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US on track for August 31 withdrawal; House passes $3.5T plan

Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

Is the US on track for the August 31st withdrawal from Afghanistan?

The US is actually doing a pretty good job, getting its own citizens out of Afghanistan despite the chaos that's been seen at the airport and across the country over the last two weeks. It's estimated on Wednesday afternoon, there were about 1,500 citizens of the United States, still in Afghanistan. And some of them, according to Secretary of State Tony Blinken, may not want to leave. The US has been evacuating enormous numbers in the last several days. Over 21,000 people have gotten out. And even though Biden sent his CIA director, William Burns, to potentially negotiate a longer withdrawal date than August 31st with the Taliban, he says, he's going to stick to this deadline. The people who may not get out are the interpreters and helpers that aided the American military, who are native Afghanis, who are probably going to be left behind when the US leaves at the end of the month.

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COVID hypocrisy & misinformation

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here from sunny Nantucket and going to be here for a little bit. Thought we would talk about the latest on COVID. Certainly, we had hoped we'd be talking less about it at this point, at least in terms of the developed world. A combination of the transmissibility of Delta variant and the extraordinary misinformation around vaccines and COVID treatment means that we are not in the position that many certainly had hoped we would be today.

The United States is the biggest problem on this front. We are awash in vaccines. Operation Warp Speed was an enormous success. The best vaccines in the world, the most effective mRNA, the United States doing everything it can to get secure doses for the entire country quick, more quickly than any other major economy in the world, and now we're having a hard time convincing people to take them. The politics around this are nasty and as divided as the country, absolutely not what you want to see in response to a health crisis.

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Joe Biden's presidency: biggest surprises, successes and mistakes so far

What surprised Jane Harman, former US Congresswoman (D-CA), most about Joe Biden's presidency? "Number one, he's much more hands-on as a leader than I fully understood. It's coming out now how he runs his meetings and what he does. But number two, and I love this, he's really enjoying the job." Harman, a nine-term member of Congress who served for decades on the major security committees in the House of Representatives, notes that Biden's stint as Vice President was no guarantee of how he would perform. "I think sitting behind that desk, and having the buck stop with him is very different. And I think he fills out the job very well."

In an interview with Ian Bremmer, Harman says Biden has a dimension that none of his four predecessors had, because of his experience in Congress and in foreign policy. She also shares her perspective on Biden's biggest successes as well as some mistakes he's made.

Biden’s foreign policy approach: “Take the foreign out of foreign policy”

Jane Harman, who served nine terms as a US Democratic Congresswoman from California, explains that the Biden administration's approach is "to take the foreign out of foreign policy." Biden's foreign policy strategy starts with restoring alliances, promoting democracy, and making the world safer, prioritizing issues that connect what the US does abroad to concerns at home, says Harman. That means finding a solution to the pandemic both in the US and globally; addressing terrorism abroad and domestically; and climate, which Harman notes, "is a huge part of our security at home and security in the world. Think about it. Half the refugees in the world are climate refugees. They're not terrorism refugees."

Harman, author of the new book, "Insanity Defense: Why Our Failure to Confront Hard National Security Problems Make Us Less Safe," spoke in an interview with Ian Bremmer.

US national security depends on domestic progress

Jane Harman, a nine-term member of Congress (D-CA) who served for decades on the major security committees in the House of Representatives, discusses the shortcomings of the US national security strategy for the last few decades, and assesses the Biden administration's plans to strengthen it. In an interview with Ian Bremmer, she discusses the priorities for addressing critical issues at home and abroad, from the COVID pandemic to the climate crisis and terrorism. But without a unified and functional Congress, Harman warns, the US is ineffective on matters of security. "Where is Congress? Congress can't get things done because of toxic partisanship, but the other reason it can't get anything done is members don't want to own the consequences. And that is chicken."

Harman, author of the new book, "Insanity Defense: Why Our Failure to Confront Hard National Security Problems Make Us Less Safe," discusses Joe Biden's presidency so far and gives him high marks on assembling an "A-team" for foreign policy. She adds, 'I'm just hopeful that because he has long term relationships and really a good compass for how to talk to members of Congress, he will be able to get somewhere."

What We’re Watching: Suu Kyi on trial, Blinken in Israel, Mali coup 2.0

Suu Kyi in the dock: Myanmar's former leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday made her first court appearance since the military coup that deposed her last February. Suu Kyi, 75, faces uncorroborated charges — ranging from illegally importing walkie-talkies to breaching COVID rules — that could put her behind bars for the rest of her life. The National League for Democracy, Suu Kyi's political party that defended her in court, is now also at risk as the military junta is trying to dissolve it — mainly because it trounced the pro-military party in the December parliamentary election. Myanmar's generals seem to think that they can go back in time to the days of complete dominance if they throw Suu Kyi in jail and ban the NLD. But they may be underestimating the popular appetite for democratic change in a country where the military is as powerful as it is unpopular. Whatever the junta decrees, expect the NLD to continue its political activities underground and in exile.

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Flight diversion in Belarus is a criminal act

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer, here. Happy Monday to you. And yeah, I'm not in New York. I'm in Nantucket for a few days, working as usual, but I'm willing, I'm trying will summer into being. And the shirt, if nothing else, is annoying and distracting people and making me feel more summery.

But not so summery in Belarus, my goodness. The Belarusian president, illegitimate ostensibly reelected through fake elections, President Alexander Lukashenko. You remember all of the demonstrations against him, the support for the opposition movement in Europe and the United States. Not so much in Russia and President Putin and kind of petered out and police repression and he gets to still run the country, Mr. Lukashenko. And now, has engaged in what European leaders are calling state terrorism. Certainly, a hijacking, a level of piracy, with a Ryanair plane, that's an Ireland flagged carrier, going from Athens to Vilnius, two NATO allies, two European union members, through Belarusian airspace. And the Belarusians force the plane down to Minsk because a passenger on the plane is a Belarusian opposition journalist, and they have wanted him in jail. He's been a thorn for the Belarusian government and the president.

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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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