Saturday, February 26, 2022


Voilà que le dernier survivant de ce qui était le coeur de Bruxelles a fermé ses portes. La mort du café Metropole était attendue, depuis que le lugubre piétonnier dans le Centre Ville avait signé son arrèt de mort. La Place de Brouckère, jadis animée autour de sa fontaine et de ses terrasses et magasins est devenue un tarmac lugubre, inspiré sans doute par feu Berlin Est. 

Encore, si on avait prévu d'y installer une oeuvre d'art internationale (PLEASE) pour éviter les artistes de régime, Folon, Strebelle ou Geluck, nais non ! Le néant règne. Au demeurant, les statues existantes en ville ressemblent à des anciens combattants, faute d'entretien. Bon, Annie Cordy a son tunnel ! Jacques Brel est en larmes.

Cette ville a été démolie par des arnaqueurs successifs qui ont opté pour un brutalisme élémentaire, qui continue de nos jours. Suffit de voir le monstre Fortis qui semble vouloir avaler le Palais des Beaux Arts.  Le BOZAR ne fait pas beaucoup mieux avec son affichage vulgaire et criard rue royale.

Reste à savoir quoi faire de la statuaire coloniale qui reste en ville. On peut parier que le kitsch remplacera l'inconvénient ! 

Pendant ce temps les Verts continuent leur travail de sape. 

L'Ukraine a Poutine. Bruxelles a ECOLO. Comme quoi on a les ennemis que l'on mérite. 

Vive Stromae : Formidable !   

Friday, February 25, 2022


There is no Charlie Chaplin to confront us with Putin's aberrations, alas. 

There is no massive indignation after a normal country is carved-up in the name of historic reclamation. Putin is getting his "Palestine" or "Sudetenland".  He doesn't need to grow a moustache to remind us of Hitler.

Since Ukraine is not a NATO member, it stands alone, leaving every country in the West to shed tears, act aggrieved, and reluctantly agree on sanctions that hurt but don't bite. 

After World War II the grand reorderning was supposed to guarantee some form of deterrence against a repeat of evil. 

Sarajevo provoked (late) a muscled Western reaction. Now that Russia comes close to swallowing, or neutering, an innocent other, there is plenty of talk about sanctions. Most of all, the bruised egos of Western leaders that have been subjected to Putin's bad white table manners demand "reparation". 

Given the measured attention given to Ukraine's descent into hell, Putin might well tackle the Baltic States later. The hardcore believers in NATO's Article 5 should be warned.

The images that come out of Kiev look like a rerun of the last days of Berlin in 1945...and this is Europe today, a continent plagued by bad cholesterol, plaque and fake news. America sits too deep in its own civil culture war to reclaim its former high ground. Putin fooled them all.

Ukraine stands alone. The world watches yet other refugees and destruction.  CNN Breaking news is filled with images of broken hopes. 

The ultra left and right crazies who have taken over the social media are spinning.

Sad !

Thursday, February 24, 2022


Some thought that Putin would stop short of a full-fledged invasion of Ukraine (minus Donetsk and Luhansk) and let it continue as a vassal state on the Belarus model. He chose for total invasion instead.

He followed the Hitler model:  a lethal mix of rage, historical falsehoods and contemporary recriminations.  He plays on the Russian feeling of paranoia, going so far as recreating a Third Reich decor, with the difference that Albert Speer had still some Bauhaus taste.

The West will cry 'Wolf!', decree sanctions that will take measures that hurt and humiliate. The US will decree an ersatz of Continental Blockade. They were too outspoken however about what they would never do. Putin doesn't make such a mistake.

It is still premature to predict Ukraine's ultimate fate, which lies now in the hands of Putin and his thugs. More ominous are the alarm bells that can be heard in the Baltic States, also NATO members by the way. Putin's lament about the end of the Soviet Union is an ominous menace. 

It is easy to imagine the ensuing catastrophe if every country were to start now reclaiming yesterday's losses. China will be at the same time alerted by this Russian hooliganism but also an unforgiven observer, given its own claims on Taiwan and the ambiguities of the Shanghai communique.

In the West, comments about NATO's new relevance were waranted after Putin's earlier incursions in the Caucasus and Crimea.  His Black Sea ambition became all too clear. Any Western naval confrontation there would certainly be doomed because of the might of Russia's naval capabilities and its control over Sevastopol and Mariupol.

Europe has entered unchartered waters.  As much as sanctions will hurt Russia, the EU will be faced with a major energy meltdown and defensive military expenditures.

