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Biden & Putin will continue Ukraine talks; Germany’s new chancellor

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Europe:

What came out of the video conference between Presidents Biden and Putin?

Well, that's a very good question. We don't know, but they agreed to continue talking about the issues that Mr. Putin backed up by the threat of an invasion of Ukraine has put on the table. There is somewhat of a disquiet in Europe over that, but Biden has said that there's not going to be any talks about Ukraine without Ukraine at the table. This is a story that will continue for quite some time.

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The Graphic Truth: French presidential frontrunners

France's presidential election is only three months away, and it’ll be no snoozer. Although barely one-quarter of French voters back current president Emmanuel Macron, he’s heavily favored to win re-election because he’d almost certainly beat far-right hopefuls Marine Le Pen or Éric Zemmour in a runoff. But the center-right French president now faces an unexpected challenge from the old establishment right: Valerie Pécresse, the nominee of the Les Republicains party, could give Macron a run for his money if she makes it to the second round. We take a look at how the top four French presidential candidates have polled over the past six months.

The French election is getting hot

Germany has been the European center of political attention in recent months, as punk-rock god Angela Merkel exits the stage after almost two decades at the helm. But there’s another big election heating up in Europe. The French will head to the polls in just twelve weeks, and the race has started to get very interesting.

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What We’re Watching: Biden and Putin chat, Scholz takes the reins in Germany, Remain in Mexico returns, Pécresse enters the French fray, Suu Kyi learns her fate

World War III or nah? US President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin are set to speak by phone on Tuesday, as the crisis surrounding Ukraine gets dicier by the day. Russia has massed more than 100,000 troops along its border with the country, and the US is warning that Putin is gearing up to invade soon, though the underlying intel isn’t public. No one is quite sure what Putin’s up to with this stunt. Is he trying to pressure Kyiv into moving ahead with the lopsided (but probably best possible) Minsk peace accords of 2015? Or is the Kremlin seeking a broader NATO commitment not to expand further? Or does Putin actually want to invade Ukraine? Either way, Biden has his work cut out for him. Putin is clearly more comfortable risking lives and money to preserve a sphere of influence in Ukraine than the West is, so the US president has to be careful: don’t set out any red lines that NATO isn’t willing to back, but also don’t push the situation into a broader war that no one (ideally) wants.

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What We're Watching: Who's running for president in France?

France’s right-leaning election. Valérie Pécresse, a minister in former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s government, won a primary on Saturday to lead France’s conservative Les Republicains party in next year’s presidential election. Pécresse is the first woman to head the party of Charles de Gaulle and Jacques Chirac, and is hoping to reinvigorate a party that’s become mostly irrelevant in French politics as anti-establishment sentiment grips the electorate. But Pécresse – a mainstream conservative – has her work cut out for her in an election where far right firebrands Marine Le Pen and Éric Zemmour are holding their own in the polls. President Emmanuel Macron is still five points ahead of Le Pen, who is currently in second place, and would reap about a quarter of the vote if the April elections were held today. But Pécresse’s entry into the race could cause some trouble for Macron. He has tried to paint himself both as a political outsider and as a middle-of-the-road liberal but he is broadly seen as a wishy-washy ideological chameleon. Macron could now be forced to veer further to the right to attract voters who might resonate with Pécresse’s tough-on-immigration and pro-business agenda, particularly amid fears that the omicron variant could force Macron to re-impose unpopular lockdowns.

What We’re Watching: Zemmour jumps in, Bong bows out, Turks get mad

Zemmour for president. After months of rising in opinion polls, far-right French polemicist Erich Zemmour has made it official: he’s running in next year’s French presidential election. Zemmour, who blames Muslims, liberals, elites, and the EU for what he sees as the decline and emasculation of France, says he is running in order to “prevent our children and our grandchildren from experiencing barbarity.” Could he win? Never say jamais these days, particularly as Zemmour has something of Donald Trump’s provocative star power and media savvy. Still, most polls show that while he could reach a second-round runoff against current President Emmanuel Macron, he would then lose decisively as moderates from across the political spectrum unite behind the incumbent. The more immediate political problem is for far-right stalwart Marine Le Pen who, in trying to broaden her appeal beyond the far right, now finds herself outflanked by the more unapologetically extreme Zemmour.

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The great roe row: UK and France fight over fish... and other stuff

Fish are divisive. Their various odors are distinctive, and though some people enjoy them, others find their slimy exteriors off-putting.

They also can drive a wedge between longtime "friends" like France and the UK. In recent weeks, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and President Emmanuel Macron have been at loggerheads over questions of fishing access in the English Channel. But is this latest row really about roe?

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The provocateur who is scrambling France’s election

He has been convicted of inciting racial hatred. He wants to stop immigration and force Muslims to take Christian names. He thinks women wish to be dominated by men. He says France's wartime Nazi collaborators were actually good for the Jews. His name is Éric Zemmour and he is, at the moment, the biggest sensation in French politics.

Over the past several months Zemmour, an outspoken far-right TV personality, has surged in the polls ahead of next April's presidential election. Although Zemmour hasn't formally entered the race, one recent survey placed him second only to beleaguered President Emmanuel Macron, surpassing even Marine Le Pen, stalwart of the French hard right.

So, who is this guy?

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