Author: Jill Harsin

The Hamas Attack on Israel and La France Insoumise

The Hamas Attack on Israel and La France Insoumise

In the first hours after the assault, the major French newspapers covered the Hamas attack against Israel in much the same way that the US newspapers did: updates, casualty estimates, and speculations about the intelligence failures.  On October 9, the French government, along with the 

Last Week

Last Week

 A few days ago, on June 21, Emmanuel Macron hinted that he would welcome an invitation to the BRICS summit, to be held this year in South Africa.  What does that have to do with the chaos in Russia on June 24?  The whole episode, 

Five Eyes

Five Eyes

The Report on Russia of the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament was released  on July 21, 2020–four years after the Brexit vote, and only about three months before the US presidential election.  It was deliberately brief (roughly fifty pages), a choice the committee made rather than release the full text and witness statements with multiple redactions.  (Even so, there are a few redactions, signaled by ***.)  The report was written before Russia’s brutal attack on Ukraine in 2022, though after Russia’s illegal seizure of Crimea in 2014.  It was also written after the 2018 attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal, who had defected from Russia, and his daughter, on British soil in Salisbury.[1]

Section 31 of the Trump Indictment issued by Special Prosecutor Jack Smith includes a photograph that indicates a “Five Eyes” document, the product of the intelligence services of the US, the UK, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.  It was in an insecure storage area, accessible to guests at the Mar-a-Lago Club, on the floor; the box it was in had fallen from the top of a stack.[2]. The UK report  (written before these revelations) had already expressed some anxiety about the safety of Five Eyes under the Trump administration: “In responding to the Russian threat, the UK’s long-standing partnership with the US is important.  It is clear that this partnership provides valuable capabilities that *** to the UK, and avoids the duplication of coverage through effective burden-sharing.  However, there remains a question as to whether ***.”[3]

As to whether . . . .

There had been other worrying episodes, including the hosting of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office, and the revelation that Trump had shown them classified intelligence about the Islamic State, passed along to the United States by another intelligence partner.  And then there was the woman from Shanghai who was found at Mar-a-Lago with two passports and multiple electronic and storage devices.  And of course, who could forget Trump’s meeting with Putin in Helsinki, in July 2018, when Trump asserted that he believed Putin, who claimed that Russia had not interfered in the US 2016 presidential election?[4]

In fact, the UK report asserted, it was the shock of the 2016 US presidential election that awoke the intelligence services to the potential of cyber threats:

“It was only when Russia completed a ‘hack and leak’ operation against the Democratic National Committee in the US–with the stolen emails being made public a month after the EU referendum [on Brexit]–that it appears that the Government belatedly realized the level of threat which Russia could pose in this area, given that the risk thresholds in the Kremlin had clearly shifted, describing the US ‘hack and leak’ as a ‘game changer,’ and admitting that ‘prior to what we saw in the States, [Russian interference] wasn’t generally understood as a big threat to [electoral] processes.” (p. 13)

But “election interference,” widely thought of as breaking into the voting machines, does not primarily take place in that form. The UK report noted that cyber warfare–including hacking as well as using bot or “troll farms” to seed disinformation–was not crudely partisan and thus not recognizable as such:

“Equally, the spreading of disinformation is not necessarily aimed at influencing any individual outcome; it can simply have broad objectives around creating an atmosphere of distrust or otherwise fracturing society.” (p. 9). . . . [Even if only a small minority of people believe this, there is still doubt.] “‘When people start to say, ‘You don’t know what to believe’ or ‘They’re all as bad as each other’, the disinformers are winning.”(pp. 9-10).


Header Photo: ve Eyes  Photo 230010719 © Sameer Chogale |

[1] Luke Harding is the author of two lengthy articles in The Guardian on the assassins and how they were tracked down, as well as a third article on the radiation poisoning in London in 2006 of Alexander Litvenenko. Luke Harding, “‘A Chain of Stupidity’: the Skripal Case and the decline of Russia’s spy agencies,” The Guardian, June 23, 2020. (this article includes an excerpt from an RT video, in which the two spies claimed they had had traveled to Salisbury “as tourists,” that they wanted to see the cathedral, the spire, and the old clock, and that they were in the fitness industry); Luke Harding, “The Skripal poisonings: the bungled assassination with the Kremlin’s fingerprints all over it,” The Guardian, December 26, 2018.; Luke Harding, “Alexander Litvinenko: the man who solved his own murder,” The Guardian, January 19, 2016.


