Russia-Ukraine: Two years of war
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US President Joe Biden delivers a speech in Warsaw, Poland on February 21, 2023.

Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Reuters Connect

What We’re Watching: Fiery rhetoric and a Ukraine “peace plan,” Israel’s economy v. judicial reforms, SCOTUS social media cases

Dueling speeches on Ukraine

A lot of players (and potential players) in the war on Ukraine have used the looming one-year anniversary of the invasion to position themselves for the months ahead. On Monday, President Vladimir Putin used his annual state of the nation address to insist that Russia would continue to fight a war he blames on Western aggression, and he announced that Russia would suspend participation in the New START nuclear arms control treaty, which binds Russia and the United States to limit their strategic nuclear stockpiles and to share information and access to weapons facilities. (Note: Inspections have already been suspended for more than a year, and Russia is in no position to finance a new arms race.) President Joe Biden, meanwhile, followed up his surprise visit with Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv by meeting in Warsaw with Polish President Andrzej Duda and asserting during a speech that “Appetites of the autocrat cannot be appeased. They must be opposed. Autocrats only understand one word: no, no, no.” In listing what he called Russia’s “atrocities,” he said its forces have “targeted civilians with death and destruction; used rape as a weapon of war… stolen Ukrainian children in an attempt to steal Ukraine's future, bombed train stations, maternity hospitals, schools and orphanages.” Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to make news on Friday with a speech of his own in which he’ll lay out the specifics of a peace plan which, given the distance between the Russian and Ukrainian positions, has virtually no chance of success. The war grinds on.

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What We're Watching: Hariri throws in the towel, China calls for Pakistan blast probe, Poland hits EU over judiciary

Lebanon's PM-designate resigns: Things continue to deteriorate in crisis-ridden Lebanon. On Thursday, veteran politician and prime minister-designate Saad Hariri resigned eight months after being tapped to form a technocratic government after a series of crises and disasters, chief among them the devastating explosion at a Beirut port last August. Lebanon's Hezbollah-aligned President Michel Aoun refused to accept any of Hariri's proposals, because he said they did not reflect the country's sectarian power-sharing requirements. But Hariri pushed back, saying that Aoun wanted too many government spots for his allies. The Lebanese pound dipped to a new low after Hariri called it quits Thursday, reaching 21,000 to the US dollar. It's unclear who will step in now to form a government, a prerequisite to releasing billions of dollars in aid from former colonizer France and others. Meanwhile, the EU has said it'll impose sanctions on Lebanese officials if progress remains static.

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A Pakistani ranger stands near Indian and Pakistani flags during a fair in Chamliyal in the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.

REUTERS/Amit Gupta

What We're Watching: India-Pakistan talk water, Saudis float Yemen ceasefire, Polish writer in peril

India and Pakistan break bread over... water? Representatives from India and Pakistan are meeting this week to discuss water-sharing in the Indus River for the first time since the two countries severed relations following India's suspension of autonomy for Kashmir almost three years ago. It's a big deal — especially for the Pakistanis, whose farmers get 80 percent of the water they need to irrigate their crops from the Indus. Even more importantly, the meeting is also the latest sign of an apparent thaw in Indo-Pakistani ties, starting with last month's ceasefire agreement on Kashmir. A recently released readout of the secret talks that preceded that truce shows unusual impetus by both sides to make progress, and was followed up by rare conciliatory messages between Delhi and Islamabad. Given the long history of animosity between the two nuclear-armed nations -- they have gone to war three times since 1948 -- it's hard to be optimistic, but let's see if these water talks can move things along further.

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Authoritarianism’s enduring appeal: Anne Applebaum discusses
Authoritarianism’s Enduring Appeal | Anne Applebaum Discusses | GZERO World with Ian Bremmer

Authoritarianism’s enduring appeal: Anne Applebaum discusses

Across the world, from the Philippines to Hungary to Venezuela, nations have embraced authoritarian rule in recent years, in many cases with significant popular support. What is the enduring appeal of authoritarianism, what has the pandemic done to accelerate its growth, and how susceptible is the United States to its sway? Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Anne Applebaum joins Ian Bremmer on GZERO World to investigate the allure of these anti-democratic movements and to shed light on their unlikely champions.

Poland's choice: A test of populism

On Sunday, voters in Poland will cast ballots in a highly charged, high-stakes election for president. The two frontrunners are current President Andrzej Duda, an ultra-conservative ally of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, and Rafal Trzaskowski, the liberal mayor of Warsaw.

If none of the five candidates wins 50 percent of votes, Sunday's top two vote-getters will face off in a second round on July 12.

There are two reasons why the results will be studied across Europe and beyond. First, it's a referendum on a populist government, in power since 2015, which has pushed Poland into conflict with the European Union.

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What We're Watching: Mali's protests, Israel's annexation, Poland's election

Go home, Malians tell president: Tens of thousands of Malians gathered in the streets of the capital city, Bamako, on Friday to demand the resignation of increasingly unpopular President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. In the second mass protest against him in less than a month, demonstrators said they are fed up with rampant corruption, a weak and disgruntled military incapable of stopping rising jihadist attacks, and the government's botched response to the kidnapping of opposition leader Soumaila Cissé by Al Qaeda-linked militants. Keita has led the sprawling West African nation since 2013, when he was elected to fill a power vacuum soon after French troops helped put down an Islamist rebellion in the north. The Economic Community of West African States, a regional political and economic bloc, is urging Keita — reelected in 2018 for a new 5-year term — to form a unity government to end the unrest.

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