After Putin

In Moscow last weekend more than 1,300 people were arrested during protests over the exclusion of opposition candidates from local elections. Anti-Kremlin activist Alexei Navalny was detained and then admitted to hospital amid suspicions he'd been poisoned. And Vladimir Putin? He was piloting a submersible to the bottom of the Gulf of Finland to check out the wreckage of a World War II Soviet submarine. Even from the bottom of the sea, the Russian president's hold on power appears secure.

We don't know when or how Putin will eventually leave the stage—his current term ends in 2024—but his declining popularity and long time in power have begun to prompt more speculation about what comes next. You can check out interesting examples here, here, here, here, and if you read Russian, here.

Russia's post-Putin future will depend in part on whether he remains the power behind the throne when someone like Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin or National Security Advisor Nikolai Patrushev takes his seat. Even if he does, challenges are sure to follow. Infighting and political uncertainty among the leading contenders could have a big impact on Russia's domestic policy, and maybe its foreign policy too—and well before any transition takes place.


Here are some things we can expect:

Almost immediately, a new president will try to assert his authority to ensure small challenges don't quickly become big ones. We can assume the security services and the military will keep their power and privileges, and others are unlikely to test the new leadership directly – at least not right away.

As time passes, the first tests will take place behind the scenes. Some of the men with guns will probe the balance of power within the security services. Powerful businessmen who've steered clear of politics under Putin will test to see if they can wield new influence, perhaps publicly.

People outside the circle of power will take new chances. Journalists who've avoided troublesome topics in Putin's Russia will want to know if the same rules apply. Opposition activists and ordinary citizens will test Kremlin patience by demanding the political and economic changes they think a leadership change should bring.

How might Russia's foreign policy change? Russia experts at a Washington-based think tank called the Free Russia Foundation recently argued that former Soviet republics Belarus and Kazakhstan will become "more likely targets for Russian meddling than any other country" because both are important buffer states for Russia, and neither has a formal security alliance with an outside power that can protect them.

What about China? The same authors wrote that over time, "Russia will become a Chinese satellite." They reason that US and European sanctions combined with an intensifying US-China rivalry will push Moscow and Beijing to see past their traditional mutual mistrust to work together more closely, but at a time when a widening economic disparity has swung the China-Russia power balance much more decisively in China's favor.

There's no reason to think Putin's time is short, but after nearly two decades in power, and at a moment when Russia's politics are becoming more complex, the speculation itself is something people inside and outside Russia will be watching.

Internationally, food security is under threat from drought, while agriculture is subject to thin margins and complex global trade. There is also pressure to do more with less to ensure food security for the global population. Because of this, farmers are driven to get the most out of every harvest, even if that short-term focus may have long-term ill effects on the soil and their yield. Farmers in the U.S. are now turning to Ag-Analytics, a leader in AI solutions, to help address these concerns. Sharing Microsoft's goal to help monitor, model and manage Earth's natural resources with cloud and AI, the company brings precision agriculture to fruition in a platform that helps farmers leverage data to make decisions. Read more on Microsoft on the Issues.

Are The US and China on Collision Course in The South China Sea? Senator Chris Coons talks about China's ambitions for a blue water navy and what it means for US security.

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As topsy-turvy as global politics has been over the past several years –Brexit, Trump, the rise of anti-establishment leaders in France, the Philippines, Italy, Pakistan, and Brazil, the surge of the European far right and so on – it's all unfolded during a time when the global economy was actually doing pretty well.

So what happens when the inevitable recession hits? Earlier this week, markets suffered their worst day of the year as investors confronted that question.

Germany's economy, the world's fourth-largest, is shrinking. China's factories are churning at their slowest rate in 17 years. The trade fights between the US and China, the US and Europe, and South Korea and Japan involve countries that together account for half the global economy. And worries about a chaotic British exit from the EU aren't helping either.

Even more worrying than these individual trends, through, is that the zero-sum politics driving all this disruption might also make a global economic swoon harder to get out of.

During the last big economic crisis in the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown, the world's major economies were able to compromise and coordinate their responses to the recession in ways that avoided an even deeper downturn.

In today's more cutthroat political environment, that kind of cooperation is a lot less likely -- particularly if a downturn fuels even more of social and political polarization within countries that has empowered economic nationalists in the first place.

We're not in a recession yet. But buckle up, because when the next downturn hits, politics is going to make it harder to contain the pain.

President Trump pays homage to a 1980s New York legend to explain his trade policy.

A pivotal weekend in Hong Kong – Some 300,000 demonstrators are expected at Hong Kong's Victoria Park on Sunday, in the 11th straight week of protests. Chaotic and partly violent demonstrations shut down Hong Kong International Airport this week, and tensions are high. Chinese paramilitary forces are reportedly drilling on the mainland close to the Hong Kong border. Xi Jinping, the president of China, knows a military crackdown would cripple Hong Kong's reputation as a stable financial center and could hurt the Chinese economy more broadly. But he may eventually conclude he has little choice but to snuff this out before other restive regions of China get similar ideas. The tenor of the marches this weekend will offer a clue about which way it's likely to go.

Maduro's crackdown on the military – One reason Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has survived an economic collapse, a popular revolt, assassination attempts, and a failed coup by opposition leader Juan Guaido is that the military brass has stuck with him. For one thing, they are tied to the regime's lucrative illegal businesses and black market schemes. But there's also now a stick to go along with that carrot: The New York Times describes Maduro's "growing reliance on torture" and purges of military officers – including alleged coup-plotter Captain Rafael Acosta, who died after being beaten and electrocuted to in a Venezuelan military hospital. We are watching closely to see if there is a point where Maduro screws up the calibration of carrots vs sticks and finds himself at the business end of a rifle in the Miraflores palace.

Trudeau's woes – In many ways Nicolas Maduro's polar opposite, Canada's prime minister has a lot going for him: dreamy good looks; a decent – if not overwhelming – majority for his Liberal Party in Parliament; and a generally safe, resource-rich country with millions of lakes, friendly people, big skies and (relatively) small problems. But earlier this week, an independent ethics commissioner ruled that the prime minister had breached the country's conflict of interest laws earlier this year when he pressured prosecutors to ease off of a bribery investigation of a major Canadian construction firm, because of fears about job losses. Trudeau has accepted the report's findings, but isn't resigning. We're watching to see how this simmering scandal affects Canada's upcoming national elections in October.

Something your salmon friends will never believe – You are a salmon. You are trying to get upriver so you can mate and die. Also you must avoid bears and bald eagles. Now there is a dam in your way of your favorite river. This is a problem. You pause an— WHAT IS HAPPENING. SUDDENLY YOU ARE BEING SHOT THROUGH A PNEUMATIC TUBE AND… just look at this thing.

What We're Ignoring

Japanese robotic tails Researchers at Japan's Keio University have developed a wearable robotic tail that they say could help elderly people and others with balance problems steady themselves. Look, we know that managing an ageing population is one of Japan's most pressing challenges. We also know that automation is one way that countries with shrinking workforces can better support a growing population of retirees. But giving people tails seems like a less efficient way to address these problems than, say, tweaking immigration policy ever so slightly to bring in more young workers, no?