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Trump at the 2017 NATO summit. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
America’s closest allies once believed President Trump could be contained — by the likes of James Mattis, or in a pinch Emmanuel Macron, if not by the weight of his office and America’s role in the world. In recent months, they’ve all but given up on that idea.
The bottom line: Despite repeated exhortations from U.S. officials to “pay attention to our actions, not the tweets,” Axios’ Jonathan Swan reports that European officials are reaching a new, uncomfortable consensus: no one really speaks for Trump but Trump himself.
As the Putin meeting will be back-to-back with an annual NATO summit, allies fear a repeat performance from two weeks ago, when Trump followed up a prickly G7 summit by castigating Justin Trudeau, before heaping praise on Kim Jong-un.
Alexander Vershbow, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia and deputy secretary general of NATO who is now at the Atlantic Council, tells Axios Putin "probably can't believe his lucky stars."
China's militarization of the South China Sea was top of the agenda on Defense Secretary James Mattis' trip to Beijing this week, and Chinese state media reports President Xi Jinping told him China will not give up "any inch of territory passed down from ancestors."
The backdrop: Over the past four years, China has built a series of artificial islands in the South China Sea, and turned them into airfields and naval ports. "It's breathtaking what the Chinese have done out there," says Dennis Wilder, the National Security Council's Senior Director for East Asia under George W. Bush. "There's nothing like it anywhere else in the world."
The bottom line: The sea is a critical component of China's plan to build a military proportional to its economic power. Beijing has no intention of giving up its claim, while the U.S. has no intention of accepting it.
Less than two years ago, a cup of coffee cost 450 bolivars in Venezuela. Today, as the nation's hyperinflation continues to skyrocket, a cafe con leche costs 1 million bolivars — or 29 U.S. cents, according to Bloomberg.
By the numbers, from Axios' Stef Kight:
The big picture: It's nearly impossible to compile the cash needed to grab a coffee given allowances at banks in the country. Back in January, CNN Money's Stefano Pozzebano detailed his attempt to get cash in the Venezuelan capital, ultimately getting 10,000 bolivars — that day's allowance, then worth 6 cents — after visiting four banks over four hours.
Go deeper: More on Venezuela's crisis.
Creeping authoritarianism is leading to a gradual erosion of liberty around the world, as Freedom House has catalogued year after year. But another annual study, from Gallup, indicates that people are actually becoming more satisfied with the freedom they feel in their own lives.
Here's how the world's biggest economic powers rank, from most to least satisfied with levels of personal freedom :
The least satisfied countries were Afghanistan ("Not Free"), Greece ( "Free"), Algeria ("Not Free"), and South Sudan ("Not Free").
Worth noting: Gallup notes that "social desirability to answer this question positively" and "fear about how a negative answer might be interpreted" could influence responses (hence why Uzbekistan and Cambodia join the likes of Denmark and Canada among the most satisfied countries).
I'm about to head on vacation (have I mentioned that yet?), so it seems as good a time as any to note that work-life balance varies widely across the developed world.
The OECD looks at the percentage of workers who work long hours as well as the average time spent on leisure or personal activities — including eating and sleeping — in order to determine work-life balance.
A mural in Rome depicts Trump, Putin, and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte as soccer players. Photo: Antonio Masiello/Getty Images
Three thoughts on the shock early exit of defending champions Germany from the World Cup...
Next round's matchups: Uruguay vs. Portugal, France vs. Argentina, Brazil vs. Mexico, Belgium vs. Japan, Spain vs. Russia, Croatia vs. Denmark, Sweden vs. Switzerland, Colombia vs. England.
A fishing boat leaves the harbor in Cornwall, England as the sun rises over St Michael's Mount near Penzance. Photo: Matt Cardy/Getty Images
"If you can't come legally, don't come at all."— Mike Pence to Central Americans
Thanks for reading — see you July 9th.