Happy Thursday and welcome back, World readers. We've got a global sampling of 1,560 words (6 minutes) for you this evening.
Heads up: I'll be filing next week from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios
Vladimir Putin is unlikely to stay on as Russia’s president beyond 2024, but he’s even less likely to simply give up power.
Why it matters: That’s what we do know after Wednesday’s surprise shake-up, announced during Putin’s state-of-the-nation address. We still don’t know what role he’ll officially take, or how Moscow’s power structure will shift once he makes his move.
Catch up quick: With term limits looming and anxiety building over the coming transition, Putin moved a few pieces around the chessboard while clearing plenty of space for himself.
Between the lines: “This is not about a succession plan,” says Alina Polyakova of the Brookings Institution. “This is about consolidating power.”
What to watch: I recently asked a number of top experts what they expect beyond 2024 for our “20 Years of Putin” series.
The bottom line: “He’s got what I call the King Lear problem," Fried added. "How do you go into retirement comfortably after you’ve done the things King Lear has done? There’s a reason people are out to get you."
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios
Several of the world’s most powerful leaders have recently shifted the rules in order to keep power past normal transitions.
Putin didn't opt for the most straightforward choice: simply removing term limits.
Zoom out: Several leaders who aren't quite "president for life" have prolonged their tenures through controversial means.
Even Putin has lessons to learn from Kazakhstan’s Nursultan Nazarbayev. He left the presidency last March after 30 years but continues to wield authority as chairman of the country's Security Council.
Worth noting: Nearly all "leaders for life," and in fact all 20 of the world’s longest-serving non-royal leaders, are men.
Angela Merkel with China's Xi Jinping. Photo: Jason Lee - Pool/Getty Images
Merkel struck a dovish tone on China in an interview published today in the FT, saying she'd "advise against regarding China as a threat simply because it is economically successful."
The backdrop: Germany is deciding what role to allow Huawei in building out its 5G networks. The U.S. is calling for total bans on the Chinese giant, but China is threatening to punish German automakers if excluded. Merkel struck a middle course, as is her custom.
Merkel argues that Europe can't afford to isolate China — particularly in a world where Europe matters less to Washington.
One key quote: “I see the European Union as our life insurance. Germany is far too small to exert geopolitical influence on its own, and that’s why we need to make use of all the benefits of the single market,” she said.
Inside Iran's Green Palace, with a painting of Reza Shah Pahlav. Photo: Atta Kenare/AFP via Getty Images
Iran's former crown prince entered the Hudson Institute, a conservative Washington think tank, to a standing ovation on Wednesday before calling on the U.S. to support the will of the Iranian people — to bring down their government.
Some might question Reza Pahlavi's status as a spokesperson for the Iranian people. He hasn't stepped foot in Iran since his father, the shah, fled the country in 1979.
Pahlavi argues the way to bring down the regime is through a massive labor strike and by peeling away disillusioned regime members.
In the room: Pahlavi answered audience questions with a disarming smile — though it vanished when he was asked whether he should apologize for his family's role in Iran's 1953 coup.
President Trump meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Osaka, Japan, on June 29, 2019. Photo: Xinhua/Ju Peng via Getty Images
President Trump says the initial trade agreement between the U.S. and China is "righting the wrongs of the past," referring to what he views as China's exploitative economic and trade policies.
The flipside: Beijing is sidestepping that narrative, Axios' Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian writes:
The agreement includes an evaluation and enforcement framework that the U.S. hopes will help safeguard intellectual property from the rampant theft that has long plagued U.S. organizations.
What's next: There's still a long road ahead to a future Phase 2 — or even Phase 3 — deal that addresses deeper structural concerns about the Chinese economy. For now, watch for signs that the new evaluation and enforcement mechanism is doing its job, Bethany writes.
Erdogan takes a break from updating his Wikipedia profile to catch some wrestling. Photo: Yasin Bulbul/Turkish Presidency Press Office/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Wikipedia is returning to Turkey after the country's supreme court ruled that banning it violated freedom of expression.
The big picture: Erdoğan's government has a long history of blocking information it doesn't like. It has jailed dozens of journalists, and in this case, it went so far as to block one of the world's most-visited sites for nearly three years.
How it happened: "Four articles in particular raised its ire: references to the government’s ties with militants, a description of the Turkish republic’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk as a 'benevolent dictator' and the financial dealings of Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, Erdogan’s son-in-law," per Al-Monitor:
Taal volcano continues to erupt in the Philippines. Photo: Ezra Acayan/Getty Images
"[T]he published messages contain facts of possible violations of Ukrainian law and of the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations, which protect the rights of diplomats on the territory of another state."— Ukraine's interior ministry on possible surveillance of U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. The State Department has declined to comment on the matter.