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.

Read Now Show less

As anyone who's spent time in Russia or studied the language a bit knows, Russians have a particular concept of "friendship." The Russian word for friend, droog, suggests a relationship vastly deeper, more intimate, and durable than what usually passes for a "friend" in English. Russians have a different word for that — znakomiy (acquaintance). So what countries do Russians consider their "friends" and "enemies?" The latest poll from the independent Moscow-based Levada Center has answers. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the US tops the "enemy" list these days. But right there in second place is Ukraine — a country where many Russians have strong family and historical ties. Things have soured since a 2014 popular revolution ousted a Kremlin-friendly president, prompting Russia to annex Crimea and provoke a civil war in the East. But who would you guess tops Russians' droog list? Have a look here.

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.

Read Now Show less

Is Israel's new government too awkward to survive? Israel's new government was sworn in on Sunday, and for the first time in 12 years, it is not led by someone named Benjamin Netanyahu. Though Netanyahu will remain head of the opposition bloc and leader of Likud, the biggest party in the Knesset, the new government, one of the most ideologically diverse in the nation's history, represents a massive political shift in the crisis-ridden country. The new government's representatives include right-wing nationalists — like Naftali Bennet, Israel's new prime minister — and centrists like Yair Lapid who heads the influential Yesh Atid party and is responsible for bringing the coalition together. For the first time in two decades, the far-left Meretz party will also sit in the government, as will a conservative Arab party, headed by Mansour Abbas, who reversed a decades-old position by agreeing to serve in government with Jewish Zionists in the hopes of delivering for his community. There are plenty of reasons to doubt the longevity of the new government given its incoherent alliances, but on the flip side, these factions — most of which are small and would likely not have made the cut to sit in government without Lapid's deal-making — have incentives to make the government work. The first item on the agenda will be passing a national budget, the first in two years. But with a slim coalition of only 61 out of 120 Knesset seats, pulling this off won't be easy.

Read Now Show less

China goes big on vaccination: China is now vaccinating about 20 million people a day against COVID, accounting for more than half of the world's daily shots. Following a sluggish initial rollout, Chinese vaccine makers have scaled up production in recent months. That's good news for the world, particularly for developing countries that rely on vaccines distributed through the COVAX global facility, which now includes China's WHO-approved Sinopharm and Sinovac jabs. It's also good news for China's government, which for months has struggled to make its production capacity match its ambitious vaccine diplomacy program (though it has already supplied a whopping 350 million doses to more than 75 countries). And finally, it's good news for the Chinese people, who can travel without restrictions, both inside and outside China, once they're vaccinated. It's not good news for India, which earlier this year had a window of opportunity to compete with the Chinese on doling out jabs to low-income countries but then had to suspend exports in order to address its own COVID crisis.

Read Now Show less

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.

Read Now Show less

Did AMLO win in Mexico's midterms? The governing Morena party of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador lost its two-thirds lower-house majority in Sunday's midterms, dealing a blow to the leftwing nationalist leader's bid to radically transform Mexico. Although Morena and its allies are projected to hang on to a simple majority in the lower house, winning as many as 292 of the 500 seats up for grabs, that two-thirds margin was crucial for López Obrador's ability to change the constitution, something he's threatened to do in order to carry out what he calls a "Fourth Revolution" that remakes Mexico's economy in the interests of the poor and working class. Still, López Obrador remains in a commanding position: Morena and its allies look to have picked up more than half a dozen state governorships, and they still control both houses of Congress. Most importantly, despite failing to tackle crime, corruption, or poverty since his election in 2018, the left-populist López Obrador remains immensely popular in a country where traditional conservative politicians are reviled. Chastened as he may be by the result, as he heads into the final three years of his six-year term, López Obrador isn't likely to give much ground to his rivals. Read our full write-up of the election and its implications here.

Read Now Show less

On Sunday Mexican voters will go to the polls to elect 500 members of the lower house, roughly half of the country's governorships, more than two dozen state assemblies, and some 20,000 other local government posts. Some are calling it the largest election in the country's history.

The ruling Morena party of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, popularly known as AMLO, is looking to hang on to its current two-thirds majority in the lower house, and to pick up several governorships to boot.

Although his name won't be printed on a single ballot, the vote is largely seen as a referendum on AMLO himself, the leftwing nationalist who swept to power in 2018 with huge promises to tackle violence, root out graft, help the poor and, above all, break the power monopoly of the traditional political class.

Read Now Show less

Latest