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Germany

E. Coli: What The Cucumber War Says About What Ails Europe

Europe was thrown into turmoil after Germany falsely accused Spanish cucumbers of carrying the deadly E. coli bacteria. A true test of EU solidarity.

(ssoosay)
(ssoosay)
Jean-Marc Vittori

It sounds like an Agatha Christie mystery. In the Hamburg region of Germany, people start dying, one after the other. The murder weapon is found rapidly: it is the terrible Escherichia coli bacteria. Local authorities, followed closely by European institutions, identify the culprit, a sturdy neighbor from Spain: Señor Cucumber. The entire world starts hunting him down. People boo him, reject him and finally outlaw him. But eventually it turns out they had the wrong man. According to latest information, the real murderer could in reality be the skinny Mr. Bean Sprouts.

We could almost smile at all this if only "no one had died," to quote French politician Jack Lang. We could smile if the crisis had not been accompanied by such a waste of food and money, with thousands of tons of produce thrown away and hundreds of farmers nearly ruined. A crisis on this scale should not go to waste. We must draw lessons from it.

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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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