fFrance and Germany are united these days in heat and water shortage; consequences such as forest fires and railway chaos also affect both neighbors. The actually shared temperature experience, however, finds no equivalent in the hottest topic of our time: the Ukraine war.
The shift in German foreign, security and energy policy did not come as a surprise to some strategy thinkers in France, Germany’s dependence on fossil fuels from Russia had long seemed questionable to the sovereignty-loving neighboring country. But the development was followed with interest (and annoyance when American weapons technology was bought for the German armed forces).
As to the heart of the matter, Ukraine is omnipresent in the French media. The news portals have set up extra pages, there are maps updated daily, reports on ongoing operations, analyzes of communications and strategic options; one criticizes one’s own secret services (they did not see the war coming) and worries about the economic consequences. There are reports about the Ukrainian civilian population, about refugees, of whom there are almost 100,000 in France, about exhausted helpers.
Which the French don’t even have to talk about
The list could be continued – more interesting is what is missing in France: a debate on the legitimacy of Ukrainian self-defense and arms supplies. Not a word about it in the major newsrooms. One recognizes Ukraine as a nation, traces its steps with sympathy; even if the country is still in its infancy as a political entity, no one in France would think of dictating peace negotiations, land cessions or capitulation. Weapons are being delivered – few but heavy ones – there are backroom debates about Realpolitik, as opinion articles by one defense expert or another indicate. The chatty French media intellectuals, however, are keeping their mouths shut.
Lack of creativity? Otherwise every conceivable debate will be happily started – after all, it is a question of maintaining a place in the Paris media arena. What is it then? Maybe because there is simply nothing to discuss if you don’t want to accept absurdities like that Putin is a reasonable discussion partner whose offers and commitments would be worth something. Or that you can negotiate with dictators if they don’t have to. Not even Alain Finkielkraut, Bernard-Henri Lévy or Michel Onfray came up with this idea, and that’s saying something. The only dissenter in France in this regard is the hundred-year-old sociologist Edgar Morin, who recommends negotiations – albeit in a differentiated statement that does not condemn arms deliveries.
And the French journalists? Turn to topics like the centenary of the Rafle du Vél’ d’hiv, anti-Semitism today, homophobia in politics – or burning campsites. These are hot topics too. It’s too hot right now.