For Putin and Trump, the Worst Is Yet to Come
The U.S.-led strikes in Syria have put Russia and the U.S. at odds again and set an exclamation point on how swiftly ties between the former Cold War foes have deteriorated.
But Russian markets are shrugging off the latest risk, even with the threat of more U.S. sanctions to come, and officials have been quick to declare that the worst is over.
There remain plenty of reasons for worry. In Washington and Moscow, decision makers have all but given up hope for any improvement in relations. Russia's preparing its retaliation for the latest sanctions, which Washington has said won't be the last. And the possible U.S. pullout from the Iran nuclear deal will only add to tensions in the Middle East.
Even if investors hope President Vladimir Putin might be seeking a lull before Russia hosts the World Cup this summer, geopolitics aren't likely to play along.
Trump’s headaches | The U.S. president yesterday asked a judge to block his own Justice Department from viewing evidence about his private lawyer that was seized last week in an FBI raid. That extraordinary step came the same day that ousted FBI director James Comey called Trump “morally unfit” for office in a prime-time television interview. Comey said he couldn’t rule out the possibility that Moscow has incriminating information about the president.
Merkel’s Trump problem | Germany’s decision to leave France and the U.K. to join the U.S. in hitting Syria may be rooted in Germany’s postwar aversion to using military force, but that doesn't help Chancellor Angela Merkel’s troubled relations with Trump. As Arne Delfs and Jennifer Jacobs report, on the eve of a visit to Washington, she’s finding it increasingly hard to gain Trump’s ear, leaving one of America's most loyal allies sidelined.
Kim’s trump card | If the U.S. president presses Kim Jong Un to give up his nuclear arsenal when they meet face to face, he’ll be asking the North Korean leader to surrender more than a half century’s labor. Andy Sharp and Kanga Kong look at how three generations of Kims have repeatedly chosen the bomb as their best guarantee of survival despite decades of negotiations, sanctions and threats of war — and why that's unlikely to change.
Balkan comeback | Two years since he quit as prime minister after accusing Russia of trying to kill him in an alleged coup attempt, Milo Djukanovic won Montenegro's presidential election with a vow to lead the country into the European Union. Once an ally of Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic, Djukanovic has pivoted to become one of the most pro-Western leaders in a region where Russia, the U.S., the EU and Turkey are all vying for influence.
Sweden’s rising star | The 38-year-old leader of Sweden’s nationalist party is poised to become a power broker after the Nordic country’s election in September. Amanda Billner and Hanna Hoikkala profile Jimmie Akesson, who predicts that Brexit will hasten the downfall of the European Union — an outcome he views as a good thing.
What to watch today:
— An emergency debate is planned for today in the House of Commons after U.K. Prime Minster Theresa May conceded that lawmakers should have the retrospective right to consider — and possibly a vote — on her decision to take part in the strikes on Syria.
— Trump travels to Florida to host a roundtable on small business tax cuts as Republicans struggle to make the tax legislation in December a winning election issue.
— Nafta negotiators dig in for more technical talks in Washington, as persistent differences among the U.S., Canada and Mexico stymie Trump’s push for a quick deal.
And finally … It was a dinner fit for kings. As an Arab League summit in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia concluded yesterday, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman hosted a dinner party for some of his guests. Prince Mohammed is the fourth one down on the left, and Saud Al-Qahtani, an adviser to the royal court who tweeted the photo, is the first on the right. But who are the other (visible) ones? DM your answers to @bpolitics.
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