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Wikileaks founder Julian Assange looks out a plane window as he reportedly approaches Bangkok airport for a layover.

Wikileaks via X/via Reuters

Assange to go free in plea deal

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was released from a UK prison on Tuesday and is on his way to the remote Northern Mariana Islands, where he’s expected to plead guilty to a conspiracy charge as part of a plea deal with the US Justice Department. This will reportedly allow him to return to Australia as a free man.

A complex legacy. As the 16-year battle comes to a close, Assange will either be remembered as a champion for freedom of information or a dangerous vigilante.

In 2009, he conspired to use his WikiLeaks website to disclose tens of thousands of activity reports about US involvement in the Middle East in what was by far the largest leak of classified information in American history. Then. in 2016, Wikileaks released thousands of emails stolen by Russian hackers from the Democratic National Committee at the height of Hillary Clinton’s battle with Donald Trump for the US presidency in a leak credited with helping sink her candidacy.

After five years of court hearings, Assange has been charged with conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defense information. He is expected to be sentenced to 62 months, with credit for time served in a British prison, meaning he would be free to return to his home country of Australia.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 23, 2021: Demonstrators march through central London in solidarity with Julian Assange ahead of next week's US extradition appeal hearing at the High Court on October 23, 2021 in London, England.

WIktor Szymanowicz via Reuters Connect

Assange’s last stand?

A British court has ruled that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has the right to appeal his extradition to the United States on espionage charges. The British judges said they did not find assurances from US courts credible when it came to his rights under the First Amendment. This means he likely won't be immediately deported if his extradition is nonetheless ordered at his next hearing, the date of which has not been scheduled.
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Why is Julian Assange in the news again?
Why is Julian Assange in the news again? | Ian Bremmer | World In :60

Why is Julian Assange in the news again?

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week on World In :60.

What's left to sanction with Russia and have existing sanctions been effective?

There's very little left to sanction with Russia that the Americans and their allies want to sanction. I mean, you could try to cut off Russian oil exports to, say, India, but no one wants to do that because that would cause a global recession. Food, fertilizer, same thing. At the end of the day, the sanctions that the West can put on Russia without a massive impact to themselves and the world they've already put. But because Biden said there'd be hell to pay if anything happened to Navalny in jail and he's dead now, and it's pretty clear the Russians, the Kremlin killed him. That means they have to sound tough. But ultimately, the only thing that is changing Russian behavior is the provision of significant military support to the Ukrainians, and that is determined by US Congress going forward.

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Demonstrators protest outside London s Royal Courts of Justice on February 20, 2024, as the court hears WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange s final UK appeal against extradition to the US.

Louis Delbarre / Hans Lucas.

Julian Assange, explained

In a two-day hearing this week, Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, made a last-ditch effort to avoid extradition from the UK to the US, where he could be charged with spying and punished for exposing top-level government secrets.

His lawyers argued that the extradition case is politically motivated and an assault on freedom of speech and press. If he loses, the only remaining block to extradition lies with the European Court of Human Rights, which has already dismissed two applications from him in 2015 and 2022.

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Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks by video link during NATO's annual parliamentary assembly in Madrid, Spain.

Europa Press/ABACA via Reuters Connect

What We’re Watching: NATO doubles down on Ukraine, Erdoğan mulls Syria ground operation, Chinese COVID protests mellow, news outlets make Assange petition

Lasting support for Ukraine?

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin hoped for a quick victory that would disarm Ukraine and replace its government. Ukrainian fighters, backed and armed by NATO governments, have shredded Putin’s Plan A. His Plan B is to inflict punishment on Ukrainian civilians with attacks on the infrastructure that provides light and heat during the cold, dark winter ahead to try to divide opinion in Europe and the United States over their long-term support for Ukraine’s government. That’s the backdrop for two noteworthy pieces of news this week. On Tuesday, NATO foreign ministers, gathered in Bucharest, will renew their vow, first made in 2008, that Ukraine will one day join their alliance. In the meantime, individual member states will offer more weapons, perhaps including US small precision bombs fitted to rockets that help Ukraine strike enemy targets deep behind Russian lines. The alliance itself will offer electricity generators, fuel, and medical supplies. The message to Moscow: You won’t win a war of attrition. Ukraine’s allies will boost that country’s defenses for as long as it takes to deny Russia a victory.

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