HELSINKI: TRUMP CAME BEARING GIFTS

HELSINKI: TRUMP CAME BEARING GIFTS

To be clear, Russian President Vladimir Putin didn’t actually leave yesterday’s extraordinary summit in Helsinki with much in the way of substance. US sanctions on Russia will remain firmly in place, and Congress could well impose more. US President Donald Trump made no public concessions on actual policy issues like the placement of NATO troops in Europe, nor did he accept the Russian annexation of Crimea, as he had earlier suggested he might.


But symbolically, Putin went home happy. Very, very happy. It’s useful to recall that since coming to power at the turn of the millennium, Putin has made it his mission to exorcise the geopolitical humiliations of the 1990s, to return Russia to a position of regional power and global respect. To, you might say, Make Russia Great Again.

Above all that has meant forcing the US to reckon with Russia as an equal on the world stage. To that end, Putin played a weak hand remarkably: perceiving US efforts to weaken his regional clout, his troops challenged US interests and red lines in Georgia, then in Ukraine, and ultimately in Syria. Meanwhile, his spooks worked to exacerbate the existing polarization of American politics as part of a project to, at the very least, weaken the example of US democracy.

Against that backdrop Trump gave Putin three gifts in Helsinki yesterday: first, by meeting with him at all, he signaled a retreat from the US policy of isolating the Kremlin, which has been in effect at least since Russia’s invasion of Crimea in 2014. Putin almost giddily declared as much in his interview with FOX after the summit.

Second, while it was difficult to foresee Trump making much of the election meddling issue – why would he undermine the legitimacy of an improbable electoral victory that he is still obsessed with recounting? – his abject trashing of his own Justice Department handed Putin a propaganda coup, further exacerbating precisely the crisis of legitimacy in American institutions that Russia’s president has sought to exploit.

Lastly, Trump enthusiastically accepted the Russian narrative of US responsibility for the deterioration of relations. Putin couldn’t help himself: in a metaphorical dig, he gave Trump a World Cup ball and said, literally, “the ball is in your court.”

But here’s the question: as Trump’s advisers sit down with their Russian counterparts to explore fresh cooperation on key issues like nuclear arms, Syria, Ukraine, or Iran – will Putin’s symbolic victory translate into substantive change?

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.

More Show less

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?

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

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.

More Show less

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.

More Show less

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.

More Show less

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?

More Show less

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...

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

GZERO World with Ian Bremmer. Watch episodes now

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

GZERO World with Ian Bremmer. Watch episodes now

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal