🌍👀 Global Eyes, Europe Edition

Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay


Czar wars, fuel feuds, arms sales, and more.

🇺🇦 Ukraine

Russia’s grinding march:

The momentum Ukraine generated after pushing Russian forces back from Kyiv, the capital, and Kharkiv, the second-largest city, has given way in the east to weeks of give-and-take over villages, heavy shelling—and a stream of Ukrainian dead and wounded from the battlefields. Ukraine’s troops now face a Russian force that has shifted strategy from the hasty, reckless advances of the early weeks of the war to a creeping, grinding march enabled by massive artillery bombardments.

The Russians mix artillery barrages with probing maneuvers by infantry or armored vehicles, identifying new targets by approaching Ukrainian lines and drawing fire. The maneuver is called “reconnaissance until contact.” Ukrainians open fire on the probing Russians, causing casualties. “We collect their dead.”

Zelensky says Russia has thrown all its combat-ready military formations into the war:

“Fighting continues on the huge territory from the city of Kharkiv in the east of our country to the city of Mykolaiv in the south. A straight line between them is 454 kilometers long. But if you look at the entire frontline, and it is, of course, not straight, this line is more than a thousand kilometers. Just imagine! Constant fighting, which stretched along the frontline for more than a thousand kilometers.”

UK Ministry of Defense assessment:

  • Russia has taken control of most of Severodonetsk. The main road into the Severodonetsk pocket likely remains under Ukrainian control but Russia continues to make steady local gains, enabled by a heavy concentration of artillery. This has not been without cost, and Russian forces have sustained losses in the process.
  • Crossing the Siversky Donets River—which is a natural barrier to its axes of advance—is vital for Russian forces as they secure Luhansk Oblast and prepare to switch focus to Donetsk Oblast.
  • Potential crossing sites include between Severodonetsk and the neighboring town of Lysychansk; and near recently captured Lyman. In both locations, the river line likely still remains controlled by Ukrainian forces, who have destroyed existing bridges.
  • It is likely Russia will need at least a short tactical pause to re-set for opposed river crossings and subsequent attacks further into Donetsk Oblast, where Ukrainian armed forces have prepared defensive positions. To do so risks losing some of the momentum they have built over the last week.

Why Severodonetsk matters: It’s a significant industrial center in eastern Ukraine. It’s also where pro-Russian separatism originated in the Donbas almost twenty years ago.

Civilians in Severodonetsk are sheltering from Russian shelling under a chemical plant, which authorities fear may still have stocks of dangerous materials.

Russian forces struck a tank containing nitric acid at a chemical plant in Severodonetsk. In other words: They launched a chemical weapons attack that doesn’t invite the opprobrium that would usually follow the use of chemical weapons.

Russia looted Melitopol’s museum of Scythian art:

“The orcs have taken hold of our Scythian gold. This is one of the largest and most expensive collections in Ukraine, and today we don’t know where they took it, whether it was hidden or stolen. We don’t know about its fate, but of course this gold has been stolen from our community, and I hope that we will be able to get it back.”

From the Institute for the Study of War:

  • The Ukrainian counteroffensive in Kherson Oblast has got the attention of Russian forces in the area. The Russians are scrambling to secure the vital ground line of communication the Ukrainians have threatened.
  • Russian military bloggers are growingly alarm about the threat of Ukrainian counteroffensives in the areas Russian forces have deprioritized while concentrating on Severodonetsk.
  • Russian authorities are probably anticipating Ukrainian partisan pressure in Luhansk Oblast. A Russian Telegram channel reported that the Russian Internal Ministry is sending a special detachment of its employees on “leave” to the Luhansk People’s Republic, which is probably an attempt to reinforce Russian administrative presence in the LNR in the face of growing internal and partisan discontent.
  • Russian forces continue to undermine the economic viability of areas they are attempting to capture.
  • Russian forces reportedly made incremental advances north of Slovyansk but likely have not yet been able to take control of the road into Slovyansk.
  • Russian forces are attempting to advance towards Lysychansk from the south and west in order to avoid having to fight across the Siverskyi Donets River from Severodonetsk but are having limited successes so far.
  • Russian troops made incremental gains north of Avdiivka.
  • Russian troops reportedly destroyed Ukrainian-built bridges over the Inhulets River near Davydiv Brid in response to Ukrainian counteroffensive pressure.

Fighters from Azovstal steel plant could be a bargaining chip—or face execution.

Their relatives have formed an advocacy group to urge the Ukrainian and Russian authorities to exchange prisoners of war, while the Russian authorities suggest that some of the fighters, members of the Azov regiment, will have to be tried for “war crimes.”

🧌👶⛓ Zelensky says Moscow has taken 200,000 children to Russia:

Russia is also pursuing a consistent criminal policy of deporting our people. Forcibly deports both adults and children. This is one of Russia’s most heinous war crimes. In total, more than 200,000 Ukrainian children have been deported so far. These are orphans from orphanages. Children with parents. Children separated from their families.