[3], p. 37.

[4] These episodes received a great deal of coverage; these are some useful sources, either because of all coverage or useful interpretation: Susan B. Glasser, “Russia’s Oval Office Victory Dance,” Politico Magazine, May 10, 2017 Greg Miller and Greg Jaffe, “Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian foreign minister and ambassador,” The Washington Post, May 15, 2017.; Vanessa Romo, “Chinese Woman Convicted of Trespassing at Mar-a-Lago Sentenced to 8 Months in Jail,” NPR, November 25, 2019.  Masha Gessen, “How Putin and Trump Each Lied in Helsinki,” The New Yorker, July 17, 2018; “Trump sides with Russia against FBI at Helsinki summit,” BBC, July 16, 2018.

Foreign Interference: the Commission

Foreign Interference: the Commission

The National Assembly Commission on the Political, Economic, and Financial Interference by Foreign Powers . . . with the Purpose of Influencing or Corrupting Opinion, Leaders, and French Political Parties, just ended its work. It was preceded by commissions in other countries and the EU: 

Crimea, continued

Crimea, continued

Andréa Kotarac, LFI, tweeted his support for Jordan Bardella’s list (RN) for the European Parliament on May 14, 2019.  He then announced it on television, stating that “It’s the Left that changed,” and accusing Mélenchon’s Left of “Islamogauchisme” (a pro-Islamic stance). Where should he go 



One of the most surprising party switches in recent years was the decision of Andrea Kotarac, in 2019, to move from La France Insoumise, the far-left party of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, to Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National.  To be sure, his move seemed to support the centrist narrative that the extremes are not that far apart, an assumption that especially enrages the Far Left.  But it also reveals an interesting similarity between LFI and the RN on the matter of Ukraine, and especially of the Crimean peninsula, some five years after Russia seized the peninsula, and three years before Russia invaded.

Andréa Kotarac, born in 1989 to a Serbian father and an Iranian mother, grew up in Haute Savoie in southern France, an area bordering both Switzerland and Italy.  He studied law and had been an activist for most of his adult life, starting in the Socialist Party, then moving to the Parti de gauche of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, then to Mélenchon’s La France Insoumise, founded in 2016.  He was up-and-coming within the party; he was on Mélenchon’s list for the regional elections of December 2015, for Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes.  He had won, becoming a member of the regional council.  In 2017 he ran for the National Assembly on behalf of LFI for the Rhône department, and did relatively well, coning in third after the candidate of Les Républicains and the La République en Marche winner, from Macron’s new party’s sweep of the elections.[1]

The elections for the European Parliament, in  2019, marked Kotarac’s open break with LFI.  In May he announced on BFMTV that he was going to support the National Rally list led by Jordan Bardella for the European Parliament, rather than the LFI list led by Manon Aubry.  He also announced that he was leaving his party and resigning his position in the regional assembly. He had been led to this by the collection of issues surrounding immigration, Islam, and the protection of French culture. In his appearance on television, Kotarac stated that the decisive moment for him had been his attendance at the Yalta Conference in Crimea, where he had been invited by Vladimir Putin to the 5th Russian economic summit in May, 2019.[2]  

The Yalta summits began in 2015, after Putin had seized Crimea from Ukraine in late 2014, an act that had brought a round of international economic sanctions against Russia.  Yalta had another meaning for Putin, as well, in reference to the Yalta meeting in February, 1945, among Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin, to shape the postwar world.  Marine Le Pen’s niece, Marion Maréchal, former FN deputy for Vaucluse, was exuberant: “in 1945, at the Yalta conference, France was not there. Today, it is!”[3]–Along with a number of Far Right and Identitaire parties from throughout Europe.

Maximilian Dörrbecker (Chumwa)
CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Putin has long made clear his ambitions for a “New Yalta,” a reshaping of collective security and new spheres of influence, to reflect Russia’s (or Putin’s) ambitions.[4]  Nicolas Ruisseau of Le Monde summed up Putin’s vision, as of 2019: a “multipolar world”; “Christian values”; and homophobia, (of special concern to France because of the same-sex marriage law of 2013. That was in 2019; the French have since moved along, with the American Far Right, to wokeness, transphobia, and drag queens.) There was one key element of Putin’s strategy, as Ruisseau noted: a laser-like focus from the pro-Russian media on migrants from the Southern Hemisphere, a storyline nourished by Russia Today (RT) France and RT America, both of them (and many others throughout the world) funded by the Russian Government. RT was shut down, in both France and the United States, in early March 2022; Fox News in the United States remains on the air.

