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Putin is still winning

At first glance, it's been a tumultuous few weeks for Russia's president Vladimir Putin.

There have been large anti-Kremlin protests in Russia's Far East. Putin critic Alexei Navalny has survived an assassination attempt that many now blame squarely on Russia's president. Turmoil in neighboring Belarus reminds many of the troubles Russia faced six years ago in Ukraine.

Look more closely, and Putin is sitting prettier than you'd think.

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The US COVID response under Trump was not "merely mediocre"

An op-ed in the New York Times says that the US coronavirus response under President Trump was mediocre, but not catastrophic, when compared to the response of other countries. But the "peer country" examples selected by columnist Ross Douthat don't paint an accurate picture. Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Scott Rosenstein take issue with Douthat's argument on this edition of The Red Pen (where we keep op-eds honest.)

Today, we're taking our red pen to a recent piece from New York Times columnist Ross Douthat. The title is provocative, "How Many Lives Would a More Normal President Have Saved?" It sounds like Douthat is about to go big on the failure of President Trump's response to the pandemic. But no, that's just the headline. In reality, what he's saying is it isn't a catastrophe and may end up just being, meh, especially when you compare the US to peer nations. Not so fast, Ross. Let's break down the argument and get out the red pen.

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Pressures on CDC for November COVID vaccine release

Jon Lieber, who leads Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares his perspective on US politics.

How does the CDC look in advising states to prepare for an early November COVID vaccine release?

Well, there's two things going on here. The first is the pressure that the scientists and doctors working in the private sector and the federal government feel to get a vaccine out so we can all return to our normal lives. The second thing that's going on here is the political pressure coming from the White House to get a vaccine out the door so that President Trump can argue that he's returned things to normal. It's unclear which one of those pressures is pushing the CDC to action right now. It's possible that a vaccine is ready for an emergency use authorization by early November. But if the data doesn't support that it's safe, there's going to be a lot of blowback from the public health community, which could in turn undermine confidence in the public to actually take the vaccine when it comes out it is safe. So this is a big issue to keep your eye on.

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Putin's vaccine gamble

"Go ahead, take it," President Putin says to you.

"Take what?" you ask.

"This Covid vaccine," he continues, turning a small syringe over in his hands. "It's safe. Trust me. We… tested it on my daughter."

Would you do it? Russian President Vladimir Putin is betting that a lot of people will say yes. On Tuesday he announced that Russia has become the first country to register a COVID-19 vaccine, and that mass vaccinations will begin there in October.

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Lebanon won't get the billions they need without structural reform

Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics on this week's World In (More Than) 60 Seconds:

The Lebanese government resigns. What's next for Lebanon?

Well, not a lot of money. They need billions. I mean, $3 billion minimum just to rebuild the damage from the explosion, plus the billions because their economy is in freefall, and their banking system sucks, and their sanitation system doesn't work, and they're massively corrupt. And the humanitarian UN conference has thrown a couple hundred million at them, but nowhere near the billions they need. That requires major reform, which is being demanded by the people, and the IMF, and President Macron, who's sort of taking the lead in trying to build some international support for Lebanon. But, you know, a lot of people have problems right now. A lot of people need help. And if the Lebanese government that finally comes together is not more effective at structural reform, which is super challenging in a place that's massively corrupt, well, they're not going to get a lot of money. So this is going to be borne on the backs of Lebanese people. The one thing I will say is it's hard to imagine Hezbollah getting stronger in this environment. They are seen as part of the problem. And maybe this helps shake loose both them and the Iranian influence, which does not help the Lebanese people at all over that country.

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