Happy Thursday World readers. We're back with a 1,714-word (6-minute) trip around the world.
Situational awareness: Axios World will be coming to you next week from London. I have no idea what will happen with Brexit and Boris, but I'm excited to find out up close!
Putin plays host. Photo: Sergei Chirikov/Pool/AFP via Getty Images
Vladimir Putin is signaling to the world this week that Russia has returned to Africa, hosting representatives of all 54 African nations, including 43 heads of state or government, at his retreat in Sochi.
The big picture: Russia is already Africa’s top arms supplier and is deepening relationships in areas like mining and security. But Putin’s primary objective with the inaugural Russia-Africa Summit was to “rattle the U.S. and Europe, which have taken Russia’s decades-long absence from Africa for granted,” contends Paul Stronski of the Carnegie Endowment.
W. Gyude Moore, a former Liberian minister of public works now at the Center for Global Development, tells Axios that few African leaders will have worried much about U.S. reaction to their presence in Sochi.
As for Russia, while they “don’t have the checkbook of China or the United States,” he says, “they have specific competencies a number of African countries need.”
Russia is also willing to provide diplomatic support, and even mercenaries, to regimes treated as pariahs by other powers.
“They’re really, really savvy at positioning themselves as not the U.S., not the EU — as treating you as equals, responding to your needs as they are and not imposing their own ideas of what your country should do."— W. Gyude Moore
The flipside: Russia simply doesn't have the economic might to match the investments and trade coming from China, the U.S., "and even many lesser powers," Stronski writes.
What to watch: "This gathering was more symbolic than substantive. But if Moscow expands its Africa policy after the summit and under the West's inattentive watch, it could be a far greater worry," Stronski concludes.
Putin meets with Guinean President Alpha Condé. Photo: Alexei Druzhinin\TASS via Getty
I asked Moore what his considerations would be in dealing with Russia were he still serving in government.
Why it matters: Moore says that's part of why America's declining influence in Africa is so "dangerous."
The bottom line: "Russia is not going to advocate for those. Neither will China.”
Supporters and opponents of Bolivia's Evo Morales clash in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Photo: Daniel Walker/AFP via Getty Images
1. Bolivian President Evo Morales claims to have won Sunday's election by the 10% margin needed to avoid a runoff — despite indications of foul play and condemnation from international monitors.
2. Canada's Justin Trudeau says he'll form a minority government rather than seek a formal power-sharing deal, setting up a weaker and likely less stable government than the one he led for the last four years.
3. Argentina goes to the polls on Sunday and is all but certain to return the Peronists — a populist, left-wing movement — to power.
Go deeper with a great FT piece on Peronism
Russian military police on patrol in northern Syria. Photo: Delil Soulseiman/AFP via Getty Images
President Trump gave a triumphant statement from the White House yesterday, removing sanctions on Turkey and claiming his decision to withdraw troops from northern Syria resulted in a "great outcome."
Reality check: The ceasefire remains fragile despite a deal reached between Russia and Turkey. That deal, meanwhile, solidified the diplomatic marginalization of the U.S. in an area where it had been a stabilizing force, Hardin Lang of Refugees International writes for Axios Expert Voices:
What to watch:
The bottom line: Renewed conflict in northeast Syria is increasingly likely. Further violence could pave the way for ethnic cleansing, forcing hundreds of thousands of additional Kurdish civilians to flee their homes and letting Turkey resettle the safe zone mainly with Syrian Arab refugees.
Mahjong in Xi'an. Photo: Getty
Three stories on a changing China that caught my eye this week.
1. The makers of perhaps the most legendary of French wines — Château Lafite Rothschild — recently released the first vintage to bear a surprising note on its revered label: Made in China.
2. China's fast-growing appetite for meat "threatens Latin American forests and Arctic ice caps alike, as cattle-rearing prompts land-clearing and emits greenhouse gases," per the Economist, which also notes health and economic concerns.
3. Police in Yushan in southeastern China prompted "panic" over the weekend by announcing a ban on mahjong parlors, the BBC reports.
Narendra Selfie: Indian actor Vivek Oberoi at the premiere of PM Narendra Modi. Photo: Sam Panthaky/AFP/Getty Images
There's been a marked rise in "patriotic — some would say nationalistic — themes in Indian television and cinema," from low-brow action films to prestige TV dramas, the FT's Nirpal Dhaliwal writes.
The big picture: The creators of such shows and movies are responding to popular demand. But the Indian government is also in no mood to be criticized, Foreign Policy's Ravi Agrawal and Kathryn Salam write.
Displaced children play in Idlib, near the Syria-Turkey border. Photo: Aaref Watad. Photo: AFP via Getty
"I really enjoyed my conversation with General @MazloumAbdi. He appreciates what we have done, and I appreciate what the Kurds have done."— Donald Trump today, on Twitter, praising the Kurdish commander of the SDF
"There is a red notice on him. The U.S. should deliver him to us."— Recep Tayyip Erdogan today, referring to the same commander as a "wanted terrorist" Go deeper.