Talks between Iran’s government and world powers over the future of Iran’s nuclear program continue. The US and Iran are still not communicating directly; Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia are shuttling between them.

The good news is that they’re all still talking. The bad news is that, after eight rounds of negotiations, the main players haven’t agreed on anything that would constitute a breakthrough.

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Omicron to sweep Europe. The World Health Organization reports that Europe will soon be the latest region to face a “west-to-east tidal wave” of the omicron COVID variant, on top of continuing infections with the delta variant. A senior WHO official predicts that “more than 50 percent of the population in the region will be infected with omicron in the next six to eight weeks.” Beyond the public health and subsequent economic impact of this event, governments across Europe must manage the political fallout. The most impactful example will come in France, where President Emmanuel Macron faces center-right and further-right challengers in his bid for re-election in April. The latest pandemic wave will also create challenges for Germany’s brand-new coalition government and maybe for Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, who’s expecting an especially tough fight for re-election this spring.

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“Bring your own booze.” It’s an old story: the damaging reveal that the political elite holds the public to a different standard than it holds its own leaders to. News emerged on Tuesday — courtesy of Dominic Cummings, the UK prime minister’s former political adviser turned bitter political foe — that Boris Johnson’s private secretary had invited more than 100 people to a "bring your own booze" party at the PM’s official residence… in the middle of a coronavirus lockdown in May 2020. Johnson and his wife have not denied they were there. To be clear, this is not the same party that his staff was caught on video laughing about during another lockdown over Christmas in 2020. Is the political ineptitude even more damaging than the hypocrisy? Either way, Johnson’s government is now in real trouble. The PM faces a parliamentary grilling on Wednesday, and may not survive a leadership challenge from within his Conservative Party later this year. At a time of bitterness over his handling of COVID and consumer pain from rising prices, this was not the story Britain’s prime minister needed.

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US and Russia in Geneva. Senior US and Russian diplomats opened talks in Geneva on Monday, kicking off a round of discussions between Kremlin and Western officials across Europe over the next few days. Vladimir Putin wants Joe Biden and NATO leaders to redraw the security map of Europe by promising that Ukraine, Georgia, and other Russian neighbors will never join NATO and that the security alliance will not place missile system in Ukraine. That would, in effect, redivide Europe into Western and Russian spheres of influence. The Biden administration and NATO officials have said they will not allow Russia to veto NATO membership for countries that want to join. European leaders have warned the US to honor these promises, and Ukraine’s government is watching and waiting as an estimated 100,000 Russian troops remain poised near the Ukrainian border. Russia says it will pursue its aims by military means if necessary. NATO says it's ready to respond. The US says any Russian incursion into Ukraine will draw harsh sanctions against Russian and more supplies of Western weapons for Ukraine. Putin began this game of chicken, and we’ll be watching in coming weeks to see how far he wants to push it.

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EU warns the US and Russia. EU officials look to be getting nervous about meetings next week between Russia, the US, and NATO. Though NATO representatives from EU member states will be part of the talks, the EU itself was not invited to join. During a visit to Ukraine this week, the EU’s top diplomat warned that “We are no longer in Yalta times,” a reference to the 1945 Yalta agreement among the US, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union that helped to divide post-war Europe into eastern and western blocs. “In this dialogue, there are not two actors alone, not just the US and Russia,” Josep Borrell added. Russia has massed 100,000 troops along its border with Ukraine, and Vladimir Putin has demanded guarantees that NATO not expand to include Ukraine or other former Soviet states. The EU’s comments are intended, in part, to reassure Ukraine that it will not be abandoned to Russian domination. But it’s also a sign that officials in Brussels don’t fully trust US President Joe Biden to protect European rights and interests in bargaining with Putin.

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On January 6, 2021, hundreds of angry people gathered outside the US Capitol to protest the certification of Joe Biden’s election as president. Some forced their way inside the building to try to forcibly stop that process.

Today, as we mark the one-year anniversary of that attack, Americans continue to disagree about these events, and their meaning.

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When Eurasia Group, our parent company, released its Top Risks report for 2022 on Monday, readers might have been surprised to see COVID at the very top of the list.

Yes, omicron has sent case and hospitalization numbers surging once again in dozens of countries, but the prevailing mood among many analysts has been positive. After all, this latest variant is thought to be less dangerous than previous COVID variants, and much of the developed world has been vaccinated (and boosted) with remarkably effective vaccines. Some have speculated that “Omicron is the beginning of the end” of the pandemic.

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A scent of Musk in US-China space spat. Pull up! pull up! Beijing earlier this week accused the US of creating danger in space after Chinese astronauts commanding their country’s sparkling new space station nearly crashed into a satellite launched by Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Beijing says the US government has to ensure that Musk’s satellites honor a 1967 treaty on safety in space. Given that SpaceX plans to launch thousands more satellites as part of its Starlink global internet access project, an already cluttered orbit is going to get even more dangerous. Governments will have to sort out who is responsible for policing private spacecraft. In the nearer term, we wonder whether this week’s near-miss space spat will have implications for Musk back on earth: China is currently the only country outside the US where his Tesla electric car company runs a factory (Germany is next, beginning early next year.) Chinese social media has reportedly lit up with criticism of Musk, with anecdotal accounts of calls for a Tesla boycott. That could hurt. Last year, Tesla sold $3 billion worth of cars in China, more than a fifth of its overall sales.

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