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Terror in Europe

France's Shame: Our Sons Killed Our Brothers

After last week's deadly attacks in Paris, a passionate open letter from four high school teachers in a French neighborhood not unlike those where the killers grew up.

Statue in Paris' Jardin des Tuileries
Statue in Paris' Jardin des Tuileries
Damien Boussard, Valérie Louys, Isabelle Richer and Catherine Robert*

We are high school teachers in Seine-Saint-Denis. Intellectuals, adults, defenders of liberty, we have learned to live without God and to detest power. We have no other master than knowledge. This approach reassures us and legitimizes our social status. The people at Charlie Hebdo made us laugh; we shared their values. In that way, this attack targets us. Even if none of us ever had the courage to be as insolent as them, we are devastated. For that, we are Charlie.

We are making the effort to change our point of view and trying to look at ourselves as our students see us. We are well dressed and comfortably shod — or very clearly above the sort of material contingencies that might make our students drool in front of the latest consumer goods. If we don’t own them, it's also because we would have the means to own them.

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Geopolitics

Russia's Military Failures Are Really About Its Soldiers

No doubt, strategic errors and corruption at the highest ranks in the Kremlin are partly to blame for the Russian military's stunning difficulties in Ukraine. But the roots run deeper, where the ordinary recruits come from, how they are exploited, how they react.

Army reserve soldiers go to Red Square to attend a Pioneer Induction ceremony

Anna Akage

To the great relief of Ukraine and the great surprise of the rest of the world, the Russian army — considered until February 24, the second strongest in the world — is now eminently beatable on the battlefield against Ukrainian forces operating with vastly inferior firepower.

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After renouncing the original ambitions to take Kyiv and unseat the Ukrainian government, the focus turned to the southeastern region of Donbas, where a would-be great battle on a scale comparable to World War II Soviet victories has turned into a quagmire peppered with laughable updates by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov on TikTok.

The Russians have not managed to occupy a single significant Ukrainian city, except Kherson, which they partially destroyed and now find difficult to hold. Meanwhile, Ukrainian civilians are left to suffer the bombing of cities and villages from Lviv to Odessa, with looting, torture and assorted war crimes.

The reasons for both the poor performance and atrocities are many, and include deep-seated corruption and lack of professionalism up through the highest ranks, including Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who had never served in the army, and arrived in his position only because of his loyalty to the No. 1 man in the Kremlin.

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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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