General Jean-Paul Palomeros: Will Ukraine have the manpower to win the war?

Ukraine may have the will, but it may not have the men — or the munitions — to win the war, France’s former Air Force chief of staff, retired General Jean-Palomeros says.

“I’m not sure that the Ukrainians have the human potential in the long term to sustain this war,” Palomeros told AAPA journalists Wednesday (March 14) at a press conference hosted by Bloomberg.

It was not a prediction, added Palomeros, but his sense as a veteran military commander, which includes time he served as a supreme allied commander for NATO.

“They say they have a large reserve, but this war has taken a heavy toll,” he added of the Ukrainians.

Palomeros’ remarks covered France’s military intervention in the Sahel — where it had lost the “the battle of information” to Russia’s private military group Wagner — to President Emmanuel Macron’s push for a stronger, more autonomous European military, to China’s growing influence.

Much of the discussion zeroed in on the war in Ukraine, where Palomeros suggested Russia was clueless about how to run an air campaign “I don’t call it targeting, it’s mass murder,” he said. For their part, the Ukrainians lacked aircraft and trained and experienced pilots, he added.

Palomeros also addressed the complications of sending fighter planes to Ukraine — building an airforce, Palomeros said, demanded far more than delivering aircraft.

On Ukraine’s neighbor Moldova, he said Russian President Vladimir Putin might be tempted to open a military front, but it would be too much for him right now.

A big question was how far and long NATO allies are willing and able to support Ukraine. “I can’t see the Russians overthrown and disbanding,” he said, describing Putin’s “quite successful” information campaign in Russia.

For his part, President Volodymyr Zelensky faces a big challenge in trying to claw back Ukrainian territory and save as many Ukrainian lives as possible.

“It is a terrible responsibility,” Palomeros added of Zelensky. “And at some stage he will have to make up his mind about when and where it’s too much.”

French health minister François Braun: many health care systems are faltering

French health minister François Braun: many health care systems are faltering

Public health care systems are faltering in many parts of the world, especially since the outbreak of the Covid-19, Health and Prevention Minister François Braun told the AAPA on February 21.

Meeting more than 20 members—some at the ministry and others on Zoom—he said the problems varied from country to country, but all in developed countries the systems were built after the Second World War on the basis of availability of health care rather than needs. This has to change, he said.

France’s plan to overhaul its system includes an end to competition between the public and private sectors. Instead, it will be based on collaboration among practitioners. The system will remain national, but be adapted to regional and local conditions. North Marseilles’ solution to the “medical desert” problem was for the University Hospital to create a practice of salaried GPs.

France now admits 11,000 students to medical school a year, instead of 3,000 to 3,500 in the 1990’s. Braun dismissed the claim that doctors are underpaid. Doctors in Switzerland are often said to be paid more than in France. But according to the OECD, they earn 3 times the average national salary in both cases.

The government is committed to abolishing the fee-per-act in public hospitals. Many young people want to become nurses, but some 20% drop out because of poor pay and training that is no longer relevant to their work. He stressed the importance of primary care, doctors’ wish to work in group medical practices and the spreading culture of prevention in France. This includes sport, vaccinations and healthy eating.

Braun acknowledged that any reform needs more explanation in France than in other countries, if the population is to accept it. He is waiting for opinions from two official bodies before recommending whether to allow the “few thousand” unvaccinated health care workers to go back to work

Winter is coming

On November 16, the Anglo American Press Association had a meeting with energy specialist Dr. Thierry Bros in a Zoom session attended by a dozen or so members.

Bros, a professor at Sciences Po Paris, has 30 years’ experience in energy and climate, from the policy side to trading floors.

He gave us a layout of the energy situation across Europe as we head into this crucial winter. Of the industries temporarily shutting their doors because of high energy prices, Bros said, “Quite a few of these industries will never reopen in Europe. It makes no sense to have all those extremely energy intensive industries in Europe when we’re never going to get enough energy anyway.”

Bros said many European industries would be attracted to the US, with its plentiful and cheap energy supplies.

A possible upside to all of this is that European policymakers may manage to decouple the price of electricity from gas, which would bring the price down significantly. Electricity is traditionally indexed to the price of gas because it is the most volatile energy element.

