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6 months of Russia's war in Ukraine

Wednesday marks 31 years since Ukraine declared independence from the former Soviet Union. But it’s also the grim six-month anniversary of Russia bringing total war back to Europe with its invasion of Ukraine. The EU and US responded by vowing to apply maximum pressure on the Kremlin to get the Russian military to back down.

So far, the results have been mixed. What have both sides gained – and lost – since war erupted?

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From left to right, the presidents of Russia (Vladimir Putin), Iranian (Ebrahim Raisi), and Turkey (Recep Tayyip Erdogan) hold talks in Tehran.

utnik/Sergei Savostyanov/Pool via REUTERS

What We're Watching: Tehran trilateral, EU food jitters, Sri Lankan presidential vote

Putin, Raisi & Erdogan in Tehran: friends with differences

Leaving the former Soviet region for the first time since he ordered the invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin met in Tehran on Tuesday with his Iranian and Turkish counterparts. The conflict in Syria, where Russia and Iran are on the opposite side of Turkey, was the main item on the agenda, but little of substance was announced beyond a pledge to rid the country of terrorist groups and to meet again later this year. Importantly, Turkey’s recent threat to invade northern Syria to destroy Kurdish militant groups based there still hangs in the air — a point underscored by Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s call for Russia and Iran to be more “supportive” of Turkey’s security concerns. Still, both Moscow and Tehran have warned him against an invasion. Putin and Erdogan also failed to close the remaining gaps on a UN-backed plan to restart Ukraine’s seaborne grain exports. Lastly, while Putin and the Iranians traded shots at NATO and the West, there was no public mention of the current, fast-fading efforts to revive the long-stalled 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

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A natural gas pipe in front of EU and Russian flags.

REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

What We're Watching: Russia-EU pipeline repairs, AMLO in the (White) House, Sri Lanka's new leader

Will Russia turn the taps back on?

“Trust us,” Russia is saying, “we’re just doing routine maintenance.” Moscow has just shut off its Nord Stream 1 pipeline, a major source of natural gas for Germany, for 10 days of summer repairs. Annual checkups to these pipelines are normal, but this is no normal year. Berlin worries the Kremlin might leave the pipes closed as a way to retaliate against the EU for the bloc’s Ukraine-related sanctions. Nord Stream 1 carries about 55 billion cubic meters of gas annually to Germany, equaling about half of the country’s yearly consumption. If Moscow keeps the line shut, Europe would struggle to store up enough gas supplies ahead of next winter. Natural gas prices in Europe are already soaring, and although the EU is moving to wean itself off of Russian energy, any further shortfalls would further stoke already-high inflation, with unpredictable political consequences across the continent. Putin, of course, knows this. Keep an eye on that “closed for repairs” sign hanging on Nord Stream 1.

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Putin attends a meeting with Senegal's President and African Union chair Macky Sall in Sochi.

REUTERS

Are the West’s efforts to isolate Russia doomed?

In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the US and Europe have launched a concerted campaign to punish Russia economically and isolate it politically. The West wants to send a strong message to other powers that might be tempted to violate the so-called rules-based international order. But many developing countries across Asia, Africa, and Latin America are reluctant to go along, blunting the effectiveness of this campaign. We spoke to Eurasia Group expert Christopher Garman to better understand the reasons for their skepticism, and what the consequences are likely to be.

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Paige Fusco

The Graphic Truth: Tracking the ruble rebound

The ruble is back on top. Why?

What a wild ride the ruble has had so far this year.

Russia's currency nosedived in late February, losing as much as 30% of its value against the US dollar when Western nations slapped tough sanctions on the Kremlin for invading Ukraine. But then Vladimir Putin pulled out all the stops to save the ruble.

Spoiler: it worked.

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All Russians Lose in Putin's War | GZERO World

All Russians lose in Putin's war

Vladimir Putin claims overwhelming domestic support for Russia's "special military operation" in Ukraine.

Is that true?

Former US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, who talks to Russians almost every day, says what he's hearing is that there no winners inside Russia, where the war has hurt Putin politically.

Even the oligarchs are unhappy: "There is not a single economic actor in Russia [who] thinks this is good."

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Grading the US Response to Ukraine | GZERO World

Grading the US response to Ukraine

Michael McFaul, former US ambassador to Russia, is satisfied overall with how America has responded to Russia's invasion of Ukraine so far — with a couple of caveats.

First, the Biden administration needs to ratchet up sanctions so they don't pile up like parking tickets. And by that he means going after positions, not individuals, as well as offering a way a way to get off the list.

Also, the goal of the sanctions should be to stop the war, not hurt Russia beyond that, McFaul tells Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.
Third, the US should definitely share intelligence with Ukraine — but keep it under wraps.

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Paige Fusco

The Graphic Truth: Thirsty for Russian energy

Much of the world has long relied on Russian energy to power their economies. That makes it very hard for them to punish the Kremlin for invading Ukraine by ditching Russia's plentiful oil, natural gas, and coal in the near term. So, who's most dependent on Russian fossil fuels? We look at a select group of OECD economies.

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