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Polish soldiers and a local dog walk along the border fence on the Polish-Belarusian border in Usnarz Gorny, Poland.

REUTERS/Kuba Stezycki

Poland boosts defenses, Lithuania secures leadership win

The Eastern front isn’t taking any chances. Faced with cyberattacks, arson attempts, and a migrant crisis manufactured by Minsk, Poland said Monday that it will spend US$2.5 billion on the Shield-East system to beef up its 700-kilometer eastern border with Russia and Belarus. Construction is to be completed by 2028. Shield-East will include anti-drone towers, anti-tank barriers, bunkers, and space for potential minefields, designed to deter possible aggression by Russia.

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Donald Tusk, the chairman of the Civic Platform (PO) opposition party, surrounded by party members, speaks during a press conference in Krakow.

EU drops democracy dispute with Poland

After six years of acrimonious disputes with Warsaw over allegations that the Polish government was rolling back democracy and eroding the rule of law, Brussels is now dropping the issue.

The spat began under the previous Polish government, which was controlled by the right-wing nationalist Law and Justice Party. It introduced judicial reforms that the top EU court ruled had curbed judicial independence. The EU imposed fines, partly blocked access to European budget funds, and initiated sanctions that could have jeopardized Poland’s EU voting rights.

The standoff was complicated by the fact that even as Warsaw squabbled with Brussels over domestic issues, Poland took a lead in supporting Ukraine in its fight against Russia, a major EU foreign policy priority.

Burying the hatchet. The European Commission said Monday that in light of changes made by the centrist Polish government of Donald Tusk, which was elected last year after a season of deeply polarizing campaigns, it would drop the claims, confident that “today marks the opening of a new chapter for Poland.”

That leaves Hungary, governed by the proudly “illiberal” Viktor Orbán, as the only EU country still facing sanctions over rule-of-law violations.

President of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, dressed in the national costume, dances as part of The Day Of Chechen Language celebrations in Grozny April 25, 2010. The Day Of The Chechen Language holiday was established by Kadyrov in 2007 to promote the national language.

REUTERS/S.Dal

Hard Numbers: Chechnya bans beats, Poland’s right stays strong,  Biden cancels student debt (again),  Argentina battles dengue, “Hardest Geezer” runs Africa

116: Can you feel the beat? If you’re in Chechnya, from now on you are only rocking between 80 and 116 beats per minute. That’s because a new law bans any music faster or slower than that range. The Goldilocks move, taken by the quasi-Islamist dictatorship of Ramzan Kadyrov, aims to shield the North Caucasus republic – which is part of Russia – from insidious Western influences. But don’t worry – as GZERO design captain Ari Winkleman points out, you can still listen to Radiohead’s “Creep” (92 bpm) on repeat in the streets of Grozny.

52.5: Polish PM Donald Tusk’s centrist governing coalition won just 52.5% of the vote in Sunday’s municipal elections, a narrow victory that underscored the persistent strength of the far-right Law and Justice Party, which took close to 34%, the largest share of any single party. Tusk’s coalition ousted Law and Justice from national power in bitterly fought general elections last fall but has continued to clash with the party over rule-of-law issues and appointments ever since.

25 million: The Biden administration on Monday announced a sweeping new program of student debt forgiveness that it said would give relief to some 25 million borrowers, including those who are either facing economic hardship, owe more now than they did at the start of their payback periods, or who have had debt for more than 20 years. The new plan replaces an earlier one that was struck down by the Supreme Court but is expected to face some legal challenges of its own.

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Putin using Moscow attack as excuse to intensify war on Ukraine
Putin using Moscow attack as excuse to intensify war on Ukraine | Ian Bremmer | Quick Take

Putin using Moscow attack as excuse to intensify war on Ukraine

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

A Quick Take to kick off your week. Lots we could be talking about. But I want to go to Russia, where we have had a major terrorist attack with over 130 Russian citizens gunned down, killed by terrorists.