Bros helped us to understand the complicated energy situation and markets, and what to be on the lookout for in the coming months

Discovering a Renovated Parisian Treasure

The newly restored BnF Richelieu is more than a library. It’s a repository -- described as “a vast archipelago of spaces” – for art history and culture, containing manuscripts, prints and photography, coins, medals and antiques. The AAPA met with Laurence Engel, the library’s director, on November 24 and toured these historical rooms and their priceless collections: the scores of Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Beethoven’s Appassionata Sonata in the composers’ own hands, Dagobert’s folding throne, and an astonishingly bad 19th-century copy of the famous 17th century full-length portrait of Louis XIV, showing off the Sun King’s well-formed legs. Two hours were not enough to visit the library’s collection and savor the rooms themselves, such as the Mazarin Gallery, the Mansard Gallery, the Oval Room, and the Louis XV Salon, with decorations painted by Romanelli, Boucher, Van Loo and Natoire.

Climate Change Targets in Jeopardy, says IEA

The AAPA met with IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol at the organization’s headquarters (and by Zoom) on November 23 to discuss the current acute energy crisis. Dr Birol said that, in his opinion, because of the invasion of Ukraine, “Russia has lost its EU clients for good.” He also said that without cutting the use of coal, oil and gas, the world will fall well short of its climate targets. But it is energy security, he thinks, that will be the main concern in the near term as Western Europe scrambles to replace Russian energy and the rest of the world copes with escalating energy prices.

OECD Outlook: Bad Times Ahead

“If you think energy prices are bad now, winter will be worse,” Alvaro Pereira, acting Chief Economist for the OECD told us by Zoom on November 21, the day before the Paris-based agency released its annual economic outlook. Pereira said the confluence of the war in Ukraine, Covid supply chain disruptions, and resulting inflation have created the worst energy shock since the 1970s. The crisis isn’t limited to energy, he added: there are likely to be shortages of food, labor, and lower wages in the coming year. Coupled with an increasing indebtedness -- particularly in developing countries – this already tense situation, he admitted, could lead to political unrest. While the OECD outlook for 2023 was less than optimistic, Pereira predicted some improvement in 2024 as these negative factors begin to ease

The World According to Plantu

Members of the AAPA met with the editorial cartoonist Jean Plantu, whose political cartoons have illustrated the pages of Le Monde newspaper for the last fifty years, at the Maison des Photographes in Paris.

Himself accompanied by a security agent, Plantu discussed the threats to the freedom of expression faced by cartoonists, not only from authoritarian regimes or religious fanatics, but also within our own Western "liberal" societies.
The art of caricature and humoristic expression has become increasingly difficult, he opined, with the advent of social media where the diffusion of drawings is no longer constrained by national or language barriers.

He confirmed the adage expressed by French comic, Pierre Desproges: "We can laugh at everything, but not with everyone."

Following the controversy surrounding the publication of caricatures of Muhammad by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, Plantu co-founded in 2006, with Kofi Annan, Cartooning for Peace, a world-wide organization that promotes freedom of expression and dialogue between diverse cultures.

Festive Summer Party

On June 20, we chose to edge slowly into post-Covid social life with a Summer Party instead of a Gala, held at the Caring Galley in rue Charlot (Paris 03), which features exhibits promoting social themes such as inclusion and diversity. Les Cuistots Migrateurs -- a catering company which employs refugees and migrants who cook and serve their native foods - provided refreshments. We felt the missions of both the gallery and the catering service were very much in keeping with AAPA values. It was also a great venue and delicious food!

Air France-KLM CEO Travel Advisory

Air France-KLM CEO Travel Advisory
And finally, in time for summer holiday travel chaos, on June 23, we met with Ben Smith, CEO of Air France-KLM, at the company's historic offices in the Air France terminal at Invalides. Smith spoke of the outlook for holiday travel, telling us that AF had hired more than 60 pilots in anticipation of an uptick in travel and warning that ticket prices would rise. He also advised travelers to arrive extra-early for flight departures...advice that turned out to be extremely useful.

François Henri Pinault at Kering HQ

On June 14, we were invited to meet François-Henri Pinault, Chairman and CEO of Kering, one of the world's largest luxury groups, at the company headquarters in the 17th century Laennec Hospital building in rue de Sevres. FHP, as he is called, told us about his view of the future of luxury (he's aiming at Gen Z, while holding onto older clients who appreciate luxury's history), and he emphasized Kering's focus on "sustainable luxury," including recycling materials and banning the use of furs in Kering's fashion brands (Saint Laurent, Gucci, Bottega Veneta, Brioni Pomellato to name a few). The meeting was moderated by AAPA President Shellie Karabell in the Laennec's chapel, which also houses several important pieces of contemporary art from the Pinault Collection (an on-site guide provided mini tours of the collected works).  Our meeting was followed by a scrumptious cocktail in the chapel's garden.