Monday, April 25, 2022


President Emmanuel Macron was re-elected with a large majority. Marine Le Pen's score remains impressive. The abstentions piled up.

If victory was convincing, governing will be hard. Most of the votes from other corners, mostly the Left, will prefer to return to their natural habitat rather than to become part of the Macron constituency. It is doubtful that Macron will be able to return to his current overwhelming majority. 

The president benefited from the European chaos which is creating havoc everywhere, besides stoking a hellfire in Ukraine. Since Putin's motives and end- game remain off limits, it is hard to come up with a definitive counter-alternative. The West does a lot to support the Ukrainians but too many, elsewhere, hesitate to take a stand. Many African and Asian countries keep their guilty distance, while China becomes de facto a partner in Putin's crimes. 

It is impossible to foresee the multiple consequences ahead. Nothing will be spared from the insanity which looks unstoppable, like a nightmarish progress in a Bosch painting. When confronted by this degree of horror today in Europe, one cannot stop feeling guilty about other slaughters far away, the difference being that unlike here and now, nuclear powers were not involved.

The West is confronted by war. The challenge reaches further into the democratic raison d'etre of an Atlantic world, based on the rule of law. The West doesn't claim ownership of anything but it is the steward of a process of improvement, paid for by far too many former mistakes. It learned from them, while others keep repeating them.

Obviously one will have to engage with Russia again. The same occured with Germany after World War II. Then and now war crimes are the realm of Justice and the Hague today in the right forum for atonement. Ukraine is entitled to find justice, reparation and freedom of choice. Russia must purge itself from the madness which belies its claim to culture and respect. 

President Macron is now the primus inter pares in Europe. Putin must understand that this "elected" French president in not some Belarus clone, but a man who received a trust and a mandate, unlike the trolls in the Russian court. In retrospect one might be relieved that the German/French axis is, for the time being, a thing of the past. Former Chancellor Angela Merkel was a formidable leader but might have also fallen victim to her addiction to Russian gaszqaq2 and to Putin's bouquet. 

The bet is that Macron will be the better leader, and player, but do not underestimate the obstinate force of the brutal manipulator, sitting poker-faced, hallucinogenic, at his white table. Overstretch is his motto.

Saturday, April 23, 2022


Was hij de Ultieme KO hier in dit onindificerbaar land ?

Hij is heengegaan als een King Lear.

Alleen het strand in Oostende mag hem (zoals Marvin Gaye) nog omhelzen.

Do we miss him !

Monday, April 18, 2022


Ukraine was always a hybrid, a cultural Juggernaut in the long history of Slav ambiguities. Europe too is paved with murky intentions and half-baked sympathies.

One fact regarding Ukraine is clear. There is an aggressor, and there is a victim, guilty of nothing else other than to be both legitimate and innocent. 

A lot has been said about far-away conflicts, when Europe turned a blind eye. True, but proximity comes with an urgent responsibility. If the house of a neighbor is on fire, one will try to come to rescue out of both selfish and altruistic motives. If a house burns in another part of town it might end up in the miscellaneous.

The Ukraine problem is Cartesian. There is no need to look for circumstantial evidence or for tribal (Ruanda, Myanmar) or simmering ambiguities that exist in the post-Balfour Middle East for instance. Here the facts are clear cut and Mr. Putin's sorrows are the more irrelevant that in case his Sehnsucht were to be emulated, Europe will end up as a crème brulée.

Here there appears to be a difficult choice between Realpolitik and standing with the injured party. The West plays until now the part of an ersatz Hamlet. Obviously the choice is neither easy, nor does it come without risk. One must realize nevertheless that doing too little will further undermine the leftovers of post-World War II's ambitious design. Already the support of Ukraine in the UN is matched almost by the abstentions. Countries look in disbelief at the EU's pathetic commiseration or at NATO's laissez faire.

Russia, or better Putin & Co., will pay a price for their assumption (Muscovi + Ukraine = Russia). Europe plays its remnant of relevance here. The United States will become more isolationist (exception made for China...for now). Since Macron will be the next French president, he might dare another move. It is hard to believe that Putin will swallow a sugar-coated compromise.

Therefore all options have to be considered. The scandal of the Russian actions cannot remain unanswered or deprived of sanction. One has to reconsider the Bosnian conflict which came to some form of peaceful arrangement, thanks to Ambassador Holbrooke's muscled approach. Russia then was different of course, but the inflated projection of the Eurasian ambition in Moscow rests on too many fractures to be believable now. The question remains how to come to terms with "brutalism".

The West has far more sophisticated weaponry. It is however bound for now by its own ruling and stands clear of any form of direct intervention, which would need a NATO consensus by the way. Weapons delivery is important but unconvincing if war planes are not included. Visits by various EU representatives have a symbolic value but at the end of the day, they just come and go, returning President Zelensky to the devastation.

How long can this go on without major punishment? Nobody suggests attacking Russia. What is on the table is the reality of foreign troops invading an independent country, killing civilians, destroying anything that stands in the way and leaving landmines as a thank you note. The recourse to appropriate retaliation by one NATO member should be on the table.

Sartre wrote Les mains sales...recommended reading.


Monday, April 11, 2022


Le premier tour de l'élection a suivi un schéma attendu, le président sortant arrivant premier honorable, devant Marine Le Pen qui réalise un beau score. Le candidat de la gauche Jean-Luc Mélenchon crée la surprise avec 22% des voix. Les candidats des anciens partis traditionnels ou Vert disparaissent de la scène.

Il sera interessant de voir quel sera le comportement de la gauche, encouragée par Mélenchon a voter Macron au deuxième tour. Sans doute le Pen pourra-t-elle compter sur les voix de la droite Zemmour.

Il devient de plus en plus clair que le "mal américain" apparu avec Trump a gagné l'Europe (sans compter d'autres acteurs comme l'Inde ou Israel) . Plusieurs démocraties sont tentées par l'illusion de la presque équivalence des systèmes.  Ce type de comportement Pascalien permet à part egale l'indignation et la dérobade.

S'agissant d'individus, le témoin d'une malversation voudra intervenir pour mettre fin à une injustice flagrante. Aujourd'hui quand les états sont les auteurs du délit, l'on recule, esquive, mesure et observe. Le comportement timoré des années qui précédèrent la deuxieme guerre mondiale refait surface. Il faut avouer qu'il n'est  pas facile de considérer une action qui risquerait a coup sur d'embraser davantage une situation déjà critique. Peut-on dans ces conditions de choix existentiel ne rien faire et abandonner le terrain au mal ?

La diplomatie en général et la table blanche chère à Poutine n'ont pas bonne presse en ce moment. Pourtant il vaut mieux épuiser l'arsenal politique avant de recourir à l'arsenal militaire, option à haut risque et pas du tout improbable.

Aujourd'hui, tous les commentaires en vrac sont permis, mème les plus extravagants. Il faut pourtant prendre en considération des antécédents, des rancoeurs qui expliquent beacoup sans excuser quoi que ce soit.

En Europe il y a une victime. Il y a aussi un seul coupable. Dans ces conditions, le choix ne devrait pas faire de doute. Pourtant, les conséquences font peur.

On va à Kiev pour expier le péché, mais l'Ukraine a besoin d'une intervention plus créative  et concrète. Le président Zelensky ne s'y trompe pas. Rien ne se fera sans Poutine. Les racontars et scénarios sortis de quelque film genre Sergei Eisenstein sont parfaitement inutiles. Si solution il y a, elle obéira à des impératifs cartésiens. Il faut épuiser le possible avant d'affronter l'Apocalypse. L'Occident représente encore les lumières. Pierre le Grand l'a admis.

En bref Macron réélu est sans doute le mieux placé pour réengager la Fédération Russe . Il faut qu'un cessez le feu intervienne , que la barbarie cesse et que l'on permette enfin aux responsables de se parler, éloignés du bruit, si cher à ceux qui n'ont rien d'autre à apporter. Il faut protéger l'Ukraine de l'ultime affront, la vulgarité.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022


Globalization, yesterday's Grande Illusion, is a bygone. The lure of "soft power" feels like a fad that is losing its allure.

