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Russia's booming stock market and currency, China's second quarter bounce and Nicolás Maduro's ability to hold power in Venezuela this year have all flown directly in the face of conventional wisdom about the power of the U.S. to cajole bad actors on the international stage through sanctions.

Why it matters: As the Trump administration mulls further punitive actions on China, Iran and a growing list of countries, there's growing evidence the U.S. is losing its coercive power.

That's been particularly notable in the case of Russia, which has been delivering solid returns to investors, despite facing U.S. sanctions for years.

  • Russia's stock market is booming this year, near record highs in ruble terms, with investors expecting fresh all-time highs by year-end.
  • Its ruble currency rose to its highest value against the dollar in 10 months last week.
  • Russian GDP is growing and its unemployment rate is near a historic low.

"They're supporting their economy by adjusting who they're trading with and the markets that they're going into," Chris Gaffney, president of world markets at TIAA Bank, tells Axios. "We're seeing some of that with China too, where China is establishing more trade with Europe because of the ongoing trade spat with the U.S."

  • Gaffney says this has also been true of Iran and Venezuela, which were expected to crumble under the weight of U.S. economic sanctions earlier this year.

What to watch: The common thread is China, which has become the top trading partner with many of the world's countries and essentially ignores U.S. sanctions. Russia is in talks with Iran and has deepened its trading relationship with China while it profits from cheap Venezuelan oil imports the rest of the world is barred from receiving.

  • This could color the reaction Trump gets from China, Turkey and Iran at this week's G-20 meetings.

Go deeper: The grand fall of Venezuelan oil

Go deeper

Updated 56 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Health: Most vulnerable Americans aren't getting enough vaccine information — Fauci says Trump administration's lack of facts on COVID "very likely" cost lives.
  2. Education: Schools face an uphill battle to reopen during the pandemic.
  3. Politics: Biden unveils "wartime" COVID strategyBiden's COVID-19 bubble.
  4. Vaccine: Florida requiring proof of residency to get vaccine — CDC extends interval between vaccine doses for exceptional cases.
  5. World: Hong Kong puts tens of thousands on lockdown as cases surge — Pfizer to supply 40 million vaccine doses to lower-income countries.
  6. Sports: 2021 Tokyo Olympics hang in the balance.
  7. 🎧 Podcast: Carbon Health's CEO on unsticking the vaccine bottleneck.
Bryan Walsh, author of Future
4 hours ago - Health

Schools face an uphill battle to reopen during the pandemic

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Biden's plan to accelerate the reopening of K-8 schools faces major challenges from a still out-of-control pandemic and more contagious coronavirus variants.

Why it matters: The longer American kids miss in-person schooling, the further they fall behind. But the uncertain state of the science on the role young children play in the pandemic continues to complicate efforts to reopen schools.

Focus group: Former Trump voters say he should never hold office again

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

"Relief" is the top emotion some swing voters who used to support Donald Trump say they felt as they watched President Biden's swearing-in, followed by "hope."

Why it matters: For voters on the bubble between parties, this moment is less about excitement for Biden or liberal politics than exhaustion and disgust with Trump and a craving for national healing. Most said Trump should be prohibited from ever holding office again.

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