option" that might very well be used one day against the American company, which has tried to portray itself in this showdown as the victim of a geopolitical power struggle between the U.S. and the European Union.

Still, though shaken, Google is still on very strong footing. The company can look for ways to modify its practices that won't cripple its business. But it must also bear in mind that if, in this present case, it took the European Commission seven long years to reach a verdict, it now has legal weapons and arguments that allow it to strike more quickly and more powerfully if abusive practices are repeated. For the billionaires back in California, that's what hurts the most.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Wagner Group 2.0: Why Russia's Mercenary System Is Here To Stay

Many had predicted that the death last month of Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin meant the demise of the mercenary outfit. Yet signs in recent days say the private military outfit is active again in Ukraine, a reminder of the Kremlin's interest in continuing a private fighting formula that has worked all around the world.

Photograph of a Wagner soldier in the city of Artyomovsk, holding a rifle.

Ukraine, Donetsk Region - March 24, 2023: A Wagner Group soldier guards an area in the city of Artyomovsk (Bakhmut).

Cameron Manley


“Let’s not forget that there is no Wagner Group anymore,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov had declared. “Such an organization, in our eyes, does not exist.”

The August 25 statement from came less than two days after the death of Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of the infamous Russian mercenary outfit, as questions swirled about Wagner's fate after its crucial role in the war in Ukraine and other Russian military missions around the world.

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How could an independent military outfit survive after its charismatic founder's death? It seemed highly unlikely that President Vladimir Putin would allow the survival of a group after had launched a short-lived coup attempt in late June that most outside observers believe led to Prigozhin's private airplane being shot down by Russian forces on August 23.

"Wagner is over,” said the Kremlin critic and Russian political commentator Maksim Katz. “The group can’t keep going. There’s the possibility that they could continue in parts or with Defense Ministry contracts, but the group only worked with an unofficial agreement between Putin and Prigozhin.”

Yet barely a month later, and there are already multiple signs that the Wagner phoenix is rising from the ashes.

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