Tuesday, October 25, 2022


Le Royaume Uni s'est enfin choisi un Premier Ministre hors normes. Rishi Sunak est jeune, formé chez Goldman Sachs, adepte des modèles financiers contemporains, riche, et d'origine indienne. La City pousse un soupir de soulagement. Le monde, et en premier lieu l'Europe respirent après des années de chaos et d'incompétence. Sans doute le Royaume Uni ne fait-il plus partie de l'Union Européenne mais Londres reste un pôle de référence irremplaçable.

Comme ses prédecesseurs il doit affronter des problèmes intérieurs sérieux et un agenda international particulièrement difficile. Il semble avoir le tempérament pour ménager ses interlocuteurs au sein de l'UE et dans le G 20. Il est trop tôt pour pavoiser mais on peut néanmoins prévoir que le discours à Westminster redevienne plus normal. Certes les Conservateurs ont un long chemin à parcourir pour se faire pardonner une déroute financière et un taux d'inflation qui rappellent les derniers jours de Weimar. Ils ont maintenant un leader qui sera sans doute à mème de calmer les marchés.

Il semble fait pour s'entendre avec le Président Macron avec lequel il partage une culture politico-économique. Il n'est pas évident que les Anciens se retrouveront sur sa longueur d'ondes. La gérontocratie a ses jalousies et ses susceptibilités, dont on aurait tort de sous-estimer l'endurance. Elle supportait le coté farcical de Boris Jonson ou la représentation déplorable de Liz Truss, mais elle prendra ombrage du brio du "nouveau".

Sunak doit agir vite à l'intérieur et prendre patience sur la scène internationale. Il est trop intelligent pour ne pas le comprendre et sans doute trop sophistiqué pour paraître arrogant et pour ne point attendre son heure. 

Thursday, October 20, 2022


Liz Truss was from the start a bad lead as P.M. She fell victim to all that can go wrong with a politician, first and foremost her style and temperament, unfit for such a responsibility. She dared to claim the mantle of Margaret Thatcher, in vain.

Her betrayal of her chosen Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng, coming after her U-turn over the budget, was shameless. The choice of Jeremy Hunt as successor did bring a short relief. Slick, smart Rishi Sunak, her unlucky rival, must have a good time enjoying his moment of Schadenfreude.

Even King Charles appeared to have a hard time believing that she was the anointed P.M. he might have to deal with for an unforeseeable time. 

The Macbeth's witches foresaw the unhappy end.

Before returning to Agatha Chrisite's And then there were none, one might even end up witnessing Boris Johnson's comeback. Desperate times make for desperate choices. Johnson has a return ticket handy, just in case.

Saturday, October 15, 2022


Before the 20th Party Congress in Beijing, the comments and expectations internationally are running amok.  Xi's leadership will be extended and the Great Hall of the People will show the same mass of mostly men (with black hair color if needed) applauding all there is under the Chinese sun.

Not surprisingly China continues to fascinate, deservingly so. History, culture, drama have almost no equal elsewhere. The rulers are no longer shy to reclaim the rules of Kangxi or Qianlong. The Forbidden City is no longer just a must for tourists, it is a complex which stands for a philosophical cypher.

Rulers now are as different from each other as the emperors before them. Mao, Deng Xiaoping, Xi are totally different personalities, except for their self-esteem. The apparatus is generally unappealing. Still, characters pop up at their own risk,  Bo Xilai, or by the force of their vision Hu Yaobang, Zhu Rongji, the 80's miracle prime minister. Tienanmen had its martyrs and scapegoat Zhao Ziyang, also former premier.

Historians of contemporary China can be divided into two schools.  Some were in awe in the Edgar Snow vein, some were highly critical (Simon Leys). Today's commentary is mostly cautious.

The safer route is the better choice. The Chinese excel in disorientation. They use a mix of history, pride, hurt and ambition to avoid scrutiny of vision and to conceal a closer look at intention. Chinese leaders are in realty as condescending as the Qing before them. They appear to operate in an algorithm of their own making. Contrary to the West, emotion is considered poor taste. Only in their numerous nationalistic  arsenal of frustrations do they show blatant brutality. Hence the Hong Kong syndrome,  the vicious lasting antipathy versus Japan, or the hardline policies in Tibet or Xinjang province.

A lot is being said regarding Taiwan. The Chinese consider it theirs only and they will not waver on their claim. It is clear that they prefer to strangle it rather than having to use force. They can wait but they cannot afford to lose face, given the history, and also the precedent for their un-hidden ambition regarding the South China Sea or the Sensaku reefs. The visit of Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taipei is the thing not to do if the Straits are to remain under some form of constraint.

China has major problems. So does the world. The difference being that the world has a kind of inductive therapy to deal with crisis (Covid is the perfect example). China freaks out. The cumulative effect of economic, structural, misguided policies make it harder for Beijing to project a benign-winner profile. Many prestige projects (infrastructure, support for African countries) backlash. 

Through Confucius Institutes the Chinese try to project a positive image but in comparison South Korea fares much better internationally than China.  Foreigners are attracted by learning or business, but not as much for relaxation and the usual Asian menu of fun under the sun.

