A WARNING FOR PUTIN

A WARNING FOR PUTIN

After some weekend downtime in Scotland, Trump will head to Helsinki for a summit with Russia’s Vladimir Putin. The big news from the first leg of Trump’s travels this week was his insistence that NATO allies not only meet current defense spending targets but double them in coming years. Trump warned that failure to step up would persuade the US to “go it alone.” Not surprisingly, the question left hanging is whether this threat implied the US might withdraw from NATO altogether.


That’s the backdrop for this meeting of the US and Russian presidents. But as you watch media coverage of their interactions, read accounts of what was said, endure detailed expert analysis of their body language, and consider speculation of what it all means, bear in mind that conversations between governments, particularly when one of them is a genuine democracy, are never simply about the interaction of leaders.

Congress will have its say, particularly on sanctions and US membership in NATO. With that in mind, consider the message the US Senate sent to NATO allies, Trump, and Putin this week in the form of a non-binding resolution that passed by a wide margin.

The message for NATO: The US Senate reaffirms “the commitment of the United States to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance as a community of freedom, peace, security, and shared values…” It also reaffirms “the ironclad commitment of the United States to its obligations under Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty to the collective self-defense of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization alliance.”

The further warning for Putin: The Senate resolution called on Trump to “urgently prioritize the completion of a comprehensive, whole-of-government strategy to counter malign activities of Russia that seek to undermine faith in democratic institutions in the United States and around the world." Remember too that sanctions relief for Russia requires congressional approval.

The Senate Vote: 97-2.

The bottom line: It’s hard enough to get 97 US senators to agree to name a post office after an astronaut. This is a loud, clear, bipartisan signal that, at least on the subjects of NATO and Russia, the president of the United States does not speak for the government of the United States.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Listen: Stanford historian Niall Ferguson joins Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast to talk about the geopolitics of disaster. Throughout human history we seem to be unable to adequately prepare for catastrophes (natural or human-caused) before they strike. Why is that? And as we emerge from the greatest calamity of our lifetimes in the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the plethora of crises that climate change has and will cause, what can we do to lessen the blow?

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Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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