All the heirs of this past great design are running into problems. NATO is too shy, the EU is too full and the UN is becoming a show, too embarassing to endure. Everything is in reverse mode.

Russia, applauded by its flock of a few misrable minions, looks like Godzilla among the ruins and the death. It heralds an Eurasia, stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok, with not a hint of shame. Ukraine, where the Russians act like Neanderthals on steroids, is the perfect example of how the invaders become the undertakers.  In Putin's world there is no longer room for Anton Chekhov.

One is entitled to ask the question if the rule of law, reserved composure or obedience to commitment are still valid currecies in the Kremlin's eyes. On the other hand, are NATO's caution, the EU's "tolerance" (versus Hungary) or the UN's ineffectual parody still worth a penny? 

Sometimes the life of the patient requires transgression, risk. Today the West is blackmailed into doing little out of fear that a third rank, evil regime in Moscow might resort to the unthinkable. Meanwhile the march into Moldova, Georgia and the Baltics might as well be mapped out.

The support Ukraine is getting is "measured".  Can one afford other unplesant developments to play out in a similar vein? NATO "might" react indeed if one or more of the Baltic states were to be agressed, but one shouldn't bet on it.  The age of certainties is over.

Given what might probably happen in eastern Ukraine, active consideration should be given to what to do. Can democracies tolerate further how war criminals "steal the show"?  Sometimes hard decisions have to be considered, be it on the back of the letter of the rules.  After all there is an idea behind the letter. The rescue of the underlying spirit might indeed come at a price.

At the end of the day, Russia must suffer more than just the abstraction of sanctions. It should endure the pain it claims as its sole deliverer. NATO'S timid, preachery doesn't do. The time has come for Hineininterpretierung of rules of engagement, for the sake of their survival.

Moscow had better go for a cease-fire and talks now, since it is so fond of its grotesque immense white negociation hearse. There is no need for extending time, there is urgency for proecting lives. While Mr. Putin can play the game of darkness, President Zelensky might finally come into the light he deserves.

If this moment of reckoning doesn't work out, restraint no longer has moral standing. NATO would be foolish not to punish the perpetrator before Putin makes an other loathsome move. Europe's ambition must be saved from the Russian plague.

Tchaikovski would be thankful.  His letters still show, fortunately, that there is more to Russia than Russia today.

Sunday, April 3, 2022


The situation in Ukraine gets worse by the day. The indiscriminate slaughter by the Russians gets worse by the day.

The world looks in the other direction and the West further weighs sanctions, the pharmacist way, enough for simulacre and too little for intervening.

True, a NATO intervention might lead to catastrophic results. There are nevertheless alternatives that remain unchartered. The UN General Assembly played a major role in the Korean War. The Bosnian nightmare was largely the realm of Ambassador Holbrooke who was not afraid (if not discouraged) to follow unorthodox alternatives to stop the mayhem.

Putin is taking risks, both in overstretch and in allowing the international community to have a closer look at the bluff and the shaky, uneven state of affairs in the Russian nightmare. 

There is obviously a risk when qualitative superiority is confronted by quantitative brutality. The Russian soldiers inspire more compassion than fear. Their superiors own more to Attila than to Clausewitz. The West sits between pathological indecision and addiction to gas. It is scared to cut this last umbilical chord with Russia out of fear that the spoiled in its area will feel the consequences of a war in a country they hardly knew.

Before the fall of the Berlin Wall Eastern Europe was promised heaven on earth. Certain promises were kept, indeed. But talk to the forgotten ones in the Caucasus or Ukraine and the screen will turn black. Already the Baltic States feel and act uneasy. One of the paradoxes of contemporary European history is that the brave new continent that was promised failed the reality test on all sides. Only Chechnya paid its negative relevance with the rubble of its former illusions.

How many phone calls and meetings will be needed to stop the foreseeable endgame? In the short-term Putin wins because the poosible consequences of stopping him scare most to enter the game. Sooner rather than later one might have to reckon that doing too little was a less desirable tactic than risking more.

If Goya were in Ukraine today he would have his canvasses full.