The West also suffers from an overall split, anemic leadership. The EU is hapless,  President Biden is right, but unconvincing.  Unlike his Russian counterpart he appears too civilised to come close to tantrums and psychological intimidation. Putin studied Pavlov, maybe.

In the short run, the situation is bleak. Meeting after meeting in Brussels and elsewhere will only underscore the frailty of yesterday's commitments (years of negociation to arrive at the Hesinki agreement, now dead on arrival). Social media play a vicious role through trolls that desinform, lie and can also play a fifth column role.  Donald Trump just called Putin a genius. With friends like these, the West may as well call it quits. 

Russia is reinventing the Brezhnev doctrine. The West had better revisit its former hubris while looking at broken windows, illusions and vows.  It cannot let this pass and let Ukraine fall victim to Putin's aberrations. Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote Crime and Punishment, after all. Innocence and corruption don't go together.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Stijn De Paepe

Hij heeft ons verlaten zoals hij schreef...zo stil om ons te laten weten dat het allemaal toch nog weer goed kan komen.

Telkens sloeg hij spijkers op de kop. Hij had daarvoor geen  hamer nodig.

Er is nu wel een jobopening voor architect in Stilte.

De Morgen huilt.

Monday, February 21, 2022


President Macron is supposedly the mastermind behind a possible Biden/Putin meeting. Too little is known about the "subtitles" of this suggestion.

It is arguable that such a meeting is not without perils. It might give the Russian arch-manipulater another opportunity to blur the issue. The American president should not allow the Russian to put the blame on him. It might also be risky not to involve Europeans in the walk into the unknown. Ukraine underscores macro geopolitical management for sure, but it is mostly a trap being laid in Europe's backyard. Proximity comes with responsibility.

Macron's sophisticated analysis potential is indisputable. He is also running for a second term.  Hence, the electoral calculus cannot be ignored. He wouldn't mind being seen as the grand peace-maker, but at what cost ? Biden disposes of enough communication channels and doesn't need some Marivaux scenario to talk with his Russian counterpart. Putin, on the contrary, will grab any opportunity to desinform. Macron should beware of plaing Leporello.

The more the French feel flattered by their president's role, it becomes advisable to maintain a cautionary attitude and to treat Russia as a "regional power"(President Obama's assesment, never forgiven by Putin). The Americans will certainly make sure that French charm will not be allowed to obscure a possible more pedestrian motif.


Sunday, February 20, 2022


The present feels like a rerun of the past.

World War II started by what is known as the drôle de guerre,  a hybrid lull  (September 1939 /May 1940) after Poland's defeat. The talk was more about the unusual mild weather than about the Nazi menace.

President Putin's current strategy leaves the West, in general, and Ukraine, in particular, in the dark. His Kabuki game with decor and taks distracts and deters. While it is impossible to read the tea leaves, the various Western leaders compete for a sit-in at the Kremlin's enormous white table. President Biden is becoming an accessory in this ongoing saga with an unpredictable ending. Ukraine must feel unloved and deserted.

Russia's GDP hardly comes close to the Benelux numbers. Gas might backlash in Putin's face. The cost of any military intervention would be enormous. While the West looks innocuous now it could return Russia to the stone age later. The diplomatic virtuosity of its foreign minister is unique inter paresRussia's military might does not solely rest on hardware. It is reinforced by a structural orthodox nationalistic mindset which remains impervious to the mindset of Sakharov yesterday or Navalny today. Putin is not a philosopher king. He acts like a control freak, obsessed by the correction of history wherein Russia felt cheated.

Until now he was able to become a major Influencer benefiting from the de facto laziness of former President Trump, Germany's Ostpolitik ambition and China's mostly laissez faire.  His incursions in the Caucasus and Crimea belong already to the realm of the oratory. If he were to launch a hardcore operation into Ukraine, he risks a sustained backlash. If he recognizes the separatists in the East, he infringes again upon existing situations, invalidating them by way of proxies.

For the time being NATO got a new life. It remains to be seen how long this will last. Given the nervosity which runs deep in the Baltics, the credibility of the alliance needs to be further beefed-up. Paradoxically NATO's nemesis might be its ultimate rescuer.

This overstreched, sad European winter is the perfect setting of the re-emergence of another phony war. Like its predecessor, chances are that it might also arrive at the worst outcome. One must hope that Putin will choose for the more economical option, the one that might bring him some satisfaction, and for the West some relief.  There is no need to spell such an outcome out when half measures look bad on paper even if they present a less undesirable outcome.