The Russian state disperses these people on its territory, settles our citizens, in particular, in remote regions. The purpose of this criminal policy is not just to steal people, but to make deportees forget about Ukraine and not be able to return. But we must find a solution to this challenge as well. And ensure that all those who killed, tortured or deported Ukrainians are held accountable.

Ukrainians discovered another filtration prison near Mariupol.

👨🏼‍💻💻 US military hackers have conducted “offensive operations” in support of Ukraine, says the head of US Cyber Command.

🇺🇸🦅 Joe Biden wrote an essay for The New York Times delineating US war aims:

America’s goal is straightforward: We want to see a democratic, independent, sovereign and prosperous Ukraine with the means to deter and defend itself against further aggression. …

We do not seek a war between NATO and Russia. As much as I disagree with Mr. Putin, and find his actions an outrage, the United States will not try to bring about his ouster in Moscow. …

I will not pressure the Ukrainian government — in private or public — to make any territorial concessions. It would be wrong and contrary to well-settled principles to do so.

🇷🇺 Russia

🩻 More Putin cancer rumors

Vladimir Putin’s health is a subject of intense conversation inside the Biden administration after the intelligence community produced its fourth comprehensive assessment at the end of May. The classified US report says Putin seems to have re-emerged after undergoing treatment in April for advanced cancer. … The assessments also confirm that there was an assassination attempt on Putin’s life in March.

The DIA leader argues that in some ways, “Putin being sick or dying is good for the world, not just because of the future of Russia or ending the Ukraine war, but in diminishing the mad man threat of nuclear war. A weakened Putin—an obviously declining leader, not one at the top of his game—has less influence over his advisors and subordinates, say, if he orders the use of nukes.” As the official explains it, a strong Putin could bully his way through, overcoming objections from ministers and commanders. But a damaged Putin (and here the official mentions Donald Trump as a similar example), “one who might not be in control of all of his faculties, just doesn’t have that kind of sway.”

💥 Russia conducted a strategic nuclear exercise in Ivanovo oblast.

⚓️🏴‍☠️ “They keep lying to us.” Parents of Moskva cruiser conscripts still in the dark about their children:

More than six weeks have elapsed since Russia’s flagship, the Moskva cruiser, sank in the Black Sea. The desperate parents of the conscripts who are considered missing in action are demanding answers but are getting nothing but promises of medals and rewards.

🏭 Ukraine’s deputy defense minister says Russia is boosting its arms production:

Russia isn’t ready to abandon any of its goals and is preparing for a protracted war … We see that they are moving to intensified production of firearms and missiles. In recent weeks, we have seen a greater concentration of missile strikes in eastern and southern Ukraine, but at the same time Russian missiles are reaching all corners of our country,” said [Hanna] Maliar.

🕺🏻 An open letter from Mikhail Baryshnikov to Vladimir Putin:

In my childhood, the role of an occupant was imposed upon me, the son of a Russian officer in Latvia, yet it didn’t stick. I learned the Latvian language, and then, at the age of 26, rejected all of the roles that your thin-necked precursors tried to impose upon me. I rejected them forever. I have lived a free man of the free world for almost 50 years now—with no roles forced onto me by others, and with no fear. And people still consider me Russian, as they consider my friend Boris Akinun a Russian writer and Sergei Guriev a Russian economist.

People like us brought more honor to the Russian world than all your not-very-precise precision-guided munition. Your Russian world, the world of fear, the world in which they burn Ukrainian textbooks, will not live on as long as there are people like us—True Russians immunized from the disease of fear in our childhoods. And our world will live on despite all your bans.

We know how to keep the values of a true Russian world. And yours will die from its own horror unless it wakes up.

You know what you fear. You know whose munition is precise.

A famous Soviet song about WWII—The Sacred War:

“I was denounced by my own father.” Stalinist snitch culture returns to Russia:

In Penza, schoolchildren denounced a teacher who spoke out against the war, while Sasha Skochilenko, a St. Petersburg artist who replaced price tags at a Perekrestok supermarket with anti-war propaganda, faces up to ten years in prison after a denunciation by a pensioner.

⛽️ Fuel feuds

🛢 Why the Druzhba pipeline was spared:

Druzhba pumps between 750,000 to 800,000 barrels of crude on a daily basis and has a capacity of up to 1.4 million daily barrels. The fuel is then refined by EU companies into diesel, naphtha, gasoline, lubricants and other commodities that are sold in and outside the bloc. These enormous and consistent volumes have turnee pipeline into a centerpiece of Central Europe’s energy sector, building an entire ecosystem that sustains thousands of direct and indirect jobs …

The pipeline carve-out has already raised the specter of unfair competition: in practice, a small group of states will be able to receive reliable oil supplies while the majority struggle to get hold of barrels from other providers. … “It is not yet clear to what extent Hungary and others will be able to refine Russian crude oil and sell it into secondary markets—but this must be limited and closely monitored.”

