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Paige Fusco

Europe plans for Putin & Trump 2.0

Signal spoke with Eurasia Group Vice Chairman Gerry Butts about Europe’s future given the uncertainty created by both Russian aggression and America’s volatile politics. This interview was edited for length and clarity.

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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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Putin looks on during his meeting with the Lebanese president at the Kremlin in Moscow.

REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Is NATO expansion bad for Russia?

For the first time in nearly two decades, NATO just got a lot closer to Russia’s borders. At a summit in Madrid on Wednesday, alliance leaders formally invited Sweden and Finland to join, ending more than half a century of neutrality by both countries.

At the same time, the alliance adopted a new strategic plan in which Russia has gone from being the West’s “strategic partner” to its “most significant threat.” And to underscore the point, NATO is putting more than 300,000 troops on high alert against Russian aggression.

Looks pretty bad for Vladimir Putin, wouldn’t you say? Well, let’s consider a few perspectives.

Yes, of course it’s very bad. NATO’s border with Russia has just doubled to more than 1,600 miles, and those two new members are no strategic slouches. Sweden and Finland are both highly advanced militaries with decades of experience keeping a close eye on Russia, especially the Finns.

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Annie Gugliotta

BRICS vs. the West

Before the heads of the world's most "advanced" economies meet this weekend in Germany for the annual G7 summit, the leaders of the top five "emerging" ones — Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, aka BRICS — are holding their own (virtual) summit in Beijing on Thursday.

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Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrive for a news conference in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Ludovic Marin/ Reuters

Ukraine’s long road to EU membership

The European Commission — the European Union’s executive branch — announced Friday that it would back Ukraine’s bid to become an EU member state. Such a hard-hitting decision by Brussels seemed like a longshot before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has sent shockwaves throughout the world. While this is just the first step in an accession process that could take a decade, it sends a powerful message of solidarity to Kyiv – and a strong warning to Vladimir Putin.

What happens now? The bid will go to a vote by the European Council on June 23-24 and will require the backing of all 27 member states to move forward, a process that can often be tumultuous. If the Council approves Ukraine’s candidacy, Kyiv will be required to introduce a host of significant economic, legal, and political reforms to meet the Commission’s criteria. This would be a massive feat for Ukraine, a country that has long been crippled by corruption and graft. Indeed, in normal times, this process can take 5-10 years, and the presence of an ongoing war will only draw out this process. What’s more, since 21 of the 27 EU states are also NATO members, membership to the EU will likely be perceived as a threat by Putin, and the Union’s expansion eastward as a sign of opportunity for countries like Georgia that are also vying to join the bloc. This makes the process even more complex. However, the Commission’s opinion suggested that one day — even far in the future — Ukraine’s membership to the EU could become a reality.

Ari Winkleman

NATO debates Russia and Trump

NATO defense ministers will wrap up important meetings in Brussels later today ahead of a crucial summit of the alliance’s heads of state in Madrid at the end of June. This is a crucial moment in the history of the world’s largest-ever and most successful security alliance. Russia’s war on Ukraine has given the organization a sense of unity and purpose it hasn’t had since the Cold War. NATO leaders will now try to use this boost to prepare for the complex challenges ahead.

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Russia's President Vladimir Putin attends a ceremony to present state awards for outstanding achievements on Russia Day in Moscow.

Sputnik/Mikhail Metzel via Reuters

What We’re Watching: Putin’s progress, Italy’s right turn, a not-so-great Iraqi resignation

Putin’s progress

It’s been a positive few days for Russia’s president and his war on Ukraine. Russian forces appear close to capturing the strategically important city of Severodonetsk, bringing them a step closer to control of the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. If they can accomplish that, Putin may well move to annex the entire area. Ukrainian officials have called urgently for faster delivery of heavy weapons to counter superior Russian firepower, but plunging stock markets in Europe and the US will strengthen the arguments in the West from those who oppose continued large-scale financial and military help for Ukraine. A new report from the independent Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air finds that higher global oil prices and a loophole that allows Europe to receive boycotted Russian oil via India have kept Russia’s oil revenue relatively high. Meanwhile, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continues to insist he will block the admission of Finland and Sweden into NATO. Though concessions might change his mind, there’s no guarantee he’ll back down. Russia’s military gains are incremental, and they will come at a great cost to Russia’s economic future. But for now, momentum is with the Kremlin.

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A man holds a bicycle while standing near a building destroyed in Rubizhne, a town in Ukraine's Luhansk region.

REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

What’s Ukraine’s “strongest position” 100 days into the war?

On Friday, Russia’s war in Ukraine — or at least the latest, most egregious phase of it — will be 100 days old. If Vladimir Putin thought that the invasion would be, as the old Russian saying goes, “a short, victorious war,” he was spectacularly wrong.

But as the war enters its fourth month, debates are stirring again in Europe and the US about what the proper extent and aims of support for Ukraine really should be. The New York Times editorial board last week urged the White House to be more specific. A few days later, former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger kicked up a hornet’s nest of criticism by calling at Davos for immediate negotiations on returning to the “status quo ante.” Meanwhile, European leaders have been working the phones — without success — to try to open a way for Ukraine-Russia talks as well.

One reason these debates are so frothy is this: deciding how to help Ukraine achieve victory will require defining what that even looks like.

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