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Michel Barnier at the 2014 European People's Party Congress in Dublin, Ireland
Michel Barnier at the 2014 European People's Party Congress in Dublin, Ireland
Mathieu Pollet

PARIS — He looks the part. Michel Barnier, the former French cabinet minister and longtime EU political fixture, could easily be plucked by Hollywood casting agents to play the role of European Commission president.

Whether he gets the job in the coming days is a question too complex for any movie script — or news article. Insiders in Brussels, for example, are now busy debating the risks of abandoning a system that is described only with a virtually untranslatable German word spitzenkandidaten.

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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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