⛔️ Gazprom cut off Shell’s natural gas supply to Germany after Shell refused to pay in rubles. Gazprom supplies up to 1.2 billion cubic meters of natural gas a year to Shell—1.3 percent of the 95 billion cubic meters of natural gas Germany consumes every year.

🇭🇺🇭🇷 Hungary and Croatia will expand energy cooperation, pipeline capacity:

The Croatian government is ready to expand the capacity of the Adria pipeline to ensure that energy resources reach Hungary in emergency situations. … Oil for the most part is delivered to Hungary via the Friendship (Druzhba) pipeline which passes through Ukraine. [Foreign Minister Péter] Szijjártó said Hungary must prepare for the “impossibility” of these deliveries, noting that “we have heard that the Ukrainians are threatening to stop transits.” Expanding the capacity of the Adria pipeline would guarantee Hungary and Slovakia secure supplies, he said.

🇩🇪🇷🇺 “We were all wrong.” How Germany got hooked on Russian energy:

What is extraordinary, retracing the history through memoirs and contemporary records, is how frequently and determinedly Germany was warned, by everyone from Henry Kissinger onward, that it was making a pact it might live to regret. Kissinger wrote to Richard Nixon on April 9, 1970: “Few people, either inside Germany or abroad, see Brandt as selling out to the East; what worries people is whether he can control what he has started.” Over fifty years, Germany fought numerous battles with a series of US presidents over its growing dependence on Russian energy. In the process, Germany’s foreign office developed a view of American anti-communism as naive, and a belief that only Germany truly understood the Soviet Union.

🇩🇪🇳🇱 Germany and The Netherlands will jointly drill for a new gas field in the North Sea:

Although the German state of Lower Saxony had opted not to issue permits because of ecological concerns near the islands of Schiermonnikoog and Borkum, officials there are “now making a different decision because of the war in Ukraine,” the Dutch ministry said. The first gas from the platform is expected to be extracted by 2024, it added.

🏹 Weapons

🥊🇸🇰 Slovakia will supply Ukraine with eight Zuzana 2 self-propelled howitzers. (In Ukrainian.)

🚀🇬🇧 The UK will give Ukraine M270 multiple-launch rocket systems, which have an 80 kilometers range.

🛰🇺🇸 The Biden administration plans to sell Ukraine four MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones that can be armed with Hellfire missiles, putting an advanced reusable US system that can launch multiple deep strikes on the battlefield.

🇺🇸🚀🎯 The US will also send four M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems— HIMARS—so that Ukrainian forces can launch multiple rockets at Russian artillery and forces rapidly and precisely—on the condition Ukraine resist firing into Russian territory, no matter how great the provocation:

The satellite-guided weapons, launched from the back of a truck, will be the most advanced arms provided to Ukraine by the Biden administration since Russia’s February 24 invasion. Ukrainian officials had been requesting them for about two months without approval, prompting frustration in both Kyiv and Washington.

The rocket systems transfer was approved after Ukraine assured the Biden administration that it will not use them to launch cross-border attacks on Russia … The administration also decided to send munitions the HIMARS can launch that have a range of about 45 miles, rather than the long-range Advanced Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) that can reach up to 186 miles, limiting how Ukraine can use the weapons.

👊🇵🇱 Poland is sending another three squadrons of KRAB self-propelled howitzers. (In Polish.)

🇩🇪✈︎✈︎✋ Germany promised to send an IRIS-T air-defense system and a tracking radar to help the Ukrainian army locate sources of Russian heavy artillery:

German weapons donations to Ukraine have been a source of criticism for Scholz, both abroad and within Germany. Many criticize him for not doing enough. … Friedrich Merz, the head of the conservative opposition, criticized Scholz for failing to deliver heavy weapons a month after lawmakers had voted in favor of such deliveries. “You talk a bit more than usual, but the fact that you are not saying anything remains unchanged.”

🇩🇪🇬🇷🚛 Germany will deliver infantry fighting vehicles to Greece so that Greece can pass on its Soviet weapons to Ukraine.

🇫🇷 France is running out of arms:

During its hearing, the [General Delegate for Armaments] did not make a direct link between the limited quantity of French arms deliveries to Ukraine and this stock problem. But, as a number of interlocutors from defense circles have explained for several months, in covert words, the return of the war in Europe has, de facto, put this taboo subject back on top of the pile within the armies. Subject to which a parliamentary report had already drawn attention in February, detailing how France would not have the means to hold a high-intensity conflict alone beyond a few days.

☄️ What the new weapons may help Ukraine accomplish:

The new arms could help Ukraine set up and hold new lines of defense in the east by hitting back at Russian artillery pieces that have been battering towns and cities and by limiting Russian airstrikes, said retired French General Dominique Trinquand, a former head of France’s military mission at the United Nations.

“The NATO countries—the European nations and the Americans—have progressively escalated the means that they are putting at Ukraine’s disposal, and this escalation, in my opinion, has had the aim of testing Russian limits,” he said. “Each time, they measure the Russian reaction, and since there is no reaction, they keep supplying increasingly effective and sophisticated weaponry.”

