Will the far-right candidate win in France?
Long live difference ! In the second and final round of France’s presidential election on Sunday, incumbent President Emmanuel Macron and National Rally leader Marine Le Pen present very different visions for France’s future. Will France choose Macron’s promise of an open France, a strong EU and continued rationalization of state spending? Or will he bow to Le Pen’s idea of tighter immigration controls, a weaker EU and more protectionism? The polls indicate that it is Macron’s race to lose (he is 10 percentage points ahead after Thursday’s televised debate), and Eurasia Group Europe analyst Mujtaba Rahman thinks Macron will win. “It is always dangerous to call an election three days before,” he said. tweeted“but this one looks like it’s over except for the vote.”
Putin scores on the scoreboard
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine did not go as planned. Early attempts to seize Ukraine’s capital Kyiv failed, making Russia’s “phase two” – the struggle for Donbass – look like a “plan B”. The sinking of the Russian Black Sea flagship was a disaster for Kremlin messages and the morale of the Russian military. In response, Putin badly needs points on the scoreboard. Earlier this week, Russia tested a nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile, which a senior Russian official called a “gift to NATO”. The Pentagon was not impressed. Faced with possible heavy casualties if Russian forces stormed a steel mill in Mariupol to overthrow the Ukrainian fighters crouching there, Putin ordered his army to simply lock the Ukrainians inside and declare victory. Russia will probably trumpet the capture of Donbass cities in the coming days. The big question remains: what can Putin call “victory” without starting an open war with NATO?
Boris Johnson seeks to change the subject, again
When the going gets tough, a tough British Prime Minister heads to . . . India? Thursday, as the House of Commons voted to investigate whether Johnson presented himself in a false light to an investigation into his COVID lockdown violations, Johnson arrived to a warm welcome of billboards and waving flags in Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat. Will Johnson’s foreign policy moves divert attention from his domestic issues? He certainly hopes so. His surprise trip to kyiv earlier this month went well for the post-Brexit ‘Global Britain’ leader. While in India, he is looking to secure a big free trade deal between the UK and India which double trade between countries by 2030, boosting exports especially for the UK automotive and whiskey industries. And a new fight with Brussels over Brexit could also arise: its government is preparing a bill that would tear up the delicate post-Brexit arrangements that govern the Irish border, the FinancialTimes reported late Thursday. What were lockdown breaches again? That’s the idea.