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A Russian-flagged bulk carrier transits the Bosphorus near Istanbul.

REUTERS/Yoruk Isik

What We're Watching: Black Sea wheat pirates, Kazakh referendum, Korean missile tit-for-tat

Donbas battle rages as stolen wheat hits high seas

Ukrainian and Russian forces are locked in a fierce battle for control of the strategic eastern city of Sievierodonetsk. Taking it would help Russian forces occupy a broader swath of the Donbas. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, visiting frontline troops in nearby Zaporizhzhia, said his men had “a chance” to hold the city despite being outnumbered. The question remains — at what point should Ukraine consider negotiating? Meanwhile, US officials have warned as many as 14 countries that Russian grain ships may arrive with cargos pilfered illegally from Ukraine. Still, amid a growing global food crisis that’s been made worse by the war, are governments really prepared to turn away huge shipments of wheat?

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Protest against the war in Ukraine outside the consulate general of Russia in Almaty.

REUTERS/Shamil Zhumato

“How do we live?” Central Asia treads carefully with Ukraine war

The impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has echoed around the world, but spare a thought for the five former Soviet republics of Central Asia. All have close economic and cultural ties to Russia, but they also have reasons to be wary of what Vladimir Putin has done in Ukraine.

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Ethnic Russians in Ukraine: A Look Back | Quick Take | GZERO Media

Ethnic Russians in Ukraine: A look back

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hi everybody. Ian Bremmer here, kicking off another week.

It's been a month now of a Russian invasion into Ukraine. Things certainly not getting any better on the ground. I could give an update of all of it, but rather than doing that, I wanted to go back to how I started my career as a political scientist, because believe it or not, it was on this issue.

I started my PhD work back in 1989. And as you can imagine, the most interesting thing in the world was that the Wall came down and the Soviet empire was collapsing, and the nationalities of the former Soviet Union were starting to explode. It looked like the whole place was going to come apart. And so that's of course what I did my research on.

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After Kazakhstan, How Will Russia Escalate In Ukraine? | Quick Take | GZERO Media

After Kazakhstan, how will Russia escalate in Ukraine?

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hey everybody, Ian Bremmer here and kicking off the week with some excitement in Kazakhstan and the beginning of the most important bilateral negotiations the US is going to have in some time with the Russians.

First I'll start off on Kazakhstan. It was a surprise to everyone, certainly the Kremlin to find out that suddenly what had started as worker demonstrations that got violent very fast, because fuel prices went up significantly with the Kazakh government, suddenly became nationwide and very violent. And the special forces, the interior forces were basically standing aside. Looks like this... Yes, there's a lot of anger with corruption. There's a lot of anger with a state that's unresponsive to the economic needs of its people. But there was also major elite infighting and Nazarbayev, the former president, the still leader of the Kazakh people, got the short end of the stick. Tried to make a move against Tokayev, failed. His head of intelligence has been removed and arrested. Dozens of Nazarbayev connected oligarchs have fled the country.

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Russia Vladimir Putin takes part in an emergency session of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) Collective Security Council meeting on the normalization of the situation in Kazakhstan on Monday Jan 10, 2022.

Kremlin/EYEPRESS

Kazakhstan & The West Wing in a G-Zero world

The popular 2000s American political drama TV series The West Wing is famous for, among other things, its mostly accurate — albeit idealized — portrayal of the inner workings of US foreign policy. In the final season, outgoing President Jed Bartlet deploys American peacekeepers to stop a war between Russia and China over unrest in… Kazakhstan.

Right now, the Central Asian country is reeling from the worst political turmoil since it broke away from the Soviet Union in 1991. But the current crisis is so far playing out quite differently from the TV war script — in a world that’s a lot more G-Zero than it was in 2006.

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Russian airborne troops soldiers at Chkalovsky Airfield waiting to depart to join the Collective Security Treaty Organisation's peacekeeping force in Kazakhstan.

Russian Defence Ministry/TASS

What We’re Watching: Russians in another Stan, Djokovic drama, Mali sanctions, Europe vs anti-vaxxers

Russia in Kazakhstan. Anti-government clashes in Kazakhstan have gotten increasingly violent, with the death toll now reaching 164 after President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev issued a controversial “shoot without warning” order on Friday. What started as a demonstration against a fuel price hike has since turned into a movement protesting government corruption and authoritarianism — with regional implications. Enter Russia, which responded to the pro-Russia Tokayev’s request for help with about 2,500 “peacekeeping” troops and future deployments being planned under the aegis of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the former Soviet Union’s version of NATO. This comes as Moscow has recently amassed 100,000 troops on the border with Ukraine. The Russians will on Monday start talks with NATO and the US about the ongoing situation with Ukraine, but also discuss enhancing security plans with Kazakhstan, whose northern territory is claimed by Moscow. Russia has been clear about what it wants in Ukraine — for NATO to stop expanding further eastward into the former Soviet states. But what does Vladimir Putin want exactly in Kazakhstan, one of the region’s most energy-rich countries?

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What Unrest in Kazakhstan Means for Russia | French Elections | Europe In :60 | GZERO Media

Kazakhstan unrest could affect Putin's view on Ukraine

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

What's happening in Kazakhstan?

Well, evidently rebellion, revolt, protest, massive threat of survival of the regime. And that's why Russia now are sending in troops. How will this affect Europe? See how it affects his attention towards Ukraine. He has to be worried when he's sitting in the Kremlin about the stability of the entire post-Soviet space. I think we're heading for dramatic weeks.

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L-R: Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Josef Stalin with their advisers at Yalta, in the Crimea, where the Allies decided the future of post-Second World War Europe.

REUTERS

What We’re Watching: No Yalta in 2022, Kazakh turmoil worsens, China needs mRNA jabs

EU warns the US and Russia. EU officials look to be getting nervous about meetings next week between Russia, the US, and NATO. Though NATO representatives from EU member states will be part of the talks, the EU itself was not invited to join. During a visit to Ukraine this week, the EU’s top diplomat warned that “We are no longer in Yalta times,” a reference to the 1945 Yalta agreement among the US, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union that helped to divide post-war Europe into eastern and western blocs. “In this dialogue, there are not two actors alone, not just the US and Russia,” Josep Borrell added. Russia has massed 100,000 troops along its border with Ukraine, and Vladimir Putin has demanded guarantees that NATO not expand to include Ukraine or other former Soviet states. The EU’s comments are intended, in part, to reassure Ukraine that it will not be abandoned to Russian domination. But it’s also a sign that officials in Brussels don’t fully trust US President Joe Biden to protect European rights and interests in bargaining with Putin.

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