🇩🇪 Germany

👇🏼 Germany loses EU sway as Eastern Europe turns away over Russia:

[A] series of recent developments has eroded Berlin’s authority and influence in Central and Eastern Europe and, crucially, among leaders around the European Council’s summit table. These include the retirement late last year of long-time Chancellor Angela Merkel, the formation of a more complex three-party governing coalition in Berlin, and especially a litany of policy missteps and inconsistent messaging related to Russia policy and the war in Ukraine.

The result has been a marked weakening of Berlin’s influence and a greater willingness by other countries to go their own way and, in some cases, openly challenge the Franco-German alliance that has long been at the center of EU power and decision-making, according to numerous EU officials and diplomats. … “Scholz is a real problem,” an EU diplomat said. “He’s just being the mercantile German instead of the compromise-maker that Merkel was. There is no one stepping in for Merkel.”

Olaf Scholz’s Kaiser complex leaves Ukraine in the lurch. The chancellor’s approach is not only damaging Ukraine, but undermining Berlin’s standing in NATO.

🇪🇺 Is Germany losing its EU leadership role?

… Criticism is also voiced in Poland and the Baltic states, where people are pointing the finger not only at Merkel but at an entire generation of German politicians and their “change through trade” policy towards Russia. The former German foreign minister and current president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, admitted to “misjudgments” that had cost Germany a lot of credibility. Most embarrassing, however, is the role played by fellow Social Democrat, Gerhard Schröder, a former chancellor who to this day refuses to distance himself from his personal friend, Vladimir Putin.

Olaf Scholz’s dithering is damaging Germany’s international image:

Mr. Scholz keeps being singled out for a lack of leadership and courage because he has two big problems, according to Wolfgang Ischinger, a former chairman of the Munich Security Conference. One is the poor communication. The other is that many members of Mr Scholz’s Social Democratic Party do not support the huge rearmament that is central to the new foreign and security policy he outlined in what has been dubbed his Zeitenwende (“historic turning point”) speech, made three days after Russia’s invasion began on February 24. As a result, his party is slowing down the implementation of the new policies. It is perhaps for fear of alienating its members even further that Mr Scholz has been so reluctant to say clearly that Germany is now supplying light and heavy weapons to Ukraine because it wants Ukraine to win the war.

🤒 Germany risks becoming the Sick Man of Europe:

After years of pushing exports to China and building up energy links to Russia, Europe’s largest economy faces a poisonous cocktail of risks. Its heavy reliance on manufacturing makes it more vulnerable than European peers to war-related disruptions in Russian energy supplies and bottlenecks in trade. The upshot is risk of contraction and even higher prices squeezing unsettled consumers.

“Germany is in a disastrous economic situation,” said Aline Schuiling, senior economist at ABN Amro. “Concerns about its outlook are well justified.”

📽 Fighting Kremlin propaganda in Germany. Russian speakers are easy marks.

€📈 German inflation hit an all-time high, adding urgency to the European Central Bank’s exit from crisis-era stimulus after numbers from Spain also topped economists’ estimates.


☦️ Hungary is again holding up the finalization of the EU sanctions package against Russia, insisting on removing Patriarch Kirill from the sanctions list:

Hungary crossed the line at the ambassadorial meeting and the climate was not good, [sources] say, commenting that “Hungary’s stance in the talks was scandalous,” to the point where the French EU Presidency stated at the meeting that the credibility of the ambassadors and the European Council was at stake.

☦️ Update: Kirill will be excluded from the latest package of EU sanctions against Russia. “With this unnecessary stunt, Hungary has lost the bit of goodwill that was left among its peers in Central and Eastern Europe,” another diplomat said. “The country has never before been so isolated.”

“The relationship between Hungary and the EU is thoroughly poisonous.

[Orbán]’s stance has caused all of Hungary’s former allies among the eastern states of the EU, including Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia, to break with Budapest. …

Recently, the head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, Oleksiy Danilov, accused [Orbán] of wanting to annex parts of western Ukraine, which is home to a Hungarian minority. Danilov said that this was why Hungary was cooperating with Putin, who had warned Orbán in advance about the attack on Ukraine.

An interesting Hungarian press review:

EU oil embargo compromise seen as a success for Orbán.

