Ukraine War, April 22, 2022: Der Spiegel interview with Olaf Scholz; Future of France, and EU and NATO war effort in Ukraine at stake in French run-off on April 24

Due to rapidly-breaking developments and in order to facilitate readers’ access to the latest dispatches, we are publishing this article as it is being written. please check back for updates and additions.*

To see a list of previous articles, enter “Ukraine” in the Search Box on the upper right, on The Trenchant Observer web site, and you will see a list in chronological order.

Only force can stop Putin

See “Ukraine War, April 5, 2022 (II): Force must be used to stop Putin,” The Trenchant Observer, April 5, 2022.

Dispatches

1) Melanie Amann und Martin Knobbe, “There Cannot Be a Nuclear War”; In an interview with DER SPIEGEL, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz discusses arms deliveries to Ukraine and growing calls for Berlin to supply heavy weapons. He also talks about why he has been hesitant to act in this crisis and addresses critical questions about his party’s policies toward Russia in the past,” Der Spiegel (English), April 22, 2022 (15:26 Uhr).

The original interview in German is found here.

2) Roger Cohen, “Le Pen Closer Than Ever to the French Presidency (and to Putin); As elections approach Sunday, the far-right candidate is linked to the Russian president by a web of financial ties and a history of support that has hardly dimmed despite the war in Ukraine, New York Times, April 22, 2022 (3:00 am ET);

UPDATE

3) Thomas Chatterton Williams, “If Macron Loses, Putin Wins.’; No matter the outcome of Sunday’s election, the appeal of extremist candidates is worrying for the health of transatlantic liberalism,” The Atlantic, April 23, 2022 (5:00 a.m. ET).
Commentary

Der Spiegel Interview with Olaf Scholz

The interview in Der Siegel (link to article in English above) reveals Scolz to be a serious, thoughtful and consequential leader. His answers to question, some of which reflect news headlines and charges against him for Germany’s response to Ukrainian weapons request, are thoughtful and reflect a careful and informed decision process.

The West can feel reassured that such a solid and consequential leader now heads the government of Germany, the economic powerhouse of Europe.

French presidential election run-off will have fateful impact on Europe and allied war effort in Ukraine

Incumbent French President Emmanuel Macron is leading right-wing challenger Marine Le Pen in the polls by what would seem to be a comfortable 10%. According to press commentators, he dominated the three-hour debate on April 20 both in substance and form.

Yet with memories of Donald Trump’s victory in November 2016 and the Brexit vote in June 2016 fresh in everyone’s mind, anxiety remains high among officials and observers that Le Pen could win despite the polls.

If she does, leftist candidate Jean-Luc Mélanchon, who came in third in the primary held on April 14, only a few points behind Le Pen, will shoulder a good share of the blame. He, alone among the candidates and parties from the moderate right to the Communists and Socialists on the left, has refused to endorse Macron and to urge his supporters to defeat Le Pen.

Le Pen has sought to soften the image of the Front National, the party founded by her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen with the open support of Nazi sympathizers. He once famously referred to the gas chambers and Holocaust as “a derail of the history od the Second World War”.

But beneath her more moderate façade and her renaming of the party, now the Rassemblement national (RN) Party, she remains a far-right extremist who would seek to dismantle the EU from within and to neuter NATO by withdrawing from its joint command structure, and in other ways.

She has been a strong supporter of Vladimir Putin, and has urged recognition of the Russian annexation of the Crimea in 2014. Her party is deeply indebted to a Russian bank (2017 loan) and to a Hungarian bank (2022 loan).

In 2017 when she also faced Macron in a presidential run-off election, she borrowed some EUR 12 million from a Russian bank (specializing in aviation) which is presumably close to Vladimir Putin. She is still paying off the loan.

In 2022 she borrowed EUR 10.6 from a Hungarian bank assumed to be close to that country’s right-wing authoritarian leader, Viktor Orbán.

The biggest remaining factors in determining the outcome on Sunday would now appear to be the number of Mélanchon’s supporters who vote for Le Pen or abstain, and the overall number of abstentions.

Supporters of the EU and NATO, Ukraine, and democracies throughout the world are holding their breaths.

Regardless of the outcome on Sunday, Le Pen’s strength among voters reveals a shocking growth in right-wing nationalism in France (as revealed by a BBC map), similar to what has occurred in the United States.

Update

homas Chatterton Williams, who lives in Paris, provides chilling insights into the decline in democratic values in France, and the profound threat to France and Europe that leftist candidate Mélanchon represents.

Thomas Chatterton Williams, who lives in Paris, provides chilling insights into the decline in democratic values in France, and the profound threat to France and Europe that leftist candidate Jean-Luc Mélanchon represents.

Williams quotes a French author and journalist, Marc Weitzmann, as follows:

“If you put together the far left and right, two-thirds of French voters support an anti-liberal, pro-Putin candidate,” the author and journalist Marc Weitzmann told me. “Given what’s at stake today in Europe, if Macron loses, Putin wins.”

The details of Mélanchon Machiavellian plans are truly disturbing:

Going into the election, both Le Pen and Macron are courting—or aspiring to offend the least—Mélenchon’s unpredictable base. That left-wing voters would even consider supporting Le Pen (whether directly or through abstention) is a damning indictment, of both the president’s five-year strategy of reactively meeting Le Pen on her own discursive turf and the commitment of large swaths of French society to basic liberal norms.

In chaos, however, there is opportunity. “Mélenchon does not intend to stop at third place,” Le Monde reported on April 19 after the candidate directly appealed to voters to elect him prime minister in the legislative elections to be held this June. “If this cohabitation does not suit the president, he can leave. I will not leave,” Mélenchon warned. He even indicated that he would be open to being Le Pen’s prime minister—a stunning acknowledgment from the ostensible left.

These are the same kinds of confused politics that brought Adolf Hitler to power in January 1933. While Le Pen is no Hitler, her election would greatly strengthen the hand of her ally, Vladimir Putin.

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.

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