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What We're Watching: France's decision, Putin's scoreboard, Johnson on tour

France's decision, Putin's scoreboard, Johnson on tour

French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen


Will the far-right candidate win in France?

Vive la différence! In Sunday’s second and final round of the French presidential election, incumbent Emmanuel Macron and National Rally Party leader Marine Le Pen present very different visions of France’s future. Will France choose Macron’s promise of an open France, a strong EU, and continued streamlining of state spending? Or will it bend toward Le Pen’s idea of tighter immigration controls, a weaker EU, and more protectionism? Polls indicate that this is Macron’s race to lose (he’s 10 percentage points ahead following Wednesday's televised debate), and Eurasia Group Europe analyst Mujtaba Rahman believes Macron will win. “It’s always hazardous to call an election three days out,” he tweeted, “but this one looks like it’s all over but for the voting.”

Putin puts points on the scoreboard

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine hasn’t gone to plan. Early attempts to seize Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, failed, making Russia’s “phase two” – the fight for the Donbas – look like “plan B.” The sinking of Russia’s Black Sea flagship was a disaster for both Kremlin messaging and Russian military morale. In response, Putin badly needs points on the scoreboard. Earlier this week, Russia tested a nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile, which a Russian senior official called a “present to NATO.” The Pentagon was not impressed. Faced with possible heavy losses if Russian forces stormed a steel plant in Mariupol to roust Ukrainian fighters hunkered down there, Putin ordered his army to simply seal the Ukrainians inside and declare victory. Russia will likely trumpet the capture of Donbas towns in the coming days. The big question remains: What can Putin call “victory” without launching an open war with NATO?

Boris Johnson looks to change the subject, again

When the going gets tough, a tough British PM heads to . . . India? On Thursday, as the House of Commons was voting to investigate whether Johnson misrepresented himself to an inquiry about his COVID lockdown breaches, Johnson arrived to a warm welcome of billboards and fluttering flags in Indian PM Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat. Will Johnson’s foreign policy moves deflect attention from his troubles at home? He certainly hopes so. His surprise trip to Kyiv earlier this month went over well for the leader of post-Brexit “Global Britain.” While in India, he’s looking to tee up a big UK-India free trade deal that would double commerce between the countries by 2030, boosting exports in particular for Britain’s automotive and whiskey industries. And a fresh fight with Brussels over Brexit could now be coming as well: Johnson's government is readying a bill that would tear up the delicate post-Brexit arrangements that govern trade with Northern Ireland, the Financial Times reported late on Thursday. What was that about lockdown breaches again? That’s the idea.


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