Monday, February 14, 2022


The curent situation in Europe feels almost like a rerun of Munich. Yet again, leaders flock to the culprit, trying to avoid "war". Putin, sitting at the end of the long white table, condescends to listen to Europeans who beg him to spare a country they hardly now. Chamberlain's infamous words about Czekoslovakia come to mind. 

Invaded or not, the fate of Ukraine is sealed. It will never be a normal state. President Biden's phone calls are hardly aknowledged, while Europeans appear to be moving more for their own parochial motives than for a Grand Plan. The more they knock on the doors of the Kremlin, the more Putin's status grows.

If the present situation were to change for the worse, the sanctions that await Russia will hurt--until sanctionsfatigue sets in. History is a sad reminder of the reality that interest always wins over intention. In the short run, punishment will hurt. In the long run it will fall apart.

Besides, Moscow was smart enough to legalize its mariage contract with China. In the Western camp Germany remains a potential joker, while France 's more Napoleonic diplomacy remains what it is: "much ado about nothing". President Biden is further weakened by the geographic ignorance of Americans who cannot be bothered by yet some other external, "far away" folly. The President himself and the Secretary of State know too well what is at stake, mostly the remaking and rebranding of the defunct Soviet Union. Putin wants to make the United States an "overeas non-European power" again, 

The tragedy is that Ukraine stands alone, because of historical fatality and European fatigue. The EU is hors jeu. Most signals that come out of Eatern Europe are ominous:  Bosnia, Georgia, Hungary. Nobody is eager to get too close to another lethal disturbance .

At the end of the day, Putin will have to decide if he wants Russia to become an even poorer pariah state or take the risk of sacrifying a plausible better future for a certified economic agony. It remains to be seen if Lavrov, who is still more of a class diplomat than a poker player, can reign Putin in.

The world is in bad shape. The accumulation of negative factors  makes its future unpredictable. Many have already predicted that life between the parameters of the pandemic and climate change might become a deadly game of Russian roulette. With these players around the table the bluff might become deadly serious.

Saturday, February 5, 2022


The Olympics are as famous for their show aspect as for their sporty highlights. Often the kitsch is forgiven since the intentions are actually well meant and are staged for bona fide entertainment. The Summer Olympics in Los Angeles still count as one of the best shows in history. China's Summer Olympics were spectacular.

These Winter Olympics are a totally different "cup of tea". The pandemic weighs in on the flow and fun. The unavoidable medical checkpoints also give the Chinese an alibi to weaponize their control with an extra layer of political intention. These are there to stay.

The preliminaries of the games looked stolen from a North Korean playbook. The Americans could watch the consummation of Dr. Kissinger's worst nightmare: the undoing of the modus vivendi between Washington and Beijing. The American diplomacy rested on the imperative that any rapprochement between what was then the Soviet Union and the P.R.C. had to be avoided at all costs. President Nixon was willing to go an extra mile in the Shanghai communique. Nothing lasts forever, but meanwhile the Putin/Xi Siegfried idyll leaves the US with a serious hangover.

The West does not fare well in this new century. It feels in decline, even hesitant to claim the high ground. America's two halves fail to find common ground. Europe has nothing going for it, stuck in between the folly in London and the rage in Budapest. No wonder Putin feels strong, following in Stalin's footsteps who did not hesitate to go for a ride with Hitler for the promise of land.

Which brings us to Ukraine, the hapless Cinderella nobody "really" wants. Even Putin's heart is not into it. He is just another Russian, obsessed with quantity and impervious to quality. Tolstoy mastered both, Pasternak tried, Solzhenitsyn failed. 

There is a lot of talk about rise and decline. There is too little attention given to the culture wars which are going on in the West. The brigades which march for freedoms, that nobody contests by the way, could not set a step out of their door in Russia or China. The Western media are corroded by fake news, alternative facts and invented plots, when they are not manipulated by hackers elsewhere. The danger inside looms larger than the menace outside. No need to read Spengler, suffice to watch the goings on in Futbol, the best indicator that misbehaving is the new normal.

In Beijing, nothing of that will happen. The thousands of years of Chinese civilization can pause until this winter comes to its unglorios end. Unfortunately time is running out and the fortune cookies tell the story of a climate change that runs faster than this Chinese New Year's tiger.  Some see the beast coming better than others.