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General view of Severodonetsk from the last floor of a damaged building in the outskirts of the city.

Rick Mave / SOPA Images/Sipa USA via Reuters Connect

What We’re Watching: Russian progress in Ukraine, gun ban plans in Canada, DRC-Rwanda tensions

Ukraine update: Is the war really shifting?

In recent days, Russian forces have made incremental gains in the Donbas. Vladimir Putin’s military now controls most of Luhansk province, and they are close to taking the strategic city of Severodonetsk, which would open the way to a wider Russian occupation of Donetsk province. Russia has shifted strategy in recent weeks, withdrawing from areas it couldn’t hold around Kyiv and Kharkiv to focus on more limited objectives in the East and South. Some military analysts warn that Russia’s recent gains are still coming at a very high cost in terms of human losses and morale. But even these slight shifts in the winds of war have raised fresh questions in the EU and US about what comes next. Driving Russia out of the east and south does not seem immediately possible. And although Washington continues to send Ukraine advanced weapons, US President Joe Biden on Monday said he would exclude rockets that could strike into Russian territory. After more than three months of war, the Ukrainians are still fighting like hell to defend their country and their democracy, but it’s no clearer yet what a reasonably achievable endgame looks like for Ukraine, for its Western backers, or for Moscow.

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German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Volodymyr Selenskyj, President of Ukraine, give a press conference

Kay Nietfeld/DPA

What We're Watching: Scholz in Moscow, Trudeau invokes Emergencies Act, a crucial Russian vote

Is there a dog for Olaf Scholz in Moscow? The German chancellor will sit down with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Tuesday as fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine continue to mount. On Monday, Scholz met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv, and they both downplayed the possibility of Ukraine joining NATO. Such expansion of the alliance is a red line for Putin, who has massed more than 100,000 troops along Ukraine’s border and demanded assurances from Washington that NATO will stop expanding eastward. Scholz has said Berlin will back strong sanctions against Moscow in the event of an invasion, but Germany is also heavily dependent on Russian gas, a vulnerability that Putin will doubtless look to exploit. We’re watching to see how Putin handles the new German leader. At his first head of state meeting with Scholz’s predecessor, Angela Merkel, Putin famously brought his black lab Konni despite knowing the German Chancellor was afraid of dogs. What awaits Scholz?

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A truck sits near Parliament Hill as truckers protest COVID vaccine mandates in Ottawa.

REUTERS/Patrick Doyle

Freedom Convoy or disorder fleet?

Canada’s picturesque capital isn’t known for high-stakes political protests and standoffs with police. But for many days, Ottawa has been paralyzed by the Freedom Convoy, a fleet of some 500 trucks whose drivers crossed the country to protest a new federal law requiring all unvaccinated truckers to quarantine when returning from the US.

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Flags of the U.S., Canada and Mexico fly next to each other in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. August 29, 2018.

REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

What We’re Watching: Three Amigos reunion, Taliban are broke

The "Three Amigos" at the White House. On Thursday, Joe Biden will host the first US-Mexico-Canada summit since 2016, when Donald Trump scrapped the regular "Three Amigos" gathering, as it's known. This year the trilateral summit will focus on deepening economic cooperation among the three members of NAF— sorry, the "USMCA" free trade area. But expect Biden to get an earful from Canadian PM Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador about the "Buy American" aspects of his Build Back Better agenda, which could hurt Canadian and Mexican exporters. In particular, the Canadians and Mexicans are worried about Biden's plan to give tax credits to US-made electric vehicles. It's another example of how green policies can often raise red flags about protectionism as countries vie for leadership in climate-friendly technologies. We'll be watching to see how the three leaders iron out their differences, and also whether Steve, Chevy, and Martin show up for laughs.

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Biden's UN Speech Avoids China Mention | US Lifts Travel Restrictions | World In :60 | GZERO Media

Biden's UN speech avoids China mention; US lifts travel restrictions

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week with a look at US President Biden's UN General Assembly speech, eased US travel restrictions, and Canadian PM Trudeau's election gamble.

How did President Biden's first address to the United Nations General Assembly live go?

It was okay. I thought it was very notable that China was not directly mentioned at all. So my mother used to say, if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything. Did say that the US didn't want to be in a "Cold War". That's notable, because a lot of people out there are pushing in that direction in the US and in China. Certainly it was all about multilateral leadership. The Americans want to do more. We want collective leadership. We care about values. We care about democracy, but increasingly not seen as credible by a number of Europeans, as well as by the developing world, particularly when it comes to Afghanistan, COVID, and climate. Can't just say the words, have to have a pathway to get there. It's getting more challenging for the Americans. This is a tough UNGA meeting.

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Testing Trudeau's star power

On Monday, Canada's liberal hunk of a PM heads into early elections that no one seems to have wanted... except for him.

When Justin Trudeau announced the move back on August 15, many people questioned the wisdom of holding a national election amid the economic and public health upheavals of the pandemic. "Read the room, Justin," was a common quip, with many saying the early vote was irresponsible from a public health perspective.

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Reuters

Why are Canadians heading to the polls again next month?

In a bid to capitalize on sustained high public support, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called a snap election for 20 September, less than two years since the last national vote. Initial polling suggests that Trudeau's Liberal Party has a good chance of recapturing the majority in parliament it lost in 2019, though much will depend on how the campaign evolves.

Still, one thing is clear: This is Trudeau's election to lose. If he is successful in scooping up enough new seats in parliament, that will give the Liberals four more years to execute an agenda that goes big on recovery spending, climate change, and social and health programs. It could prove a risky gamble, however, if he fails. Mikaela McQuade, director at Eurasia Group, explains what to expect.

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A view shows houses destroyed following a 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Les Cayes, Haiti August 14, 2021.

REUTERS/Ralph Tedy Erol

What We’re Watching: Haiti trembles, Canada's snap election, Malaysia’s political mess

Haiti quake aftermath: If you thought things couldn't possibly get worse for Haiti, they just did. The chronically unstable country, still reeling from the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, was literally shaken on Saturday by a magnitude 7.2 earthquake that has killed upwards of 1,400 people and destroyed at least 14,000 homes. What's more, Haitians are now also bracing for a tropical depression that will likely cause floods and landslides in quake-hit areas. Many foreign governments and aid groups have already sent some aid, though many are fearful of a repeat of the situation 11 years ago, when another powerful earthquake devastated the capital, but the assistance was poorly coordinated and failed to reach Haitians that needed it most, and a subsequent cholera outbreak was blamed on UN peacekeepers. When the humanitarian aid does trickle in, the gangs that control large swaths of Haiti say they'll let it through. It's a devastating blow to a country where around two-thirds of people live in poverty.

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