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"Russia has been cultivating ties with the Taliban to increase its influence in Afghanistan three decades after Moscow’s humiliating defeat there helped hasten the Soviet Union’s collapse," Missy Ryan and Amie Ferris-Rotman of the Washington Post report.

Why it matters: "The Russian gambit is a relatively modest political investment that could yet yield outsize dividends as Moscow seeks to prove its global heft."

  • "'Supporting the Taliban in a small way is an insurance policy for the future,' said Artemy Kalinovsky, a scholar of Central Asian history at the University of Amsterdam."

The big picture: "Moscow has ... sought to reclaim its role as regional power broker, convening secret discussions with the United States, Iran, Pakistan, India and China ... It is part of a strategy ... to protect Russia’s southern flank from the Islamic State’s emergence in Central Asia and hedge against the possibility of an abrupt U.S. exit from Afghanistan after 17 years of war."

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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

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Blumenthal calls classified briefing on Russian interference "absolutely chilling"

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D- Conn.) called on the Trump administration to declassify intelligence detailing Russian efforts to influence the 2020 elections, telling MSNBC on Sunday that the classified briefing lawmakers received about the Kremlin's activities last week was "absolutely chilling."

The big picture: National Counterintelligence and Security Center Director William Evanina said in a statement Friday that the Russian government is "using a range of measures" to "denigrate" Joe Biden ahead of the election. China and Iran would prefer that Trump is defeated, according to Evanina.

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Why it matters: "Whether we're closer to 200,000 or closer to 300,000 depends on what we do now and how it evolves," Gottlieb warned on Sunday as the U.S. surpassed five million confirmed coronavirus cases.