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PUPPET REGIME: WORLD HIGH | PUPPET REGIME | GZERO Media

World High

At a time when global leaders act like adolescents anyway, Puppet Regime brings you: World High, a new show that sends our presidents and prime ministers back to where they belong... High School!

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This article comes to you from the Signal newsletter team of GZERO Media, a subsidiary of Eurasia Group that offers balanced, nonpartisan reporting, and analysis of foreign affairs.


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Vladimir Putin, Lifeguard (?!) | PUPPET REGIME | GZERO Media

Vladimir Putin, lifeguard (?!)

With the US suffering a massive lifeguard shortage this summer, America's beaches and pools will take just about anyone for the job now.

Watch more PUPPET REGIME!

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A South Korean soldier walks past a TV in Seoul broadcasting a news report on North Korea firing a missile.

REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

What We're Watching: South Korea dangles Kill Chain, frozen Afghan funds thawing

South Korea dusts off "Kill Chain" vs. North

We think a potential nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula would be sparked by a first strike from the North. But what if the South launched a preemptive strike instead? Since Yoon Suk-Yeol was elected South Korea’s president in March, Seoul has been paying more attention to its decade-old “Kill Chain” program, which calls for a series of rapid strikes against key North Korean targets when South Korean intelligence believes Pyongyang is about to attack — possibly also taking out the supreme leader and top generals. Why is Yoon considering this? It’s likely in response to Kim Jong Un developing hypersonic missiles that would give the South less time to respond. Also, Yoon may want a plan B in case the US waivers on its long-term security commitment to South Korea — former US President Donald Trump, for instance, threatened to force Seoul to pay a bigger bill. But it’s a catch-22: knowing that the South Koreans have “Kill Chain” in place could deter Kim from attacking, or it could prompt him to do something drastic while he still thinks he has the upper hand over Seoul.

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North Korea's Kim Jong Un walks away from what state media report is a "new type" of ICBM.

KCNA via REUTERS

Will standing up to North Korea work?

North Korea has engaged in an aggressive spate of missile testing this year. In response, the US and South Korea are changing tack and pushing back against Pyongyang with a more muscular show of force. Washington and Seoul’s robust replies are designed to push Kim Jong Un back to the negotiating table, furthering their quest to denuclearize the Korean peninsula.

But it’s a risky gamble. The fresh approach could convince an isolated and broke North Korea to talk shop, or Kim could double down and conduct his first nuclear test since 2017.

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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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Joe Biden speaks during a joint news conference with South Korean President Yoon Suk-youl in Seoul.

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

In Asia to fix imbalance, Biden talks both guns and butter

In his first presidential trip to Asia, where he is visiting South Korea and Japan as well as huddling with Quad partners, Joe Biden isn’t expected to sign any major trade deals or defense agreements. But America’s commander-in-chief is going to be in China’s neighborhood, shoring up new and old alliances in the region, reminding Beijing that checking the PRC is very much on Washington’s agenda, despite the administration’s attention being taken up by domestic politics and the war in Ukraine.

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A service member of pro-Russian troops stands guard next to a combat vehicle, with the symbol "Z" seen on its side, in Mariupol, Ukraine.

REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

What We're Watching: A rare win for Putin, Chile drafts constitution, North Korea's COVID catastrophe

Putin enjoys rare win in Ukraine

This week brought more bad news for Vladimir Putin and his invasion. Ukrainian fighters have pushed Russians back from the city of Kharkiv, the fight for the Donbas appears to have stalled, and Russian commentators are becoming more open about their country’s military failures on the internet and even on state-controlled TV. But the surrender of hundreds of Ukrainian fighters from a Mariupol steel plant gives Russia a genuinely important win. First, it clears away the final obstacle to establishing a land bridge that connects Russian-occupied Crimea with the Russian border. Second, it’s a big propaganda win for Putin, who insists the war is aimed partly at “de-Nazifying” Ukraine. Many of those who surrendered belong to the Azov Battalion, a group with a history of ultra-nationalist, white-supremacist politics. Ukraine’s government says it hopes the now-captive troops can be traded for captive Russians, but Russia’s parliament may ban any release of Azov prisoners. Ultimately, Putin will decide their fate. Are they most valuable to him as trophies, or as pawns who provide him with an opportunity to appear magnanimous?

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Plumes of smoke rise after a fire erupts at an oil depot in Bryansk, Russia.

REUTERS

What We're Watching: Flames go up in Russia, UN-Russia summit, Kim Jong-un's parade

Flaming coincidences in Russia

Fires, explosions, train derailments, dead executives — there’s a lot of weird stuff happening in Russia lately. Earlier this week, two major oil depots went up in flames in the city of Bryansk, a major support hub for Russian forces just a few hours north of the Ukrainian border by car. Russia says it’s investigating, but top military analysts say the blaze looks like the result of sabotage or an attack by Ukraine. Just three days earlier, a locomotive derailed while traveling along a nearby stretch of rail used to supply the Russian army. That, meanwhile, happened on the same day that fires erupted at a major defense research institute and a chemical plant, both within 100 miles of Moscow. The research institute blaze, which was blamed on faulty wiring, claimed half a dozen lives. Fires in Russia’s poorly maintained Soviet-era buildings aren’t uncommon, but the chattering has begun: were these Ukrainian operations? Sabotage by disgruntled employees? False flag “attacks” staged to rally opinion against Ukraine? We’re watching to see if the trend continues. Meanwhile, another oddity: Russian executives turning up dead in apparent murder-suicides with their families. That fate recently befell former executives from energy giant Gazprombank and Novatek, Russia’s largest independent gas producer. Their deaths are among a number of high-profile oligarch deaths in recent weeks.

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