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Geopolitics

Celebrities Take The Political Stage, From Beyonce To Beijing

How the intersection of show biz and state power looks from China.

Beyoncé singing at the Lincoln Memorial during the 2009 presidential inauguration
Beyoncé singing at the Lincoln Memorial during the 2009 presidential inauguration
Chen Jibing

BEIJING - When it comes to entertainment, the upbeat and always cheerful Americans are king. They can turn a solemn moment into entertainment, a ceremony into a festivity. Last month's inauguration ceremony for President Barack Obama’s second term in office is the latest proof of that uniquely American way of embodying their belief in freedom through amusement.

Though not as impressive as his first inauguration four years back, there were still as many as 800,000 people from all over the United States who'd come to Washington D. C. to watch the ceremony and attend the parade. In order to experience this Democracy Festival the public had to line up in the bitter cold for hours, and suffer through huge crowds and tight security. In fact President Obama had already been officially sworn in as President in a non-public ceremony in the White House the day before. But with millions tuning in on TV, the show must go on, and folk singer James Taylor and pop star Beyonce were a bigger hit than Yo-Yo Ma’s cello performance four years ago. No one seems to notice that all of this happens amidst a particularly bleak political and economic atmosphere currently shrouding the United States.

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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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