World Review: Strange bedfellows in France, Ukraine, Roe v. Wade and Belarus

French politics have been thrown into confusion with an unprecedented “Stop Macron” alliance of the left for next month’s parliamentary elections. The  concordat has been forged by France’s elder statesman of the Left, Jean-luc Melenchon who just missed being included in last month’s presidential run-offs. He has persuaded the Communists, Greens and Socialists to join his France Insoumise (LFI, France Unbowed), to stop Macron’s pro-business, pro-EU legislative agenda. But Melenchon’s pre-election coalition does not spell a foregone victorious conclusion for the French Left. The latest opinion polls show a three-way split between the left-wing alliance, Macron’s La Republique en Marche and the right of centre conservatives and Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally.

The Socialists and Melenchon make strange bedfellows with opposing views on the EU and NATO membership. They do, however, agree on the bread and butter issues of lowering the retirement age, raising the minimum age and capping prices on essential products. On the other end of the political spectrum, it is uncertain whether the Republicans will support Macron or Le Pen in the new National Assembly. The political map is further complicated by France’s two-round electoral assembly which appears to give Macron’s party a slight advantage in the run-off vote on 19 June. The only thing that is clear at the moment is that the National Assembly elections are making life complicated for the newly re-elected President Emmanuel Macron and the results may make his second term very difficult.

Good news and bad news for President Vladimir Putin and his Ukraine war. First the good news. His decision to focus on bombing Ukrainian factories, especially those producing war materiel, is having an effect. The Ukrainians are starting to run short of weapons and the West is not—at the moment—moving fast enough to replace them. And when they do, they will find it difficult to transport the equipment to the front lines because Russian missiles are also targeting the railway network. Now for the bad news, there are signs that public support is waning. In fact, it may never have been as strong as originally reported. “Independent” Russian pollsters originally reported that 80 percent of Russians supported Putin’s War. It now seems that more than half of those canvassed refused to give an opinion because of fear of repercussions. Opposition is expected to grow exponentially if Putin declares martial law and announces a general mobilisation to replace an estimated 20,000 dead Russian soldiers. Included in the body count are 12 generals.

Finally, the EU appears to be taking concrete steps to wean itself off Russian fossil fuels, sales of which are financing the war. A proposal before the Europeans calls for a phasing out of crude Russian oil imports over the next six months, refined products by the end of the year and two-thirds reduction in gas imports by the end of the year. The import ban, however, is not a foregone conclusion. Hungary has threatened to veto it and the Czech and Slovak governments want the transition period extended to three years.

Abortion is now a major issue for the mid-term US congressional elections. The leaked Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade has guaranteed it. Twenty-six of America’s 50 states are poised to introduce legislation to ban abortions, although legal hurdles means that it will take six months to two years for the bans to take effect and will vary considerably from state to state. The only way that abortion can be retained across America is for pro-choice legislation to be passed by Congress. At the moment this is impossible because it requires a minimum of 60 pro-abortion votes in the Senate. The upper house is divided 50/50 between Republicans and Democrats with the Republicans solidly opposed to abortion. They are not, however, representative of the population at large. Opinion polls have consistently reported that 70 percent of Americans think that the decision about abortion should be left to the woman and her doctor. The anti-abortion lobby is spearheaded by the evangelical right which has grown in influence as a bloc vote and major contributor to Republican party funds. The pro-choice lobby has been less active because its position was protected by Roe v. Wade.

The Belarussian rat—Alexander—Lukashenko is making noises about deserting the Russian warship, or, at the very least, he is looking around for a lifeboat. Belarus is Russia’s only ally in its war with Ukraine. Thousands of Russian troops attacked northern Ukraine from Belarus. The troops that captured Chernobyl came through Belarus. The Belarussians have provided logistical support, fuelling stations and bases for air attacks. There have been reports that Russia is recruiting Belarussian mercenaries to fight in Ukraine. But this week, President Lukashenko told a reporter from Associated Press that his friend Vladimir Putin has failed to achieve his goals and that “this operation is dragging on”–words that indicate that the Belarussian dictator is worried about the outcome of the war. Lukashenko supports Putin’s war—in fact, he has become a virtual Russian puppet—because he owes the Russian leader for his political survival. Lukashenko has been struggling against demonstrators and Western sanctions ever since rigged elections in August 2020. Putin has stood by him by helping Lukashenko to circumvent sanctions, providing political support and selling him Russian gas and oil at discounted prices. It should have been enough to insure the Belarussian dictator’s full support for the Ukraine “operations.” But now the war is being seen as yet another stone threatening to topple Lukashenko.

* Tom Arms is foreign editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and the author of “The Encyclopedia of the Cold War” and the recently published “America Made in Britain” that has sold out in the US after six weeks but is still available in the UK.


World Review: Strange bedfellows in France, Ukraine, Roe v. Wade and Belarus