Kotarac, who was quoted prominently in the Le Monde article, stated that he was in disagreement with Maréchal and [Thierry] Mariani (RN eurodeputy) on many subjects, but agreed with them on two things: national sovereignty (to be interpreted as an anti-EU remark);  and the need to ally with Russia.  He attempted to refine the bluntness of those remarks in a subsequent  interview with L’Obs, in which he reaffirmed his beliefs as a souverainiste, and noted that “Our [LFI] program evokes an altermondialiste alliance with BRICS to escape from the logic of the International Monetary Fund.  I remind certain leftists that the R of BRICS does not stand for Rungis but for Russia.”  (BRICS stands for Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa.)  Mélenchon had often invoked these five nations as an alternative to the Atlantic alliance, reminiscent of the non-aligned nations position of the late 20th century.)[5] 

Le Monde had also described Kotarac as a foreign policy expert who had much influence over Jean-Luc Mélenchon. That characterization called for a response. Arnaud Le Gall, who had drafted the LFI position on foreign policy, stated that the party was “not at all” in agreement with Maréchal. The Front National, stated Le Gall, giving the party its old name, believed in national sovereignty, while LFI believed in “popular sovereignty,” a reference to their call for a “Sixth Republic,” with power shifted away from the President and toward the elected Assembly, as well as an extensive use of citizens’ referenda to decide major issues. In regard to Russia, Le Gall said, “We [the LFI] have never spoken of an alliance with Russia but of cooperation.  Words have meaning.  For us [LFI], Russia is neither an enemy nor an ally, but a potential partner.”  Le Gall went further in an interview with Sputnik News, in which he stated that he wished for a France “neither pro-Russia, nor pro-American, [but]  simply independent and which manages its interests on the European continent in partnership with Russia.”[6]. 

The Yalta Conference was not the first time Kotarac had embarrassed his party.  In May 2018, Kotarac (again surprising the LFI leadership) had gone to Donbass, a region in eastern Ukraine led by pro-Russian separatists, who called it the Peoples’ Republic of Donetsk.  He had met president Alexandre Zakharchenco, killed in August in an explosion in Donetsk. At that time, speaking on RT France–and speaking as a regional councilor of LFI–Kotarac expressed concern that this act, which Russia blamed on Ukraine, had killed a leader “loved by the people,” an act which would surely escalate the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.  Suggesting that “a not insignificant line had been crossed,” he noted that Zakharchenko was one of the signatories of the Minsk accords in 2015–accords, he suggested, that had not been respected.  He had added, finally, that Jean-Luc Mélenchon had frequently “sounded the alarm” on the Ukrainian question.[7]

To Be Continued.


[1] Laurent Bernard, “Régionales 2021: qui est Andréa Kotarac, ex-insoumis, qui conduit la liste RN en Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes?”, La Montagne, June 5, 2021.

[2] Rémy Dodet, “La présence d’un élu dans un forum pro-Poutine embarrasse La France insoumise,” L’Obs, May 4, 2019. See also part of Kotarac’s discussion on BFMTV, Jordan Bardella was elected in late 2022 as head of the National Rally, while Marine Le Pen leads the large parliamentary delegation in the National Assembly.

[3] Nicolas Ruisseau, “A Yalta, en Crimée, la Russie réunit ses soutiens de tout bord,” Le Monde, April 20, 2019.

[4] Aaron Korewa, “Putin’s Goal is a New Yalta,” Atlantic Council, December 8, 2015. hoped for the West’s support for his war on Islamic terrorism in Syria. See also Frida Ghitis, “Putin wants Yalta 2.0 and Trump may give it to him,” CNN, January 27, 2017.

[5] Rémy Dodet, “La présence d’un élu dans un forum pro-Poutine embarrasse La France insoumise,” L’Obs, May 4, 2019.

[6] Mathieu Périsse, “La France insoumise recadre un élu lyonnais après son voyage en Crimée,” Mediacités, May 2, 2019.