Pro-government as well as left-wing and liberal commentators agree that the sixth round of EU sanctions against Russia represents a victory for Prime Minister Orbán. They disagree, however, on whether the agreement serves Hungary’s long-term interests. Opposition-leaning weeklies accuse the government of conniving with Moscow, by rejecting the proposed ban on importing Russian crude oil without significant compensation from the European Union. Pro-government commentators, on the other hand, argue that Hungary’s position is dictated by common sense:

  • Magyar Nemzet’s Gergely Kiss sees the oil embargo deal as a victory for Hungary and Prime Minister Orbán. The pro-government pundit contends that by securing cheap oil, the government can continue to provide Hungarians with cheap energy at a sixty per cent lower price than the EU average.  By insisting that countries that buy Russian oil through the Druzhba pipeline should have the right to opt out, Viktor Orbán did a big favour to Germany, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic as well as Poland, who will also have access to Russian energy, Kiss claims. He goes on to suggest that Hungary would not have achieved all this had the opposition won the April election, and so the victory of the Left would already have tragic consequences. Kiss also believes that countries which do cut off Russian oil will pay a high economic price for their decision. He hopes that the EU will not try to cut off Russian gas too, as this would have even more dire consequences than the oil embargo. (In Hungarian.)
  • In Népszava, István Marnitz acknowledges that Prime Minister Orbán succeeded in defending the immediate economic interests of Hungary and those of its neighbors which depend on Russian oil. The left-wing commentator, however, thinks that a far better alternative to continuing to do business with the evil President Putin would have been to speed up investment in green energy sources, by which Hungary could also become independent of Russia. (In Hungarian.)
  • In Telex, Tamás R. Mészáros speculates that the Hungarian government wanted to secure access to cheap Russian oil in order to maintain the energy price cuts and to levy even more surplus tax on the MOL oil company’s “extra” profit. The liberal analyst also thinks that if the embargo slows down growth in Europe, Hungary’s economy will also suffer, despite the opt-out from the oil embargo. (In Hungarian.)

Another review:

  • In an unsigned editorial, Jelen describes the attitude of the Hungarian government as a gamble aimed at convincing the European Union to release funds currently held back by rule of law considerations.
  • In Élet és Irodalom, János Széky castigates the European Union for being inclined to pay at least a substantial part of the €550 million demanded by the Hungarian government to compensate the cost of replacing Russian crude oil. More efficient sanctions on Russia, he writes, apparently come at the price of keeping afloat what he calls a nondemocratic regime within the European Union.
  • In its editorial, 168 óra also excoriates the government side for what the left-wing weekly sees as its refusal to resolutely take Ukraine’s side in the conflict.
  • In Magyar Hang, Balázs Gulyás condemns the government for opposing sanctions on the Moscow patriarch. He dismisses the government’s argument that church leaders should not be targeted and describes Patriarch Kyrill as a former KGB officer who at present warmly supports the expansionist war on Ukraine.
  • In its regular Demokrata editorial, András Bencsik fulminates against the Western practice of extending sanctions to Russian culture. He expresses relief that Tchaikovsky’s music continues to be performed in Hungarian concert halls. Otherwise, he defends the government’s resistance to simply banning oil imports from Russia, since Hungary’s refineries are designed to process that particular mixture of crude. He condemns the leaders of the European Union who, as he sees it, don’t understand why Hungary insists on common sense or why Hungarians don’t want to be ‘doomed to ruin and poverty’.

A Fidesz lawmaker, Erik Banki, said Hungary’s left-wing, “as in the past, failed to support Hungarian interests, and their statements make plain they would have endorsed ‘the Brussels plan’ and gone along with the oil embargo, making ordinary Hungarian pay the price of the war as a result.” He accused the left-wing of giving priority to European interests as against Hungarian interests.

🇵🇱 Poland

🇪🇺 The European Commission approved Poland’s pandemic recovery fund, paving the way for the release of billions of euros in grants and loans. The decision had been delayed owing to concerns about Poland deteriorating rule of law: Brussels argued that the Polish judiciary had been fundamentally compromised its independence and impartiality. Poland will get the money when it rewrites its disciplinary regulations for judges.

Poland’s government is internally divided about meeting the Commission’s conditions:

For [Law and Justice, or PiS, one party in the coalition], it appears a necessary step to end the deadlock just over a year before the general election. The money is likely to be a boon for the government ahead of the general election due in the autumn of 2023 if it can overcome woes like inflation and the growing cost of living. United Poland’s chief Zbigniew Ziobro, who is the justice minister, said last week, however, that the deal was a mistake. “We are being subject to blackmail.” …

Some experts suggest that the deal to unlock the funds is just a fig leaf for the Commission to resolve the issue, which has become awkward in the context of Poland becoming the EU’s key member state in the context of the war in Ukraine. Poland has taken in by far the most war refugees from Ukraine and is the hub of military and humanitarian help for the war-torn eastern country.

The judicial issues at stake:

When the governing Law and Justice party first held power, from 2005 to 2007, it saw its ambitions for a conservative remake of Poland derailed by the courts. After the party returned to power in 2015, leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski set about ensuring it had more compliant courts before pushing through other changes.Once the party gained near-total control over the Constitutional Tribunal, it harnessed it to help enshrine conservative values in the law.

The ruling party changed the rules governing the body which appoints judges to courts, the National Council of the Judiciary. It was established to ensure judges’ independence, but since 2018 it has come under the political control of the ruling party. Some of the judges the council has appointed sit on the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court. The EU court ruled last year the Disciplinary Chamber to be illegal and ordered Poland to pay a fine of 1 million euros per day fine as long as it operates.

