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Navalny's health and US-Russia tensions

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody, Ian Bremmer here, kicking off your beautiful spring week from New York City. A little Quick Take. I thought I'd talk today about Russia, going to be in the news this week. Putin doesn't like it when they're out of the news for too long, certainly plenty going on between the US and Russia right now.

I'd say, first of all, to start off, the relationship is in the toilet. We know this. It is the worst it's been since the early '80s. That was true even under Trump. Trump and Putin personally had a pretty good relationship, but Trump wasn't able to get anything really done for the Russians, because both the Republicans in Congress, key members of cabinet under Trump, massive amount of constraints on what Trump could actually do, whether it's trying to bring Russia back into the G7 or recognize Crimea as a part of Russia, or remove or reduce sanctions. None of that actually got done. In fact, the relationship deteriorated over the four years.

But now we've got Biden and the focus is of course, more on human rights. The focus is more on climate change, which means that Russia as a massive energy exporter and particularly in terms of their influence on Eastern Europe and Western Europe on the downstream for gas delivery, for example, something that Biden is much more focused on. So a lot more pressure on the Russians, and the Russians don't care. Their willingness to hit back and show that the Americans are not willing to take any significant risks to constrain the Russians is also fairly significant. And this is playing out in a number of ways.

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Russian military escalation against Ukraine worries Europe

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his view from Europe:

What's going on with Russia and Ukraine?

Well, the Russians are mobilizing quite substantial military forces and transporting them, deploying them along the borders with Ukraine and in Crimea. At the same time, they are stepping up the propaganda warfare against Ukraine and undertaking also information warfare measures. What is this going to lead to? Are they prepared for some sort of direct military action of limited or larger nature? We simply don't know. But it's clearly a situation that is worrying and that we need to watch very carefully indeed.

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Putin's next move won't be a Baltic invasion that could unify NATO

Russian President Vladimir Putin needs a way to boost his popularity at home, but is he likely to launch a military campaign targeting the Baltic states, as Russian studies expert Leon Aron argues in a recent Politico op-ed? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analysts Alex Brideau and Zachary Witlin take out the Red Pen to break down why a Baltic invasion is unlikely to be on Putin's agenda.

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When strongmen move from push to shove

Over the past few years, we've seen three major emerging powers take bold action to right what they say are historical wrongs.

First came Crimea. When the Kremlin decided in 2014 that Western powers were working against Russian interests in Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops to seize the Crimean Peninsula, which was then part of Ukraine. Moscow claimed that Crimea and its ethnic Russian majority had been part of the Russian Empire for centuries until a shameful deal in 1954 made Crimea part of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic. Americans and Europeans imposed sanctions on Russia. But Ukraine is not part of NATO or the EU, and no further action was taken.

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Ukraine Always Get What You Want

Soon Ukrainians will head to the polls to a pick a president. And Putin is paying attention. Ian will dig into it and then dig a whole lot deeper with former U.S. Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul. And of course, we've got your Puppet Regime.

The State of Europe is Strong(ish) with Carl Bildt

"I believe that when history is written on the Crimean conflict, it will be seen as a defeat for Russia."

Carl Bildt, former Swedish Prime Minister and champion of a united Europe, does not mince words when it comes to Vladimir Putin. But when it comes to the state of the European Union today, he is as upbeat as a Swede can be.

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