[7] Rémy Dodet, “La présence d’un élu dans un forum pro-Poutine embarrasse La France insoumise,” L’Obs, May 4, 2019.; Marc Bennetts, “Rebel leader Alexander Zakharchenko killed in explosion in Ukraine,” The Guardian, August 31, 2018.; Le meurtre de Zakharchenko entraîne le conflit ukrainien ‘vers  l’une des pires voies possibles,’” RT France, August 31, 2018.

Header Image:

Seascape, Crimean peninsula Photo 42643306 © Chingis |



Heetch began in Paris as a niche ride-sharing business: featuring young drivers, it operated only late at night and early into the morning on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.  The name came from “hitch,” as in hitchhike, pronounced as the French would pronounce it.[1] The 

The Organizers of the Sainte-Soline Demonstration

The Organizers of the Sainte-Soline Demonstration

The protest at Sainte-Soline on March 25, 2023, was planned by three environmental and  peasant/farmer groups (peasant is a term defiantly preferred by some): Bassines non merci, Confédération paysanne, and Les Soulèvements de la Terre. Bassines non merci! (bassines, no thanks!) describes its mission as 

The Water War, Part II

The Water War, Part II

The demonstrations at Sainte-Soline failed.  That is the inevitable conclusion as we see the coverage of the event monopolized by its violence–by the police, on one side; by the “ultra-left” on the other.  The conservative Valeurs actuelles opined, before the event, that “antifa” members were coming from all over Europe.[1] 

The discussion of the environmental risks of the artificial reservoirs, and their effects on small farms, has been limited to dedicated environmental journals, like Reporterre, and the more widely known Mediapart, which has been focused on legality–or rather, the ways in which the reservoirs, owned by private companies, have been rammed through with little consultation.  The argument put forward by some farmers and environmental groups, about local production and food self-sufficiency for France (the “locavore” idea), as opposed to  industrial farm production for a global market, has not made it into the mainstream. This argument, of course, carries a far-reaching threat to the assumptions of global capitalism.

The Gendarmerie Nationale, chiefly responsible for policing the area, posted one example of the fire they were taking, as they tried to move people away from the reservoir under construction.

A member of one of the organizing groups, Les Soulèvements de la Terre, took issue with the wording of the above tweet, noting that “mortars” are weapons of war, like those being used in Ukraine, while what they had were “fireworks”.[2]. The Gendarmerie also saw fit to tweet the “numerous weapons” they had confiscated from those coming to the demonstration.

Two reporters from Libération noted the statistics: 3200 police and gendarmes, along with helicopters, mounted units, and a water cannon, and 4000 grenades in under two hours, many of them tear gas, others grenades de désencerclement, or fragmentation grenades (releasing hard rubber balls instead of shrapnel)–all this, against 6,000 or 30,000 demonstrators (the count varied) throwing projectiles–rocks, Molotov cocktails, and fireworks. The Ligue des Droits de l’Homme, a non-governmental social justice organization, stated that the violence of the gendarmes had one clear purpose: “to prevent access to the bassine, whatever the human cost.”[3]

The demonstrators, as well, had their own tweets, this one showing a mobile unit firing an LBD, a weapon that shoots rubber bullets, and became widely condemned in the Gilets jaunes demonstrations.

Gérald Darmanin, Minister of the Interior, stated that two LBDs were fired from the “quads,” as they are called, and he had immediately opened an official investigation. He suggested, however, that the police were taking much worse.[4] And this individual, hit by a grenade:
All images have been widely circulated, and have dominated the story.


Header image by

[1]Maxime Coupeau, “Projet de méga-bassine à Saint-Soline,” Valeurs actuelles, March 24, 2023.

[2] Fabien Leboucq and Pauline Moullot, “A Sainte-Soline, des armes de guerre employées sans retenue,” Libération, March 26, 2023.

[3] Ibid., and website of the Ligue:

[4] Jérôme Bèglé, Sarah Paillou, David Revault d’Allones, “Gérald Darmanin au JDD,” Le Journal du Dimanche,” April 1, 2023.

The Water War of Sainte-Soline

The Water War of Sainte-Soline

At least 100 were wounded by late afternoon, according to the “street medics,” volunteers setting up impromptu field hospitals, who also appeared during the Gilets jaunes uprising.  By evening, the organizers of the demonstration said there were at least 200 wounded, of whom ten were