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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Flashback In The USSR? How Former Soviet Republics Are Reacting To War in Ukraine

Vladimir Putin has been upfront about his desire to rebuild Russia’s influence in the region. Former Soviet states are watching developments in Ukraine closely, with many trying to ensure futures free of interference by Moscow.

For 69 years, the Kremlin was able to keep what were de facto separate nations within the Soviet orbit by the use of weapons, hunger and fear. Even after the collapse of the USSR, every Russian leader considered the former republics to be at least a zone of his influence.

Yet Vladimir Putin has revealed his true understanding of neighborliness, repeatedly stating that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a huge tragedy for Russia. And on this, one might agree, he is right.

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Under the Communist Party, each of the national republics also had their own government, albeit ultimately controlled by the Kremlin. Each of the republics, whether in Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, or Ukraine, had their own capital, culture, language and traditions. For each of the national republics, secession from the Soviet Union brought liberation and independence — an opportunity to build their own state. For every former member state, that is, except Russia.

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Finland, Sweden Near NATO Membership, Capitol Riot Witness, Serena’s Defeat

👋 Moni moni onse!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where Turkey lifts its veto on Finland and Sweden joining NATO, there’s stunning new testimony in the Jan. 6 hearings and Airbnb bans parties forever. Meanwhile, the latest edition of our “Work → In Progress” series zooms in on changes at play in the world of work, from the emergence of digital nomad visas to asynchronous work schedules.

[*Chewa, Malawi and Zambia]

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Is Soft Power Dead?

With an activist Supreme Court creating a gap between democratic rhetoric and reality in the U.S., and Russia and China eager to flex military muscle, the full-force return to hard power looks bound for dominance.

-Analysis-

PARIS — Russia's war in Ukraine rages on, tensions are erupting in the South China Sea and now abortion rights are being stripped away in the U.S.: Looking around the world, we have to ask: what is left of the notion of soft power?

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How can we talk about the power to convince when the power to coerce is increasingly the norm? And when there is such a gap between rhetoric and reality in the U.S. and in Russia and China, hard power almost seems to have become part of soft power?

“We will lead the world not by the example of our power, but by the power of our example,” Joe Biden said the day after his election. But what kind of example was he talking about? That of the Supreme Court’s judges, whose decision promises a terrible future to women and to all those who still wanted to believe in an enlightened and liberal America?

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Venezuela-Iran: Maduro And The Axis Of Chaos In The Americas

With the complicity of leftist rulers in Venezuela, Bolivia and even Argentina, Iran's sanction-ridden regime is spreading its tentacles in South America, and could even undermine democracies.

-Analysis-

CARACASThe dangers posed by Venezuela's relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran is something we've warned about before. Though not new, the dangers have changed considerably in recent years.

They began under Venezuela's late leader, Hugo Chávez , when he decided to turn his back on the West and move closer to countries outside our geopolitical sphere. In 2005, Chávez and Iran's then president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, signed collaborative agreements in areas beyond the economy, with goals that included challenging the West and spreading Iran's presence in Latin America.

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In The News
Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Lila Paulou, McKenna Johnson, Joel Silvestri and Lisa Berdet

BRICS Meeting, Maradona Homicide Charges, Longer Tweets

👋 Mandi!*

Welcome to Thursday, where BRICS members are meeting for the first time since the Ukraine war began, a judge in Argentina orders a homicide trial for medical staff of football legend Diego Maradona and Twitter tests a new feature to push its character limit. Meanwhile, Ukrainian media Livy Bereg looks at the reasons why Belarus might not be so keen on joining the war against Ukraine.

[*Friulian, Italy]

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Geopolitics
Luis Rubio

Our World Is "Flat" No More: Welcome To The Era Of Pure Geopolitics

The dominance of a single narrative of globalization and liberal democracy is over.

-Analysis-

MEXICO CITY — As the Bolshevik leader Lenin once observed, there are decades when nothing happens and weeks in which decades take place. The big turns in history tend to go unnoticed in their decisive moments because daily life doesn't suddenly change for most people around the world.

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Yet in retrospect, certain moments become crucial. Everything suggests the invasion of Ukraine is one of those turning points, with enormous implications for the world's future.

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In The News

Le Weekend ➡️ History In The Making? A Photo Op À Trois On The Way To Kyiv

June 18-19

  • Rethinking Europe
  • Murder investigation in the Amazon
  • Australia’s dancing goalie
  • … and much more.
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Geopolitics
Lucie Robequain

Ukraine In The EU — For A Europe That Is Wider And Deeper

The prospects of Ukraine and other countries joining the EU force Europe to rethink the very basic way it functions. This moment of crisis can be a bonafide opportunity for the European Union, but will require a level of courage and ambition that has been lacking.

