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Trump and Putin in Helsinki. Photo: Brendan SmialowskiAFP/Getty Images
Moscow is fuming over the latest sanctions triggered yesterday by President Trump, which could carry significant diplomatic and economic consequences.
Between the lines: This is another punch landed by a man who seemed reluctant to throw it. Trump took this step after missing a deadline and absorbing pressure from Congress, particularly in the wake of his jarring performance alongside Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. He has tweeted about Russia today, but it was to condemn witch hunts rather than the use of chemical weapons.
How it happened...
In March, the Trump administration accused Russia of culpability in the nerve agent attack on Russian former double agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, England. That put the wheels in motion...
What to watch: In phase two, Trump could cut off nearly all trade with Russia and block its state airline, Aeroflot, from landing in the U.S., per NBC’s Josh Lederman. The administration will likely decide not to escalate matters that far.
Between the lines: Trump's reluctance to confront the Kremlin threatens to defang his own administration's policies, while those same policies are undercutting his attempts to improve relations with Russia.
The bottom line: Trump came into office considering rolling back Obama's sanctions, rather than imposing new ones. Yet the punishments keep piling up on his watch.
"How is this administration taking tough actions on Russia while the president actively avoids them? That’s the question everyone is trying to answer."— Mark Simakovsky
A Yemeni child plays in Hajjah province. Note: He was not one of the children killed in the strike. Photo: Essa Ahmed/AFP/Getty Images
Dozens of children were killed today when an airstrike from the Saudi-led coalition struck a bus in Yemen, Axios' Haley Britzky writes.
The bigger picture: The war in Yemen is exacerbating what has been called the "world's worst humanitarian disaster." The coalition has bombed weddings, hospitals, and schools, been accused of torturing detainees and, according to a recent AP report, paid off and even recruited al-Qaeda members. The U.S. has continued to support it.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Yemen Stephen Seche tells Axios the U.S. has two primary goals in Yemen — countering Iran and fighting terrorist groups — and the coalition is "addressing these issues on our behalf."
"Why are we going to get in their hair about how they're conducting this war, because basically they're doing our work for us over there."— Seche, describing the thinking of some in the administration
While the war started under President Obama, the Trump administration has taken a different approach to working with the coalition, Seche said:
Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich: "The U.S. military support to our partners mitigates noncombatant casualties, by improving coalition processes and procedures, especially regarding compliance with the law of armed conflict and best practices for reducing the risk of civilian casualties. The final decisions on the conduct of operations in the campaign are made by the members of the Saudi-led coalition, not the United States."
Supporters of Bemba gather in Gemena, DRC. Photo: Junior D. Kannah/AFP/Getty Images
After a will-he-or-won’t-he saga that dragged on for years, Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila will not contest December’s election, a spokesman announced yesterday.
Why it matters: Still just 47, Kabila has been in power since the assassination of his father 17 years ago. He is constitutionally barred from seeking another term, but it was far from clear that would stop him, particularly after two years of election delays. His coalition will be represented by Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, a former interior minister seen as a Kabila loyalist.
“No one has ever asked what role the army and the security services will play. They are people who believe strongly in Kabila. How are they going to behave when Kabila says he’s not a candidate?”
Raymond Tshibanda, the DRC’s special envoy to the U.S., told me something similar: "There might be people who will be afraid to hear tomorrow that Kabila will not be president anymore."
1. Zimbabwe: A prominent opposition politician who had tried to flee the country has been arrested and charged with inciting violence in the wake of last week's disputed election. The move is sparking fears of a wider crackdown.
2. The Gambia: A year after Yahya Jammeh's long and dictatorial regime came to an end, two-thirds of people from the small, impoverished west African country say their lives are improving. That's the highest percentage in the region, according to Gallup.
Netanyahu (L) and Santos last year in Colombia. Photo: Juan David Tena/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Colombian President Ivan Duque took office Monday with a full in-tray, as Daniel
Erikson of the Penn Biden Center describes for Axios Expert Voices, having to confront a sputtering economy, divisive peace process and rising cocaine production.
But as Axios contributor Barak Ravid reports, he's now facing the fury of an ally:
Go deeper: Read Barak's full report.
Argentina's Senate this morning narrowly rejected a bill that would have legalized abortion. The proposal generated intense debate in Argentina, the home country of Pope Francis, and was closely watched around the region.
Mohammed bin Salman. Photo: Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
In recent days, Saudi Arabia has thrown a fit over Canada's call for the release of recently jailed activist Samar Badawi, an outspoken champion of women’s rights. Eurasia Group's Alex Kliment explains why in the latest Signal newsletter:
First, there’s a domestic angle. Saudi Arabia’s young Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman is liberalizing Saudi society as part of a broader bid to attract foreign investment and reduce his country’s dependence on oil revenues.
Second, there’s an external angle: the Trump effect. Just to be clear, the U.S. has never — under any administration — really put the screws to Saudi Arabia over human rights. But no modern U.S. President has been as unapologetically uninterested in human rights issues as Donald Trump.
What to watch: Will Trump intervene on behalf of “very weak and dishonest” Justin Trudeau? Doubtful. And while Ottawa and Riyadh will probably eventually work this all out, other authoritarians will surely take notice that on Trump’s watch there’s room to be tougher at home and pricklier abroad.
People escape the summer heat in the Han River in Xiangyang, China. Photo: VCG. Hope it's sunny wherever you are this weekend.
"There is an unresolved territorial conflict ... and would they bring such a country into the military alliance? Do they understand the possible implications? It could provoke a horrible conflict."— Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on the prospect of Georgia joining NATO
Thanks for stopping by — see you Monday evening!