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Geopolitics

Sarkozy’s Challenger: François Hollande Steps Up After Strauss-Kahn’s Fall

The winner of the Socialist party primary Sunday will face Nicolas Sarkozy for the French presidency in the 2012 election. Hollande is not only a DSK rival, but also the former companion of Ségolène Royal, who lost to Sarkozy in 2007.

Socialist Party candidate François Hollande
Socialist Party candidate François Hollande
François-Xavier Bourmaud and Nicolas Barotte

PARIS - A year ago, he was last in all the major polls – behind Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Socialist party chief Martine Aubry. So indeed we can say that François Hollande, from the central French department of Corrèze, had come a long way when, on Sunday night, he was elected as the Socialist Party's candidate for the French presidency.

His presidential ambitions go back quite a ways, and he was openly considering a run in the 2007 elections. He thought he could beat the top Socialist Party rivals: Laurent Fabius, an enemy; Dominique Strauss-Kahn, whose weaknesses he sensed; even Lionel Jospin, who was looking to return to politics after his crushing defeat in 2002. As then leader of the party, Hollande let internal squabbling run its course, believing that institutional legitimacy would propel him forward for the end game.

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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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