-Analysis-

PARIS — The question of whether or not the European Union should offer Ukraine a chance at membership is a false choice: The answer is necessarily "yes." Vladimir Putin’s slaughter, this senseless war at the gates of Europe, forces us to accept what still seemed unthinkable at the start of the year — especially for France, known for its historical resistance to eastward expansion.

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Joining the bloc will require considerable efforts from Kyiv, notably to eradicate corruption. It will also require the withdrawal of Russian troops from its soil, a condition that would also apply to Georgia and Moldova.

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Geopolitics
Anna Akage

Good Biden, Bad Scholz, Tail-Wagging Macron: How Ukrainians Really See World Leaders

Ukrainians assess their friends, enemies and frenemies...

Which of today's world leaders provides the full support Ukraine truly needs? Who plays into Putin's hands? Who's caught in the middle, and lacks the courage to choose sides?

With an overdue visit to Kyiv Thursday by three of Europe’s top leaders, Emmanuel Macron of France, Olaf Scholz of Germany and Mario Draghi of Italy, those questions were whispered far from the photo ops. The question of the solidity of its alliances are life-and-death for Kyiv, facing a much stronger military in an existential war against Russia.

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Ukraine has so far received about 10% of the military aid it needs from Western partners to counter Russian aggression, Deputy Defense Minister Anna Malyar said Tuesday during a television fundraising drive.

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Geopolitics
Irene Caselli

Why Italy Is The Most Pro-Russian Country In The West

While there are Moscow backers across Europe and even in the U.S., they mostly remain on the margins. In Italy, however, support for the Kremlin runs surprisingly wide, and deep.

-Analysis-

It was a special edition of Non è l'Arena, an Italian talk show, with host and journalist Massimo Giletti broadcasting from a balcony overlooking Moscow’s Red Square.

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Three months into the war, a special edition from Russia could have been a bold move to look at the crippled state of the Russian economy, or the plight of internal dissidents.

But for this June 5 prime time program, Giletti instead reserved the stage for Russia's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova and pro-Kremlin TV host Vladimir Solovyov.

Zakharova had the chance to repeat the Kremlin's line on the war, accusing Italian journalists of not reporting on what she called “a war against its own people” by the Ukrainian regime in Donbas over the past eight years.

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Ideas
Marek Halter*

My Debt To Russia, My Letter To Putin: A Very Personal Plea To End The War

Polish-born French writer Marek Halter, who fled the Nazis to the USSR, has known Vladimir Putin for 30 years. Halter sent the Russian president a long letter on May 18, and later shared a copy of it with Les Echos. In the letter, he lays out the path for Putin to renounce the war without undermining Russia's standing.

Mr. President,

Vladimir Vladimirovich,

We have known each other for more than 30 years. Our first encounter dates back to the inauguration of the French University College of Saint Petersburg in 1992. This second French university in post-Communist Russia, the brainchild of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Andrei Sakharov, opened a year after the one in Moscow. And it was commissioned to me by Anatoly Sobchak, then mayor of the “city of Tsars” of which you were the deputy mayor, through the intermediary of his counterpart, Jacques Chirac, who was then mayor of Paris before becoming President of France.

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You probably remember that day because we unexpectedly brought up your relation with the Jewish people. Because when I, as a Jew, was condemned by the Nazis to be turned into soap, it was the Russians who saved my life. This certainly explains my attachment to your country. We also mentioned my love for Russian literature and its characters who have undoubtedly marked those of my books: Natasha, Prince Bolkonsky, the Karamazov brothers, uncle Vanya…

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Ideas
Bartosz T. Wieliński

Should We Even Be Talking With Putin?

The leaders of key EU countries have been on the phone with Vladimir Putin since the war in Ukraine began. Weighing the costs, benefits...and morals...of leaving the door open to a man who brutally invaded a sovereign nation — and taking Munich 1938 as a starting point.

WARSAW— Should world leaders get on the phone with Vladimir Putin, who bears full responsibility for unleashing a criminal war? Why listen to demands from a man letting Russian soldiers in Ukraine commit murder, rape, pillage, bomb cities and destroy food supplies?

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There are many outraged voices, saying a hard and clear: No. France's Emmanuel Macron, Germany's Olaf Scholz, and Austria's Karl Nehammer are being accused of naivety, of trying to appease the dictator. It is as if the leaders had forgotten the Munich Conference of 1938, when the West threw Czechoslovakia at Hitler's mercy, are naively hoping to prevent war with the Third Reich.

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