The United States has warned the Russians both publicly so that American citizens would know about the concern, but also with actionable intelligence privately over the past couple of weeks that ISIS was planning an attack on an area with major crowds in Moscow. Putin publicly dismissing that, kind of wish he hadn't, but that we are where we are. And Putin has now spoken to the nation. There have been a number of gunmen that have been rounded up and arrested four, that we know of, Tajik citizens and Putin did not mention that ISIS has taken credit for this terrorist attack, nor that they then released videos of some of the attackers as they were engaging in terrorism inside the rock concert venue.

Instead, he spoke implausibly about links to Ukraine that don't actually exist. Why would ISIS-K do this? I mean, the main reason is because one of their two home bases, Syria and Iraq, in Syria, destroyed by Bashar al-Assad with the direct help from Putin and the Russian military. Nobody else doing that with Assad on the ground. And there have been many terrorist attempts against Russians as a consequence in that regard, but none with spectacular success for them like we've just witnessed.

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Farmers Gather To Protest In Warsaw. Polish farmers hold a banner that reads Stop poisoned food from Ukraine in Polish shops in Warsaw, Poland, on February 27, 2024.

Ukraine accepts EU trade restrictions to appease Poland

In an attempt to ease tensions with their Polish neighbors, Kyiv says it is prepared to accept EU restrictions on Ukrainian agriculture exports.

The situation: Following Russia’s invasion two years ago, the EU showed solidarity to Kyiv by slashing agriculture tariffs on Ukraine, a leading grain exporter. As a result, Ukrainian grain flooded Poland and other neighboring markets, undercutting local prices.

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Admiral Rob Bauer, seen here in Tallinn, Estonia, in September 2022.

REUTERS/Janis Laizans

NATO bares its teeth

Almost two years after Russia’s invasion, Ukraine’s existential battle continues. The static frontlines look a lot like a stalemate, and US public and political opinions toward further funding for Ukraine are in doubt, but fears of regional escalation remain. Just this week, for example, the Belarusian defense minister said he would put forward a new military doctrine allowing for the use of nuclear weapons.

In response to possible aggression falling into NATO territory, the alliance is hellbent on preparedness. Addressing fellow NATO leaders in Brussels on Wednesday, Admiral Rob Bauer, chair of the NATO Military Committee, warned of the need to prepare for an era “in which anything can happen at any time. An era in which we need to expect the unexpected.” Bauer and his colleagues are meeting to discuss attempts to do just that with Steadfast Defender, the largest military exercise in Europe since the Cold War.

Showing off friendly muscle. The NATO training exercises, to be held from February to June in Germany, Poland, and the Baltics, will involve more than 40,000 troops from across the 31-nation alliance (plus pending member Sweden). The work will test the troops’ ability to quickly mobilize in case of a Russian attack while showing off the alliance’s strength and unity.

Not to be outdone, Russia will also host military drills this year with “Ocean-2024,” bringing together all branches of the Russian Armed Forces and units of “foreign states,” according to Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

Donald Tusk, the chairman of the Civic Platform (PO) party.

(Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto)

The showdown continues in Poland

You might’ve thought that Donald Tusk and his pro-EU party’s victory in Poland’s election last October had resolved the issue of who will control Poland’s policy direction in the near term. But longtime rival Jarosław Kaczyński, now leader of Poland’s populist opposition, has organized large street protests against the Tusk government.
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Zelensky's US trip likely to secure aid for Ukraine
Ukraine aid: Zelensky's US trip key to more funding for Russia war | Ian Bremmer | World in :60

Zelensky's US trip likely to secure aid for Ukraine

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

Will Zelensky's US visit lead to more aid for Ukraine?

I think so. Unclear why he had to go to Argentina for Milei's inauguration just before. That feels decidedly B-list for a guy that's running a war. But the US trip is important. And of course, he's seeing all of the senate Dems and Republicans, speaker of the House, as well as Biden and a bunch of defense contractors. Biden really wants this to happen. So do leaders of the Democratic and Republican Party. Biden has to compromise for support, both money as well as policy compromise on border security to get the Republicans to support it. I expect that will happen. So on balance, it's close, but I think you're going to get additional military support and cash from the Americans for 2024. That does not allow the Ukrainians to take more territory back, but it does allow them to maintain their existing defenses, which is pretty important.

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