The EU’s pandemic recovery fund wasn’t meant to be a tool to enforce the EU’s legal norms:

But it became just that over the last year as Brussels refused to okay Warsaw’s plan to spend roughly 36 billion euros in grants and loans—part of the bloc’s 800 billion euro recovery fund—due to concerns over judicial independence and the country’s failure to implement rulings from the EU’s top court.

The war in Ukraine has changed things, however, temporarily transforming Warsaw’s image in Brussels from rule-of-law troublemaker to constructive partner.

A measure of the awkwardness: Von der Leyen wouldn’t explain her Poland policy to the European Parliament in person. She sent two of her Commissioners instead.

🇫🇷 France

France is desperate for a king. Macron is as much a monarch as Louis XIV:

The Sun King dazzled his peers, and has dazzled France ever since. Only whisper it on arriving at Calais, but contemporary France, despite its claim to being a modern republic, is more accurately a Louisian monarchy, without the blood monarch. As Emmanuel Macron once sagely observed, France suffers a political lacuna: “the presence of a King, a King whom, fundamentally, I don’t think the French people wanted dead.” Having disposed of the royal family in the Revolution of 1789, the French immediately regretted it, and sought to heal the psychological wound by elevating Napoleon into an Emperor, a perfectly satisfactory state of affairs inside the hexagon, and only undone by le petit corporal’s megalomaniac efforts to extend France at the end of a musket.

The French legislative elections and NUPES:

Fifteen ministers are in the running for the legislative elections of June 12 and 19, more than half of the government. For a large part, victory seems likely but cannot be taken for granted. But what about the others? In this campaign, which is struggling to excite the masses, constituencies considered safe just days ago now look difficult. The attack led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon at the head of left-wing coalition NUPES, which he says is supposed to “elect [him] prime minister,” has re-energized part of the left-wing electorate. To the point of making this new alliance the main opponent of the Macronist candidates, ahead of the far right embodied in the presidential election by Marine Le Pen, who has been keeping a very low profile. “The most difficult battles will be with NUPES,” said Frederic Dabi, the director of the IFOP polling institute.

France, disgusted by the English language, bans the word ‘e-sports.’ The Académie Française is the primary French council tasked with preserving the country’s language from the “deadly snobbery of Anglo-American.”

I hereby rise to the defense of the Académie française. I wrote this a while ago, but it’s evergreen—Claire.

Nothing promotes mirth at the expense of the French so much as the Académie française, with its incessant rearguard action to protect the French language against invasive weeds like “happy hour,” “brunch,” and “hashtag.” When the Immortals of the Academy convene to issue an edict—wearing solemn black uniforms embroidered with green and gold olive branches, a feathered bicorn, carrying swords—it’s reliably good for a snigger in the Anglophone press. …

I hereby rise to the defense of the Académie française.

Its edicts are mere recommendations. They are not backed by the force of law.

But they should be, and any Frenchman who says “le software” when he means “le logiciel” should be hung by the neck until dead. It would take no more than a handful of public executions pour encourager les autres.

🇹🇷 Turkey

🇸🇪🇫🇮 NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg convened a meeting of senior officials from Finland, Sweden and Turkey to address Ankara’s objections. “My intention is to have this in place before the NATO summit” in Madrid starting on June 28, Stoltenberg said.

Turkey’s NATO problems:

Undoubtedly, Turkey fears that the inclusion of Sweden and Finland in NATO will affect its own expansionist calculations, not least in the Caucasus and Eastern Europe. While technically neutral up to now, Stockholm and Helsinki have been frequent critics of Turkish policy. …

Turkish thinking must be that if Stockholm and Helsinki had been so outspoken before they joined NATO, imagine how antagonistic they would be once they are inside the alliance. Ankara will recall the Greek precedent in this context and the price it had to pay for its “mistake” in approving Greece’s readmission, the most recent example of which, to Ankara’s mind, has been Athens’ campaign to mobilize the NATO nations against Turkish energy exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean.

🇩🇪🇬🇷🙏🏼 Germany asked Turkey to refrain from provoking Greece:

“The chancellor is of the opinion that, given the current situation, it is necessary for all NATO allies to stand together and refrain from provocations among themselves. Invading Greek airspace and flying over Greek islands is not okay, it seems counterproductive and against the spirit of the alliance,” the spokesman added. “We cannot accept the questioning of the sovereignty of member states of the European Union.”

🇩🇪🇬🇷🖕🏼Turkey promptly wigged out:

The Turkish foreign ministry “strongly condemned and rejected the unfounded” statements made by the German Chancellery against Turkey. “Instead of making biased statements that do not comply with the spirit of the Alliance, we expect Germany to invite Greece to act in accordance with international treaties,” Foreign Minister Spokesperson Tanju Bilgiç said. Germany’s participation in the “smear campaign” against Turkey, falling into the “provocation trap” of Greece, is unacceptable.” …

If there is an actor that threatens the sovereignty of its neighbor and regional security and stability, it is Greece, and Athens Greece militarizes the islands in close proximity to Turkey, in breach of the 1923 Lausanne and 1947 Paris Peace Treaties, he said.

