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What We’re Watching: Biden and Putin chat, Scholz takes the reins in Germany, Remain in Mexico returns, Pécresse enters the French fray, Suu Kyi learns her fate

World War III or nah? US President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin are set to speak by phone on Tuesday, as the crisis surrounding Ukraine gets dicier by the day. Russia has massed more than 100,000 troops along its border with the country, and the US is warning that Putin is gearing up to invade soon, though the underlying intel isn’t public. No one is quite sure what Putin’s up to with this stunt. Is he trying to pressure Kyiv into moving ahead with the lopsided (but probably best possible) Minsk peace accords of 2015? Or is the Kremlin seeking a broader NATO commitment not to expand further? Or does Putin actually want to invade Ukraine? Either way, Biden has his work cut out for him. Putin is clearly more comfortable risking lives and money to preserve a sphere of influence in Ukraine than the West is, so the US president has to be careful: don’t set out any red lines that NATO isn’t willing to back, but also don’t push the situation into a broader war that no one (ideally) wants.

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What We're Watching: Suu Kyi's verdict in Myanmar

Suu Kyi's first verdict handed down. On Monday, a Myanmar court sentenced deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi to four years in prison for breaking COVID rules and incitement. Suu Kyi faces 11 charges in total, including corruption and leaking state secrets – which could land her in prison for more than 100 years. The UN has said the charges are a sham meant to secure the military junta’s hold on power. To date, the trial has been closed to the media, while Suu Kyi’s lawyers have also been banned from making public statements. Suu Kyi, who is seen by many in Myanmar as the only politician that can steer the country’s full democratic transition, has not been seen in public since the coup. Since then, the military has been accused of human rights violations for cracking down on peaceful anti-junta demonstrators, resulting in at least 1,200 deaths. Just this past weekend, the military rammed vehicles into a group of demonstrators, injuring dozens. The UN has warned that armed groups are training in jungles to overthrow the military, and that the country is on the cusp of full-blown civil war.

Myanmar migrant workers protesting against the military junta hold a picture of leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a candlelight vigil at a Buddhist temple in Bangkok, Thailand.

REUTERS/Jorge Silva

What We’re Watching: Suu Kyi on trial, Blinken in Israel, Mali coup 2.0

Suu Kyi in the dock: Myanmar's former leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday made her first court appearance since the military coup that deposed her last February. Suu Kyi, 75, faces uncorroborated charges — ranging from illegally importing walkie-talkies to breaching COVID rules — that could put her behind bars for the rest of her life. The National League for Democracy, Suu Kyi's political party that defended her in court, is now also at risk as the military junta is trying to dissolve it — mainly because it trounced the pro-military party in the December parliamentary election. Myanmar's generals seem to think that they can go back in time to the days of complete dominance if they throw Suu Kyi in jail and ban the NLD. But they may be underestimating the popular appetite for democratic change in a country where the military is as powerful as it is unpopular. Whatever the junta decrees, expect the NLD to continue its political activities underground and in exile.

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US Sanctions on Russia Don't Hit Hard | Nicolas Sarkozy Found Guilty | World In :60 | GZERO Media

US sanctions on Russia don't hit hard; Nicolas Sarkozy found guilty

Ian Bremmer discusses the World In (a little over) 60 Seconds:

The Biden administration announced its first sanctions. How will it affect US-Russia relations?

Not very much. About as bad as they were under the Trump administration, even though Trump personally wanted to be aligned with Putin, the administration was not. This is the same approach on sanctions as we've seen from the European Union, they could go a lot harder. It's not sector level. It's not major state enterprises. It's a few Russian officials that were involved in the chemical program for Russia. And at the end of the day, the Russians are annoyed, but they're not going to hit back. That's that. Okay.

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Myanmar Military Unlikely To Back Down | New US Ambassador To UN | World In :60 | GZERO Media

Myanmar military unlikely to back down; challenges for the new US ambassador to the UN

Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics this week:

With protests growing, where does that leave the Myanmar coup?

Well, certainly no feeling on the part of the military that they need to back down under either domestic or international pressure. There's been relatively limited violence, thankfully so far. A few protesters have been killed. They've used tear gas, they've used water cannons, but much less of a crackdown than certainly they're capable of or that we've seen from the Myanmar military historically. That, of course, gives the protesters on the ground more incentive to think that they have success, and they can continue.

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Aung San Suu Kyi stencil art outside a garage in Bangkok, Thailand.

What We’re Watching: Suu Kyi charged, Draghi back in Italy, Russian jabs for (some) Ukrainians

Myanmar junta charges Suu Kyi: Days after taking over in a coup, the newly minted military rulers in Myanmar have slapped Aung San Suu Kyi, the country's recently deposed de facto leader, with a flurry of frivolous charges. Among other grave offenses, the Nobel laureate is accused of a vague conspiracy to illegally import walkie-talkies for legal cover to justify her long-term arrest pending an eventual trial. Meanwhile, Western countries are calling for her release because they are "concerned" about the erosion of democracy in Myanmar. But virtue-signaling and even threats of new international sanctions from the US and the EU are unlikely to move the generals, who can look to their trusted allies in China and Russia after they both blocked a UN condemnation of the putsch. We're watching to see how long the West will continue to be interested in Suu Kyi and Myanmar, and how the junta balances forging stronger ties with Beijing without becoming China's puppet.

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Ian Bremmer: Myanmar’s Military Coup Is Nothing Like The US Insurrection | Quick Take | GZERO Media

Quick Take: Myanmar’s military coup is nothing like the US insurrection

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here. I've got your Quick Take kicking off the week. Plenty of things we could talk about, but I thought we would actually discuss Myanmar, because it's not generally something in the news. And yet just this weekend, we had a successful military coup and immediately of course you see Americans say, "Hey, that's just like what happened in the United States, could have been us." And the answer is no, no. What happened in the US was an insurrection that failed, but it was not a coup and the reason it was not a coup is because the military played absolutely no role. In fact, all of the former secretaries of defense said that Democrat and Republican, that it was a free and fair election, and that Biden was going to be president. That needed to be respected. The joint chiefs wrote their letter together saying that it was critical to stand for the constitution.

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Protest against the coup in Myanmar in front of the country's embassy in Bangkok, Thailand.

REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

Myanmar generals turn back the clock

After weeks of saber-rattling, Myanmar's military took power on Monday. Aung San Suu Kyi and the entire leadership of her incumbent National League for Democracy party are now under arrest. The coup ends a five-year democratic experiment in a country where generals are used to calling the shots.

How did we get here, why was democracy so short-lived, and what happens next?

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