A Velvet Revolution That Putin Can Live With
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The Kremlin just got another lesson in people power from a former Soviet satellite that ousted an autocrat who tried to cling to power indefinitely. Unlike democratic upheavals in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, however, Russian officials don't seem troubled by the bloodless revolt in the tiny Caucasus republic of Armenia.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry hailed the “great people” whose mass protests forced Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan’s resignation. A member of Russia’s Kremlin-controlled parliament tweeted that “nobody wants to put up with the same person leading the government for decades” — apparently oblivious to President Vladimir Putin extending his rule to 24 years in March elections.
Sargsyan, a close Putin ally, only became prime minister last week after serving as president for a decade and overseeing reforms that transferred executive authority to the premiership.
Russian officials are relaxed despite the political parallels because they regard Armenia’s rebellion as homegrown and see no U.S. or European Union involvement in stirring up another pro-Western “color revolution.” Besides, they’re confident whoever comes next will maintain close economic and security ties to Russia, which has a key military base in Armenia.
Pompeo squeaks through | A divided Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted in favor of Mike Pompeo to be the next U.S. secretary of state, paving the way for the CIA director to win approval from the full Senate later this week and handing a victory to President Donald Trump. Pompeo, who’d been thought short of the support needed for the panel’s endorsement, would have been the first secretary of state nominee rejected by the committee since at least 1925.
Calling in the National Guard | When floods swept through West Virginia polling places during the 2012 presidential vote, the National Guard came to the rescue with tents and electrical connections. For the state’s congressional primaries next month, the Guard will be on the lookout for another disaster: Russian interference. Nafeesa Syeed has more on how state officials across the U.S. are relying on the Guard to secure this year’s elections.
Moon’s moment | Twelve months into his tenure as president, South Korea’s Moon Jae-in is on the verge of a historic breakthrough: orchestrating an unprecedented summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. It’s a moment Moon’s spent a lifetime preparing for, Sam Kim reports. The son of North Korean refugees watched first hand as the goodwill from the last inter-Korean summit collapsed 11 years ago.
Moscow nights | Flight records obtained by Bloomberg provide fresh details about Trump’s whereabouts for two nights in November 2013 that have garnered international attention. Ousted FBI Director James Comey says the president told him that a salacious report about his behavior in Moscow during the Miss Universe pageant couldn’t be true because he didn’t spend the night in Russia during that trip. The new information tells a different story.
Europe’s island gateway | As Trump builds barriers to Chinese trade, Cyprus is throwing open the gates. The Mediterranean country’s stance is also at odds with those of some of the EU’s bigger economies, which, alarmed by China’s appetite for acquisitions, have become more assertive in vetting deals. Alan Crawford reports from the island on why it might be a case of too little, too late.
And finally ... The 4.5-foot European Sessile Oak sapling that Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron planted together on the South Lawn of the White House yesterday was plucked from the Belleau Woods, where U.S. Marines, fighting alongside French and British forces, thwarted a German advance in June of 1918. The symbolism of Macron’s gift — at the outset of a three-day visit aimed at convincing Trump to stick with Europe on the Iran nuclear deal — was hard to miss.
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