🦃 Turkey asks UN to change its name to Türkiye:

TRT World explained the decision in an article earlier this year, saying Googling “Turkey” brings up a “a muddled set of images, articles, and dictionary definitions that conflate the country with Meleagris—otherwise known as the turkey, a large bird native to North America—which is famous for being served on Christmas menus or Thanksgiving dinners.”

It will never work:

🗯 Erdoğan calls the Gezi Park protesters thugs and sluts:

“They are corrupt, they are sluts, they know nothing about a holy mosque,” he remarked. “We know who were behind the Gezi events where public buildings, police vehicles, ambulances, businesses, civilian cars, municipal buses, streets and parks were burned down.” After Erdoğan’s remarks, the word sürtük, “slut” in Turkish, became a trending topic on Twitter in Turkey.[1]For those who need a refresher, here are a few articles I wrote about the Gezi Park protesters at the time: Erdoğan Over the Edge. The Gezi Diaries. How Erdoğan turned a peaceful protest into a … Continue reading

Europe’s population is under increasing pressure as the war in Ukraine stokes energy and food price rises and inflation generally accelerates. A study by the insurance company Allianz Trade believes “the worst is to come” in terms of food prices, with an average increase of 243 euros (US$260) in an individual’s food budget per year in the European Union.

“The sanctions against Russia mostly weigh on the European Union, are beneficial to China and don’t cost the US anything,” said France’s former ambassador to Russia Jean de Gliniasty in the monthly French Journal of National Defense.

🇭🇷💶 The EU says Croatia may join the eurozone in 2023. The European Commission says it has met all the relevant conditions. The switch will come less than a decade after it joined the EU.

🇩🇰🇪🇺🗳 Denmark voted to join the EU’s common defense policy:

Denmark’s electoral authority reported that 66.9 percent voted in favor of ending Denmark’s opt-out from EU defense policy, with 33.1 percent against dropping the opt-out. “We have sent a clear signal to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin,” Social Democrat Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said. “With the decision we have made, we show that when Putin invades a free and independent country and threatens peace and stability, we will move closer together.”

🇮🇪💀 The Irish Senate passed a resolution recognizing the crimes of the Russian army in Ukraine as genocide.

🇸🇰 Slovakia makes slow progress in tackling corruption:

Since 2020 the Slovakian authorities have brought dozens of high-ranking officials to justice, including the former attorney general, and ex-chiefs of police and tax administration.

Slovakia struggled with corruption after the fall of communism in 1989 and its breakaway from Czechslovakia four years later. By 2018, it was ranked one of the most corrupt countries in the EU.  Andrej Kiska, the country’s president at the time, called Slovakia a “mafia state.”

🇷🇺 Putin’s propaganda permeates Italian media. Parliament’s security committee has opened a probe into pro-Putin disinformation being spread through news outlets:

Italy is often seen as a soft touch for Kremlin disinformation and a potential Trojan horse in Europe because of historic ties to Russia based on strong economic ties and the largest Communist party in the west. … After coming to power Putin built a warm relationship with Berlusconi, based on shared economic interests. Over the past decade, and even after the annexation of Crimea, Putin has engaged with the rise in populist and anti-establishment parties—and especially the far-right League party—who saw him as a fellow adversary of the EU and global western elites.

🇬🇷🇬🇧🏺 Should the Elgin marbles be returned to Greece?

The trustees of the British Museum are not at this stage on board with the idea at all, it should be said. They insist that “the fragmentariness is best appreciated, by having some of the sculptures in Athens, where they can be seen within the context of Athens and Greek culture and some of the sculptures in London, where they can be appreciated within the context of world history and culture.”

Western support for Ukraine has peaked:

We’ve likely reached the high-water mark of the grand alliance to defeat Russia in Ukraine. In the coming months, relations between the Ukrainian leadership and its external supporters will grow strained, and the culprit will be economic pain exacerbated by the war.

The EU needs to get a grip:

European unity is starting to show cracks. At the moment, it seems utterly unlikely that the member states might take aim at Russian gas supplies any time soon. Yet so much is at stake.

Europe must pull itself together. Otherwise, Russia will exploit our weakness and play the Europeans off against each other. … The fear is great that our societies will balk if prices continue to rise and inflation eats up our savings, if we experience firsthand what it means when war reigns in Europe. Politicians of all stripes are driven by this fear. They want to be re-elected. They have sworn to represent the interests of their country.

Zelensky: “These quarrels in Europe must end. These internal disputes only encourage Russia to put more and more pressure on Europe.”

🦇 What does Tsargrad have to say?

Tsargrad is much preoccupied with secret weapons ….

