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Alexei Nikolsky / Pool Photo via AP

Anne Applebaum, a Washington Post columnist, professor at the London School of Economics and author of the new book "The Red Famine," gave a concise description of what Vladimir Putin's Russia aims to achieve by interfering in elections in Germany and throughout the West this week on NPR's Fresh Air:

  • "It wants to end the European Union, which it sees as something that thwarts its ability to do corrupt deals, and do bilateral deals in Europe.
  • "It wants to end NATO, because it wants the United States and its influence out of Europe.
  • "More generally it seeks to undermine and dislodge liberal democracy wherever it can, partly for practical reasons because Russian companies do business using corrupt methods and it would be more useful to them to do business in states where rule of law isn't so respected and they can bribe people…
  • "But I think they also seek to undermine democracy for a bigger reason — namely that democracy rhetoric, or the ideals of rule of law, and freedom of speech and freedom of decision, these are ideals that are undermining for the current Russian regime. It's an oligarchic, corrupt dictatorship, so what it fears the most is people on the streets calling for democracy. So the extent to which it can undermine its neighbors, and undermine their democracies, it's good for them. Then they can point and say, 'look, democracy is a disaster, it doesn't work for the United States, it doesn't work for Germany, so why should you want it either?'"

The big picture: Yes, Putin interfered in the U.S. election in part to hurt Hillary Clinton, and to sow chaos. But with these objectives in mind, he had clear incentives to back Donald Trump. Trump is no Europhile, expressed deep skepticism of NATO on the campaign trail and his administration has said it will not make advocating for democracy abroad a priority.

Go deeper

7 mins ago - World

Abbas announces first Palestinian elections in 15 years

Abbas is 85 and in the 15th year of a 4-year term. Abbas Momani/AFP via Getty

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas published a decree on Friday announcing the dates for parliamentary and presidential elections in the Palestinian Authority.

Why it matters: This is the first time in 15 years that such a decree has been published. The last presidential elections took place in 2005, with Abbas winning, and the last parliamentary elections took place in 2006, with Hamas winning.

Updated 13 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — America has tuned out the coronavirus at the peak of its destruction — 1 in 3 people in L.A. County believed to have been infected with coronavirus.
  2. Politics: Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan— Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat — Joe Biden will seek nearly $2 trillion in COVID relief spending.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.
Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
1 hour ago - Economy & Business

Trump blocks banks from limiting loans to gun and oil companies

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Big banks are no longer allowed to reject business loan applicants because of the industry in which they operate, according to a new rule finalized on Thursday by the Trump administration.

Why it matters: Wall Street has curtailed its exposure to industries like guns, oil and private prisons, driven by both public and shareholder pressures. This new rule could reverse that trend.