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Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks by video link during NATO's annual parliamentary assembly in Madrid, Spain.

Europa Press/ABACA via Reuters Connect

Lasting support for Ukraine?

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin hoped for a quick victory that would disarm Ukraine and replace its government. Ukrainian fighters, backed and armed by NATO governments, have shredded Putin’s Plan A. His Plan B is to inflict punishment on Ukrainian civilians with attacks on the infrastructure that provides light and heat during the cold, dark winter ahead to try to divide opinion in Europe and the United States over their long-term support for Ukraine’s government. That’s the backdrop for two noteworthy pieces of news this week. On Tuesday, NATO foreign ministers, gathered in Bucharest, will renew their vow, first made in 2008, that Ukraine will one day join their alliance. In the meantime, individual member states will offer more weapons, perhaps including US small precision bombs fitted to rockets that help Ukraine strike enemy targets deep behind Russian lines. The alliance itself will offer electricity generators, fuel, and medical supplies. The message to Moscow: You won’t win a war of attrition. Ukraine’s allies will boost that country’s defenses for as long as it takes to deny Russia a victory.

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Supporters of opposition party KMT wearing t-shirts with the Taiwan flag at an election rally in Taoyuan.

REUTERS/Ann Wang

As Taiwan votes, China watches

Taiwanese go to the polls Saturday to vote in the first election since early 2020, when President Tsai Ing-wen won a second term in office right before COVID erupted. This time it’s only a local election, but as with anything political in Taiwan, China is paying close attention. Beijing is bullish on the pro-China KMT party, which is leading the polls in several key races. (Fun fact: the KMT mayoral candidate for the capital, Taipei, is the great-grandson of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, the founder of modern Taiwan.) A good overall result for the KMT would mean two things. First, it would buck historical trends — and China's declining popularity among Taiwanese — if voters sour on the ruling anti-China DPP party just months after China responded with its biggest-ever show of military force to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visiting the island. Second, it raises the stakes for the DPP ahead of the presidential election in 2024, when the popular but term-limited Tsai needs a strong candidate for the party to stay in power. Alternatively, if polls are wrong and the DPP does well, expect fire and fury from across the Taiwan Strait.

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Iran's Ahmad Noorollahi, Sadegh Moharrami, and Alireza Jahanbakhsh line up during the national anthems before the World Cup match against England.

REUTERS/Marko Djurica

Iran’s Kurds rise up, soccer squad goes silent

Even as widespread anti-government protests over democracy and women’s rights continue across Iran, things are getting particularly dicey in Kurdish-majority areas along the northwestern border with Iraq. Iran’s revolutionary guards have not only cracked down on the protests in the city of Mahabad, but they also reportedly sent missiles across the border into Kurdish areas of Iraq for good measure. Kurdish groups have struggled for independence from Iran for more than a century, and Mahabad is hugely symbolic — it was the capital of a short-lived independent Kurdish state in the 1940s. Meanwhile, the broader anti-government protests continue to get high-level sympathizers. Two prominent female actors who removed their headscarves publicly in solidarity were arrested over the weekend. Then, on Monday, Iranian footballers stunningly refused to sing Iran’s national anthem ahead of their opening World Cup match in Qatar as a show of support for the protests back home.

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US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) wields the gavel as she presides over the first impeachment of President Donald Trump.

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Pelosi takes a final bow

Nancy Pelosi is standing down as leader of the Democratic Party in the US House, but she’ll remain in Congress as a representative of San Francisco. She was both the first woman to serve in the ultra-powerful role of House Speaker and a hate figure for many on the right. Pelosi’s personal toughness, Herculean fundraising prowess, and ability to hold together the typically fractious Democratic Party in the House will remain her legacy for Democrats. For Republicans, seeing her pass the gavel to one of their own in January will mark a moment of triumph in an otherwise disappointing midterm performance. In announcing her plans, Pelosi noted that “the hour has come for a new generation to lead the Democratic caucus.” At a moment when both parties are led by politicians of advancing age, that’s a big step – and a trend we’ll be watching closely as a new Congress takes shape and the next race for the White House begins. Eurasia Group US Managing Director Jon Lieber says his bet is on 52-year-old Hakeem Jeffries taking the Democratic reins. If Jeffries gets the job, he'll make history as the first Black politician to lead a party in Congress.

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Donald Trump announces that he will once again run for US president in 2024 during an event at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida.

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Americans were watching as Donald Trump announced his presidential candidacy on Tuesday night, but Trump’s entry into the race also grabbed the attention of political leaders around the globe.

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Luisa Vieira

Donald Trump’s “big announcement”

Tuesday is the day. We think. It’s not completely clear. Former US President Donald Trump has dropped a number of not-so-subtle hints that he will announce his candidacy for president on Tuesday. Millions of his supporters will be watching and hoping he pulls the trigger. Millions of Republicans who fear he’s become a liability for their party are hoping he’ll postpone or shock the world by not running. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and other potential Trump rivals for the GOP nomination will be watching with dread for a first glimpse of the campaign Trump plans on waging against them. President Joe Biden, who will celebrate his 80th birthday later this month, will be watching to see what sort of Republican Party his reelection campaign is likely to face. The media will be watching in expectation of the opening salvo of the wildest presidential campaign in living memory. And you know we’ll be watching too.

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Evgeny Prigozhin (L) assists Russian President Vladimir Putin

Reuters

Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the Wagner Group mercenary force and a longtime ally to Vladimir Putin, has become an increasingly prominent figure in the war in Ukraine — and perhaps in Russia’s future. His private army, media platform, and Putin’s deepening dependence on his fighters to bolster Russia’s lousy military performance make him a character worth a close look.

Who is Yevgeny Prigozhin?

Little is known about Prigozhin before the nine years he spent in prison as a young adult following his conviction on robbery and fraud charges. After his release in the dying days of the Soviet Union, he set up a highly profitable hot dog stand in St. Petersburg, and from there he built a restaurant business that helped feed Russian soldiers and later catered events for Russia’s richest and most powerful. He also caught the attention of Vladimir Putin.

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US House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) waves after speaking to supporters on midterms election night.

REUTERS/Tom Brenner

Probe payback incoming?

After being on the unhappy side of a raft of Democrat-led House investigations the last few years, incoming GOP House leaders are itching to launch a number of their own. Subjects may include the Biden administration’s clunky withdrawal from Afghanistan, the origins of the COVID-19 virus, the alleged politicization of the Justice Department, and of course, the GOP’s favorite target, Hunter Biden. What about impeachment? The Dems did it twice to Donald Trump. Could Republicans return the favor? Likely incoming House Speaker Kevin McCarthy says the GOP would never pursue it for “political purposes.”

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