The food crisis caused by anti-Russian sanctions and the continuation of hostilities in Ukraine is so aggravated that even the United States thinks about easing restrictions against Russia. Washington’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said: America is ready to contribute to increasing the export of Russian grain to the world market. Such a toothless step of the States towards Moscow says only one thing: the West was really afraid of another inflation tsunami. Russia should make full use of this situation and sell grain to unfriendly countries only in exchange for lifting sanctions.
When experts predicted enormous problems for the international economy due to anti-Russian sanctions, many people chuckled in the Western press. The set of propaganda stamps was standard: “3 percent of world GDP,” “gas station country,” “dependence on Russia is exaggerated.” But now, after three and a half months, Euro-Atlanticists clearly do not laugh. The fighting in Ukraine and severe restrictions on our country have led to devastating economic consequences for the West itself. And it’s not just about energy.
The level of bottom dwelling and the cult of tolerance in the West again breaks all records: the American doll manufacturer Barbie introduced a new model created in the image of a top transgender model. Black (or black?) the prototype model of the doll actively participated in its development. All this bacchanalia is served with the sauce of loyalty to people with a problem of sexual identification. Tsargrad will tell you by what means the West is trying to disfigure the childhood of our children.
What progress has been made: Mattel, a toy production giant and owner of the rights to the famous Barbie doll, presented another model—a black model with a catch. The fact is that this is not quite an ordinary line of toys, because the prototype of the doll was the transgender model Laverne Cox. The actress of one of the popular Netflix series was once a man. After changing sex, she began to prove with foam at her mouth that transgender people allegedly suffer greatly from oppression. Becoming a Barbie doll, the hermaphrodite celebrates victory in his own way: young children, playing with such a doll, absorb information that changing sex is normal. …

By the Cosmopolitan Globalists

DAVID PATRIKARAKOS Odessa is at war with itself. People come here to have affairs, deal drugs and kill. (Our beloved Vladislav Davidzon plays a starring role in this charming article.)

… Vlad has come to get his father-in-law out of the country and to safety in Paris with him and his wWhy Russia fears the Azov battalionife. He is also—and he is adamant about this—here to get his tooth fixed, given how good and cheap Ukrainian dentistry is. It was damaged when someone punched him, he tells me. “Was that the guy in Kyiv?” I ask. “No, that was someone else,” he replies. He tells me that he has an NDA in place so cannot go into details. “And anyway,” he adds, “a gentleman does not discuss such matters.” …

Time passes. The shelling increases. On 23 April, a Russian shell destroys several houses near the city centre and kills a three-month-old baby. But the violence is only half the story. Two things spiral in war: death and rumour. As the weeks roll on and Ukraine pushes Russia back in all directions, fears morph from Russia taking the city to what else an enraged Putin might do in the face of increasing defeat. One afternoon, I have coffee with the Greek-Ukrainian journalist Kostas Onisenko who, much to my surprise, whips out a film camera. I ask if he’s a photography buff. “No, it’s just that maybe there’ll be a nuclear attack here and if so we’re all going to die. I use film because all digital cameras will be fucked but they can find this in the rubble.”

DAVID PATRIKARAKOS Why Russia fears the Azov battalion:

Today, the battalion is a mix of political affiliations and ethnicities. The Jewish philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy—one of the most public opponents of fascism and anti-Semitism in the world—recently spoke to several of its senior members. “There are so many different types of fighters,” he told me, “including Brits and Greeks and Jews and Georgians, and they are definitely not Nazis. This is just a slander.”

But it is a necessary one. Azov has proved to be Russia’s most formidable opponents. They held up the entire advance into south Ukraine. They came to embody everything Russia claimed it was fighting against. Now they are in its hands. How they are treated will provide a signpost to what comes next. If they appear at show trials—after obvious torture—then we will know that Putin is doubling down on his madness. If talks of a prisoner exchange materialie, it will signal that broader compromise is possible.

🎧 TOOMAS HENDRIK ILVES speaks about the war and the way forward.

ROBERT ZUBRIN: Fire US Security Advisor Jake Sullivan!

Sullivan’s policy is to turn Ukraine into Putin’s punching bag. Under such conditions, Ukraine could never thrive as a nation. This alone would achieve Putin’s primary goal, which is to prevent a successful Ukraine from serving as an example that might incite Russians to overthrow his tyranny and join the West.

Furthermore, any outcome ranging from such a crippled to a fully conquered Ukraine would leave the West with a choice to either accept matters and drop the sanctions or maintain a perpetual state of siege against Russia. If they chose acceptance, then Russia would dominate Europe. If they chose siege, then China would come to dominate all of Eurasia, because a Russia under siege by the West would become totally dependent on China, and China is not a charity operation.

So either way, Ukrainian defeat means disaster for the West. Yet Ukrainian defeat is Sullivan’s policy.

Animal of the day: this cat

Claire Berlinski is the editor of the Cosmopolitan Globalist.


1 For those who need a refresher, here are a few articles I wrote about the Gezi Park protesters at the time: Erdoğan Over the Edge. The Gezi Diaries. How Erdoğan turned a peaceful protest into a violent nightmare. Shortly after this—with Erdoğan furious at me for writing about this—I left Turkey.

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