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Paige Fusco

What is Turkey thinking?

It’s been over a month since Finland and Sweden applied to join NATO. But despite expectations of a speedy process, the joint bid has been met by an unexpected and troublesome obstacle: Turkey.

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Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan holds a news conference during a NATO summit in Brussels.

REUTERS/Yves Herman

Turkey can't afford to pick fights

Turkey has thrown an eleventh-hour spanner into historic bids by Finland and Sweden to join NATO over supposed terrorist presence in the Nordic countries linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, a militant group Ankara regards as a terrorist organization. On Monday, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan threatened to block the applications. (NATO accession requires approval from all current members of the alliance.)

Erdoğan's tirade aside, NATO's longtime bad boy is expected to ultimately back off without too big a fuss. The Turks will try to get some concessions, and bringing up the Kurds always plays well domestically, but Turkey previously told the Finns and Swedes that it wouldn’t close the door to their NATO membership.

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Natural gas pipeline.

REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/

What We're Watching: Russia cuts off gas, EU cuts off Hungary, Erdogan wants to cut Saudi deal

Is Russia’s gas strategy backfiring?

European natural gas prices soared on Wednesday after Russia turned off the gas taps to Bulgaria and Poland. Both countries, which are members of the EU and NATO, had refused to meet Vladimir Putin's recent demand that any countries deemed "unfriendly" to Moscow must pay for Russian gas in rubles. So far, Hungary is the only EU member state willing to do that, but it accounts for just a tiny portion of overall Russian gas sales to Europe. The bigger problem is whether private companies will defy their governments by agreeing to pay in rubles — and at least four have reportedly agreed to do so. For now, larger European countries like Germany have promised they'll share their gas supplies with Bulgaria and Poland so long as the Russian pipes remain closed. If that solidarity holds, and if the EU continues with plans to dramatically reduce its reliance on Russian gas, Moscow's gas leverage over the Europeans might not be as strong as Putin thought. That said, he may be betting that European consumers — read: voters — won't be willing to put up with higher prices indefinitely, particularly once winter rolls around again. Natural gas stories tend to play out over long periods of time — this one will be no exception.

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Footage released by Ukraine's defense ministry allegedly shows a convoy of Russian military vehicles near Kherson.

EYEPRESS MEDIA LIMITED

Russia takes its first big prize

Russian forces on Wednesday captured their first city since the invasion began, taking control of Kherson. Holding the southern city creates a fresh bridgehead for Putin’s armies to advance north on strategic areas in central Ukraine. Home to 290,000 people, Kherson under Russian military administration could also set the tone for how a wider occupation might go. Fierce fighting continues, meanwhile, around Kharkiv and Kyiv.

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What We're Watching: Chilean beekeepers, bartering in Xian, possible Turkish-Saudi détente

Standing up for the bees in Chile. Chilean beekeepers demonstrated Tuesday outside the presidential palace in Santiago, calling for the government to provide more support for the ailing industry. The protesters set up on the street dozens of hives containing 10,000 bees to draw attention to their plight, and stop police from shutting down the rally. (At least seven police officers were stung.) Beekeepers say that a decade-long “megadrought” has ruined the crops and flowers needed to sustain bees — and they want the government to guarantee honey prices or provide subsidies for producers. This might seem like an obscure agriculture story, but it’s not: bees pollinate some of Chile’s major food exports like avocados, apples and almonds, and thus help sustain an industry worth a whopping $6.46 billion in exports in 2020. Although the government says it has been supporting some communities facing water shortages, the bee industry says it’s not enough. Disgruntled beekeepers might be in luck: the leftist Gabriel Boric, who supports expanding Chile's social safety net, will be sworn in as president in March.

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Annie Gugliotta & Jess Frampton

Top Risks 2022

Every year, Eurasia Group, our parent company, produces its list of the top 10 geopolitical risks for the coming year. The report is authored by Eurasia Group's president, Ian Bremmer, and its chairman, Cliff Kupchan.

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What We're Watching: Poland ditches ban on foreign media, Somalia's power struggle, Erdogan vs Istanbul

Poland backs down on contentious media law. Poland’s populist President Andrzej Duda has vetoed a law that would have barred companies outside of the European Economic Area from owning a stake in Polish media corporations. Critics say the now-nixed law was aimed at silencing US-owned news channel TVN24, which has covered Warsaw’s increasing authoritarian tendencies in recent years. Indeed, Washington was blindsided on December 17 when Poland’s parliament adopted the new law, saying it violates a trade and economic agreement between the two countries. Duda’s ruling Law and Justice Party, meanwhile, which heads one of Europe’s most “illiberal” governments, says the legislation was not aimed at ally Washington, but rather at freezing out hostile actors – like Russia – from its media ecosystem. Duda has been in a tight spot: the nationalist leader previously said he supported the proposed legislation, but he has clearly decided that a deepening row with Washington amid rising inflation and a COVID spike at home is not worth the headache.

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Bocharov Ruchei residence.

Vladimir Smirnov/TASS

In Erdogan’s shoes: What is he thinking?

Recep Tayyip Erdogan has held power in Turkey for almost 20 years, first as prime minister, then as president. With inflation soaring and his currency collapsing, Erdogan’s eccentric ideas about economic policy seem to have made a bad situation worse — but what if we saw things from his perspective? We steal a memo on Erdonomics from deep inside the Turkish Presidential Palace.

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