Putin's strings attached: As protesters continued to throng the streets of Minsk, Belarus' strongman Alexander Lukashenko traveled to Moscow earlier this week to seek support from longtime frenemy Vladimir Putin. During a meeting in which body language told much of the story — the burly Lukashenko uncomfortably beseeching Putin who sat stone-faced in a dread manspread — the Russian President said he'd throw his Belarusian counterpart a $1.5 billion emergency loan. But he also pressured Lukashenko to open the way to fresh elections. That's something that the Belarusian president has resisted so far — after all, the current unrest came in response to his rigging of the August election, and it's hardly clear that he would win a redo. That may be precisely the point, from Putin's perspective. He has disliked Lukashenko for years, but the last thing he wants is for street protesters to depose him, which might give Russians some crazy ideas of their own. But a reasonably fair vote might be just the way to get rid of Lukashenko. What's more, the Belarusian opposition has been careful not to alienate Russia, meaning a change of power wouldn't necessarily hurt the Kremlin's interests. What will Lukashenko do? $1.5 billion can buy a lot of vodka and saunas.
Global approval for US leadership has dropped since Donald Trump was elected president in 2016 — but not equally across regions, according to an annual Gallup survey. The decline has been steeper in the Americas, Asia and Europe than in Africa, where approval for US leadership has dipped slightly under Trump but not as much as over the last seven years of the Obama administration. One reason that could explain the diversion is that Africa is rarely on Trump's radar, giving the US president less opportunity to make deeply polarizing statements about countries there, compared to other regions where he regularly antagonizes individual countries and their leaders. We compare the average US global leadership approval rates across world regions for the last ten years.
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This week Ian talks trade wars and TPP. Then he sits down with U.S. Senator Chris Coons to discuss the politics of instability around the world and in Washington, DC. And of course, we've got your Puppet Regime.
"Nuclear war with the United States would be survivable."
A North Korean minder (and father of two) casually mentioned this to The New Yorker foreign correspondent Evan Osnos during a particularly boozy dinner in Pyongyang last August.
Thank god for soju.