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Putin has a solution for US democracy

Are you tired of elections that are confusing, meddled with, or disputed? Renowned US democracy expert Vladimir Putin knows there is a better way!

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Happy US Independence Day! Now can you sing it?

When the United States celebrates its Independence Day on July 4th, many Americans will be singing the Star-Spangled Banner at sports games, parties, and other patriotic-themed events. To mark the date, we take a look at some fun facts about national anthems around the world.

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What We’re Watching: China vs Australia, Kashmir talks, EU’s Putin FOMO

China-Australia trade row continues: In the newest installment of the deepening row between China and Australia, Beijing has launched a complaint against Canberra at the World Trade Organization over tariffs placed on three Chinese exports: wind towers, railway wheels and stainless-steel sinks. Australia says it was caught off-guard by China's suit — the tariffs have been in place since 2014, 2015, and 2019 — and that Beijing didn't go through the regular WTO channels nor pursue bilateral talks before filing the complaint. It's the latest move in a game of tit-for-tat: last year, Beijing slapped tariffs on Australian products like wine and barley, a massive blow to Australia's export-reliant economy. Since the Chinese crackdown on Australian wine, sales have fallen from AU$1.1 billion ($840 million) to just AU$20 million, prompting Australia to recently challenge Beijing's move at the WTO. China-Australia relations have become increasingly fraught over a range of issues including trade, Chinese spying, 5G, and Australia's call for a global probe into the origins of the pandemic.

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What We're Watching: Biden-Putin summit, North Korea's food crisis, Tunisian constitutional reform

No fireworks in Geneva: Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden sat together for four hours on Wednesday, and as we anticipated in Signal, both leaders agreed to continue to cooperate where they can and to continue to pursue their national interests, as they see them. They're now expected to work together on nuclear disarmament. That's good, since these two countries still account for most of the world's atomic weapons. They're also open to exchanging prisoners, a welcome development. But more importantly, Biden and Putin set down their red lines: for the US it's the critical infrastructure that should be off-limits from hackers, and for Russia it's further expansion of NATO. US sanctions will remain in place. If the summit was a "success," it's only because expectations were low. Curb your enthusiasm indeed. For now, we'll be watching to see whether US-Russia ties enter a period, however brief, of the stable and predictable relations Biden says he wants, or if some new controversy triggers a new war of words.

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Is there actually a bromance between Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko?

Do Russian president Vladimir Putin and Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko actually have a good relationship, as photos of them together on Putin's yacht would suggest? Exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya commented, "You know, the strangest thing, maybe the most obvious thing, is that the whole world understands that these two people are not friends. They are making this picture to try to persuade the Russians and the world that they are together." The reality, in her opinion, is that Moscow may be looking for suitable candidates to replace Lukashenko in a new election, because the crisis in Belarus is very inconvenient for the Kremlin. Tsikhanouskaya would prefer that Russia not interfere with Belarusian politics, she said in a conversation with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.

Watch the episode: The fight for democracy in Europe's last dictatorship

The small aims of the big Putin-Biden summit

Joe Biden is meeting with Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, and the first thing to say about that is: temper your expectations.

US-Russia relations are at their worst point since the end of the Cold War and perhaps even before that. The US has imposed dozens of economic sanctions on Russia over election meddling, human rights abuses, and the illegal annexation of Crimea.

On a personal level, it's worse: Ronald Reagan may not have fully trusted the Soviets, but he never said — as Biden has done of Putin — that Mikhail Gorbachev was a murderer with no soul. At least not publicly.

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Biden goes to Europe, but is America really “back”?

As he packs his bags for his first foreign trip, US President Joe Biden has some convincing to do.

On Wednesday he leaves on a weeklong journey to Europe, where he will meet with European allies, visit NATO headquarters, attend the G7 meetings in Cornwall, and hold a face-to-face with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva.

Biden's European hosts will be glad to see him. After four years of a Trump administration that treated most of them with contempt, here comes a US president who values Washington's traditional alliances and seems interested in working with US partners to tackle big global issues like climate change, technology regulation, a rising China, and a revanchist Russia. "America," Biden has said, "is back."

But there are thorny items on the agenda too.

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What We’re Watching: Putin to tighten Russian gun laws, Iran-Saudi thaw, new forests vs climate change

Putin orders review of gun laws after school shooting: Details remain sketchy following a shooting at a school in the Russian city of Kazan. At least seven children and one teacher were killed, and a 19-year-old has been arrested, according to local officials. In response to the attack, President Vladimir Putin "gave an order to urgently work out a new provision concerning the types of weapons that can be in civilian hands, taking into account the weapon" used in this shooting, according to a Kremlin spokesman. There's an irony here that extends to the United States, where school shootings are all too common. In 2018, a Russian woman named Maria Butina pleaded guilty to using the National Rifle Association, the gun rights lobbying group, to "establish unofficial lines of communication with Americans having power and influence over American politics." At the time, Putin described Butina's 18-year sentence as an "outrage." The NRA, of course, works hard to prevent Congress and the president from taking precisely the kinds of actions that Putin swiftly ordered following the shooting in Kazan.

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