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He was the candidate she feared the most. Not only could he unify his own party, but he could siphon crucial votes from her conservative Catholic base. And now that François Fillon won yesterday's "right and center" primary ahead of next year's presidential election, the far-right French leader Marine Le Pen must shift her strategy.

The low-key Fillon, 62, who served as prime minister from 2007-2012 under Nicolas Sarkozy, outmaneuvered both Sarkozy and favorite Alain Juppé, by appealing to social conservatives and pious Catholics upset about France's new same-sex marriage law. But as an outspoken admirer of Margaret Thatcher, Fillon has also vowed to bring free-market economics to a country largely built on a state-centered economy supported by leaders of both left and right.

His plans to do away with the 35-hour week, including for state-employees, and slash half-a-million state sector jobs would be seen largely as a kind of "shock therapy" that Fillon's opponents, both inside and outside his party, have described as "brutal" and "unworkable."

Le Pen, already desperate to "de-demonize" her image, will use her protectionist and nationalist economic program to seduce the working-class and paint Fillon as the candidate of high finance and corporations.

The triumph of Fillon, paradoxically, might give a new purpose to a devastated Left, with the ruling Socialist party more eager to bash its opponents than talk about its own, dismal, record of the past five years of François Hollande. Unless, of course, the Left gets hijacked by its own free-market advocate, the young and ambitious Emmanuel Macron.

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Geopolitics

Why Fast-Tracking Ukraine's NATO Entry Is Such A Bad Idea

Ukraine's President Zelensky should not be putting pressure for NATO membership now. It raises the risk of a wider war, and the focus should be on continuing arms deliveries from the West. After all, peace will be decided on the battlefield.

American soldiers from the U.S. army during a training exercise in Grafenwoehr, Germany

Christoph B. Schiltz

-OpEd-

Nine NATO member states from Eastern Europe and the Western Balkans are now putting pressure for the military alliance to welcome Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been calling for "accelerated accession."

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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As understandable as it is that his country wants to join a strong defensive military alliance like NATO, the timing is wrong. Of course, we must acknowledge the Ukrainian people's heroic fight for survival. But Zelensky must be careful not to overstretch the West's willingness to support him.

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