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Navalny's health and US-Russia tensions

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody, Ian Bremmer here, kicking off your beautiful spring week from New York City. A little Quick Take. I thought I'd talk today about Russia, going to be in the news this week. Putin doesn't like it when they're out of the news for too long, certainly plenty going on between the US and Russia right now.

I'd say, first of all, to start off, the relationship is in the toilet. We know this. It is the worst it's been since the early '80s. That was true even under Trump. Trump and Putin personally had a pretty good relationship, but Trump wasn't able to get anything really done for the Russians, because both the Republicans in Congress, key members of cabinet under Trump, massive amount of constraints on what Trump could actually do, whether it's trying to bring Russia back into the G7 or recognize Crimea as a part of Russia, or remove or reduce sanctions. None of that actually got done. In fact, the relationship deteriorated over the four years.

But now we've got Biden and the focus is of course, more on human rights. The focus is more on climate change, which means that Russia as a massive energy exporter and particularly in terms of their influence on Eastern Europe and Western Europe on the downstream for gas delivery, for example, something that Biden is much more focused on. So a lot more pressure on the Russians, and the Russians don't care. Their willingness to hit back and show that the Americans are not willing to take any significant risks to constrain the Russians is also fairly significant. And this is playing out in a number of ways.

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Alexei Navalny's jail sentence; EU slow on vaccine distribution

Ian Bremmer discusses the World In (more than) 60 Seconds:

First, what's the update with Alexei Navalny?

The, well-liked around the world, very popular among the West, less so in Russia, but still the closest thing you have to real opposition to Putin in the country, just got a three-and-a-half-year jail sentence. Some of that is house arrest, but most of it is actually in prison, and this is a much harder line than we've seen before with suspended sentences and house arrest, and clearly, it's because Navalny has become more of a household name and has caused more of a problem for President Putin at a time when President Putin's approval ratings are lower than they were. They're in their low 60s, which in Russia is not so great for Putin, and the economy is doing worse, and people are angrier about their pensions that aren't worth as much and wages that don't go as far, and Navalny has done everything he can, including flying back to Russia after not dying from the poisoning attempt at the hands of what almost certainly was the Russian Special Service.

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Putin's gulag gamble with Navalny

The Kremlin is taking zero chances with opposition leader Alexei Navalny. On Tuesday, a Moscow court sentenced him to nearly three years in prison for violating the terms of his parole in connection with an earlier graft conviction.

To refresh, Navalny is Vladimir Putin's most prominent critic. He is an outspoken anti-corruption crusader who was poisoned, allegedly by state officials, in Russia last fall. After recovering in Germany, he returned to Russia where he was promptly arrested. Since then, there have been two weekends of relatively small, but uncommonly widespread, protests across Russia in his support.

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What We're Watching: Putin's next move, jabs for Palestinians, Wine goes to court in Uganda

What next for Navalny? Thousands of protesters supporting jailed Russian dissident Alexei Navalny braved an overwhelming police response on Sunday, turning out in more than 80 cities across the country to demand his release from prison. It was the second protest to occur in the two weeks since Navalny was jailed after his return from Germany, and more than 5,000 people were arrested nationwide. The intensity of the police response shows the Kremlin is taking no chances with the protesters, even though their numbers are still relatively small — nowhere near, say, the hundreds of thousands who poured into the streets of Belarus' capital last fall. And it's hard to imagine Vladimir Putin agreeing to release Navalny under pressure from the streets. In fact, it looks like his kangaroo courts are gearing up to lock up the nettlesome anti-corruption crusader and throw away the key. Europe and the US have threatened action if that happens, but sanctions against Russia have proved ineffective in the past. Lacking a political party in a system that is rigged for the party in power anyway, Navalny only has the streets: can they really shake things up enough from below that power starts to crack at the top?

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Quick Take: Pro-Navalny Russian protests make Putin defensive; AMLO's COVID diagnosis

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Russian opposition leader Navalny in jail. Hundreds of thousands demonstrating across the country in Russia over well over 100 cities, well over 3000 arrested. And Putin responding by saying that this video that was put out that showed what Navalny said was Putin's palace that costs well over a billion dollars to create and Putin, I got to say, usually he doesn't respond to this stuff very quickly. Looked a little defensive, said didn't really watch it, saw some of it, but it definitely wasn't owned by him or owned by his relatives.

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Putin’s nemesis

Over the weekend, some 40,000 people in Moscow and thousands more across Russia braved subzero temperatures to turn out in the streets in support of imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. More than 3,000 protesters were arrested, and Navalny called on his followers to prepare for more action in the coming weeks.

But just who is Alexei Navalny, and how significant is the threat that he may pose to Vladimir Putin's stranglehold on power in Russia?

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Anti-corruption protests will rattle Russian regime

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective on the recent protests in Russia on Europe In 60 Seconds:

What's happening in Russia?

What we saw yesterday in Russia was, of course, massive demonstration. And what was most surprising was, they were all over the place. I mean, in more than 100 locations was demonstrated on social media, was demonstrated in fairly big numbers. Not that people are necessarily surprised that there is high level corruption, they knew that, but now they seemingly demonstrated. Navalny's video has been seen by now, close to 85 million people. That's a lot. And it has demonstrated the utter incompetence of the regime. Will it change? Well, I think there will be more repression, sorry to say, that's the only way the regime can react short-term. But I think it will rattle the internal structures of the regime. They're clearly mishandling the issue. And I think there are lots of people also in the inside who are not entirely happy with the corrupt clique that is so powerful in Russia.

Keystone XL halt is no threat to US-Canada ties under Biden; Brazil's vaccine shortage

Ian Bremmer discusses the World In (more than) 60 Seconds:

Biden's first scheduled call with a world leader will be with Canada's Justin Trudeau. What's going on with the Keystone Pipeline?

Well, Biden said that that's it. Executive order, one of the first is that he will stop any construction or development of the Keystone Pipeline. This is of course an oil pipeline that would allow further oil sands oil to come to the United States. The infrastructure is significantly overstretched, it's led to backlogs, inefficiency, accidents, all the rest, but it also facilitates more energy development and keeps prices comparatively down if you get it done. So, there are lots of reasons why the energy sector in Canada wants it. Having said all of that, Trudeau, even though he's been a supporter of Keystone XL, let's keep in mind that he did not win support in Alberta, which is where the big energy patch in Canada is located. This is a real problem for the government of Alberta, Canada is a very decentralized federal government, even more so than the United States. The premier of Alberta is immensely unhappy with Biden right now, they've taken a $1.5 billion equity stake in the project. I expect there will actually be litigation against the United States by the government of Alberta. But Trudeau is quite happy with Biden, his relationship was Trump was always walking on eggshells. The USMCA in negotiations ultimately successful but were very challenging for the Canadians, so too with the way Trump engaged in relations on China. All of this, the fact that Trump left the nuclear agreement with Iran, the Paris Climate Accords, WHO, all of that is stuff that Trudeau strongly opposed. He's going to be much more comfortable with this relationship. He's delighted that the first call from Biden is to him. And it certainly creates a level of normalcy in the US-Canada relationship that is very much appreciated by our neighbors to the North.

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