While the United States is no longer the undisputed unipolar power, it remains the preferred partner. Ukraine proves again that the American might is unparalleled. The Chinese take notice. The Kissinger triangulation strategy is no longer but the Putin/Xi romance is one of mutual interest, with an uncertain life-span. The Chinese prefer any unappealing lover to the come-back of another Gorbachev. Many lies originate in bed, few last overnight.

Xi will remain Xi, be it more of the same. Beware of abundance and take note of the restraint.

Tuesday, October 11, 2022


Les 13 pays exportateurs de pétrole, membres de l'OPEP,  ont décidé une baisse de production de deux millions de barrils par jour en Novembre. Les prix du brut vont évidemment monter.

Ce geste 'éloquent' récompense l'Occident pour l'ensemble des gestes reçus dans le passé. Poutine appréciera. MBS tient sa revanche.  Le Venezuela, l'Iran et Co. rient sous le capot !

Celà prouve une nouvelle fois combien la timidité des Occidentaux est une délinquance structurelle. Prague en était la dernière démonstration.

La fédération russe attaque quasi impunément un pays indépendant, auquel l'Occident apporte un soutien au compte goûtes. Même les Etats-Unis y regardent de près. 

Pendant ce temps l'OPEP célèbre à Vienne sa bonne fortune. J'oubliais , les membres de l'UE et de l'OTAN se revoient à Bruxelles. Il reste peut être encore quelques yachts d'oligarques à confisquer ?

Thursday, October 6, 2022


44 European countries meet this October 6 in Prague about energy and Ukraine.  This 'European political community' is a French idea.  The UK, Turkey and the sparing Balkan countries among others are also attending.

President Macron has often excellent suggestions. This is not one of them. It can only lead to 'pique' in the EU and a plethora of verbal overdose. These most difficult times require concentration, focus and self-control. The upcoming winter will test endurance and will. Everything that might water-down the existing fragile consensus among few has to be avoided. If one wisely guards the doors of the EU and NATO, one should not let some other 'community' become a wild card. Initiatives like these only benefit 'real estate'.

This mad tea party will only placate the egos of the frustrated. Be sure that Putin has a cookie jar in reserve. Beware of Gallic gambles.

Saturday, October 1, 2022


Voltaire famously said that the Holy Roman Empire was neither holy, Roman, nor an empire. The same can be said about Russia. It has always been an aberration, better at bulk than at sophisticated packaging. Nevertheless many have underestimated the weight of the sheer size of the place which escapes rational imagination. Napoleon and Hitler misjudged what they were getting in for. Besides, the isolationism which prevails in large parts of the country makes it immune to trends and accepted rules that prevail elsewhere. 

It is said that at Yalta when President Roosevelt proposed a toast to peace, Churchill whispered to an aide 'a piece of Czechoslovakia, a piece of Poland, a piece of Romania...' Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

Lots of Western and other leaders have tried to come to terms with Moscow. Dr. Kissinger and President Nixon succeeded to a point, insofar as they never made an attempt to normalize the Soviet Union. They suggested an acceptable modus vivendi. As soon as President Gorbachev tried to normalize things from the inside, undermining the corrupt elites, he paid the price.  After the Yeltsin/Falstaff intermezzo, Putin stepped in.

He lifted the standard of living and modernized the look of things, without fundamentally changing the power structure, indeed enlarging it. The new Russian elites have shown that they were able to absorb foreign influence for themselves, while others remained largely shielded from liberal ideas. Probably this is the reason for an overriding sense of melancholic alienation which pervades in Russian literature.

Putin's Ukranian adventure is risky. Ignorance is bliss as long as the bluff holds. When it will be impossible to hide any longer the bad news out of Lyman or the body bags, the entourage around Putin will get the jitters. Hooked to Western luxury goods which are hard to get now, they do not want to further jeopardize their pathetic decorum and faux glitter. The clowns in eastern Ukraine who were paraded in the Kremlin circus have the popularity of former Nazi Gauleiters in  territories under occupation. Obviously there are many Russophiles there with little legitimacy, but there are many others.

The Ukranians and the West are facing a major quandary. If the Eastern annexed territories are Russian (in Moscow's view), will any military retaliation there by Ukraine be considered by Moscow as an act of war, with all the consequences thereof ? Does NATO have to freeze any request for memberhip from Kiev? Should long-range strategic weaponry, which could reach Luhansk & Co., be delivered to the Ukranians, or not?

This hybrid war will only aggravate the many problems that confront the West and the EU in particular. Europe sold its soul to Russian energy. History will judge if Chancellor Angela Merkel erred or not. Anyhow, she found enough willing partners in the EU to steer her policies forward. 

Pain is still a safer outcome than war. One should not give the Russian voyeur the pleasure of observing an EU in disarray. London suffered during the Blitz and by doing so England drove Hitler mad. There is a lesson to be learned there. Ukraine should receive all the sophisticated weaponry it requires. The West cannot partake in a Russian charade. If it cannot take a cue from the known Potemkin representation, it should return to the history books.

Yesterday was a bad day for Europe. One should not make it worse by not responding to a nefarious imposition or by being oblivious to the many Russians who let their views known by leaving the madhouse.