Monday's world stories

Updated Sep 14, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Alexander Vindman calls Trump a "useful idiot" for Putin

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman. Photo: Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who served as a key witness in President Trump's impeachment inquiry, told The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg that he believes Trump is a "useful idiot" and "unwitting agent" of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Of note: He doubled down on his comments in an interview with NBC News airing Monday evening, saying Trump's "infatuated" with Putin and that some had described their relationship as "a kind of a love affair."

Dave Lawler, author of World
Sep 14, 2020 - World

America's role in the world undecided heading into election

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto, and Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images

In 50 days, America will either double down on the disruptive force of America First or elect a man vowing to put the international order back together again.

Why it matters: America still has the world's biggest economy, most powerful military and deepest network of alliances. But it is unclear what it intends to do with them.

Sep 14, 2020 - World

Netanyahu offsets historic UAE, Bahrain accords with Israel's return to COVID lockdown

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a briefing on coronavirus developments in Israel at his office in Jerusalem, on Sept. 13. Photo by Yoav Dudkevitch / POOL / AFP via Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was balancing his greatest achievement against his greatest failure as he arrived in Washington on Monday.

Why it matters: Netanyahu on Tuesday will be among those at the White House to sign historic and strategic agreements normalizing relations between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, while back home, Israelis grapple with the economic and health crisis brought by a second lockdown to contain the coronavirus. The virus has made many Israelis indifferent to the big event at the White House.

Sep 14, 2020 - World

U.S. bans some imports of cotton, other products from Xinjiang made with forced labor

A tractor sowing cotton seeds on April 5 in Xinjiang. Photo: VCG via Getty Images

U.S. Customs and Border Protection issued a series of orders on Monday barring some imports of cotton, apparel, hair products, computer parts and other goods from China's Xinjiang region due to the government's "illicit, inhumane, and exploitative practices of forced labor."

Why it matters: The Trump administration is taking an increasingly aggressive approach to human rights abuses in Xinjiang, where the Chinese government is engaged in a sweeping campaign of demographic and cultural genocide against Uighur Muslims and other ethnic minorities.

Trump says he gets along better with world leaders "the tougher and meaner they are"

In a new clip from an interview with Bob Woodward, President Trump said that his relationships with world leaders are better "the tougher and meaner they are," naming Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as an example.

Why it matters: Trump has often faced criticism for his warm relations and praise for authoritarian leaders like Erdoğan, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He has had a more confrontational relationship with traditional U.S. allies like Germany and South Korea.

Sep 14, 2020 - World

Labs in France and Sweden confirm Navalny was poisoned with Novichok

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny speaks with journalists in 2019. Photo: MAXIM ZMEYEV/AFP via Getty Images

Specialist labs in France and Sweden have confirmed that Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was poisoned with a nerve agent from the Novichok group, the German government announced Monday.

Why it matters: The chemical is typically associated with Russian security services and was used in the attempted assassination in 2018 of Sergei Skripal, a Russian former double agent who had relocated to the U.K. The Kremlin has denied wrongdoing.

Sep 14, 2020 - World

5 former U.K. prime ministers speak out against Johnson's plan to break Brexit treaty

Boris Johnson. Photo: Stefan Rousseau- WPA Pool/Getty Images

David Cameron on Monday became the fifth former prime minister of the United Kingdom to raise concerns or condemn the government's plan to break international law in order to amend the Brexit deal Boris Johnson agreed to with the European Union last year.

The state of play: Johnson is facing a possible intra-party rebellion over a new bill that would override provisions in the Brexit divorce deal related to Northern Ireland, a country in the U.K. that shares a border with EU member state Ireland.

Pompeo says U.S. ambassador to China is stepping down

Photo: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

The U.S. ambassador to China, Terry Branstad, is stepping down, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Twitter Monday.

Why it matters: Branstad's three-year tenure was marked by a sharp escalation in tensions between the U.S. and China, exacerbated in the past year by the coronavirus pandemic, President Trump's trade war, Beijing's crackdown on Hong Kong, its abuses against Uighur Muslims, a military buildup in the South China Sea and more.

Sep 13, 2020 - World

Israel to reimpose 3-week lockdown after surge in coronavirus cases

Photo: Yonathan Sindel/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Sunday the government will impose a three-week lockdown in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza following a major resurgence in coronavirus cases, AP reports.

Why it matters: Israel is the first developed country to re-enter lockdown, which it had initially lifted in May, according to Haaretz. The lockdown will begin on Friday, coinciding with the start of Rosh Hashanah.

Sep 13, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Peter Strzok: Trump orbit has "pervasive pattern of contact" with Russians

Former FBI agent Peter Strzok said on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday that Rudy Giuliani's work with a Ukrainian lawmaker who was sanctioned by the U.S. last week for pro-Russian election interference is part of a "pervasive pattern of contact" that Trump associates have had with Russia.

The big picture: Strzok led the FBI's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and worked for special counsel Robert Mueller before being removed and later fired by the FBI for sending text messages critical of President Trump.

Sep 13, 2020 - World

Russians vote in polls targeted by Putin critic Alexei Navalny

A man votes at a polling station in the Kostroma region's gubernatorial election Sunday. Photo: Vladimir Smirnov/TASS via Getty Images

Russians were voting Sunday in local elections seen as a test in the popularity of President Vladimir Putin and the ruling United Russia party that supports him ahead of next year's parliamentary elections.

Why it matters: The polls come weeks after Russian opposition leader and Putin critic Alexei Navalny was found to be poisoned with nerve agent Novichok — a calling card of the Russian security services. Navalny had backed United Russia's "key challengers" and was promoting a tactical "smart voting" system before he fell ill, the BBC notes.

Sep 13, 2020 - World

Dozens arrested during lockdown protests in Melbourne, Australia

Lockdown protesters marching from the Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne, Australia, on Sunday. Photo: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

Dozens of lockdown protesters in Melbourne, Australia, were arrested after facing off with riot police for a second straight day on Sunday, per Nine News.

The big picture: The Victorian state capital has been under a nightly curfew since Aug. 5 amid surging coronavirus cases. From midnight Sunday, the curfew was being cut by an hour to 9pm–5am. Victoria's states of emergency and disaster were extended until at least Oct. 11, as state officials confirmed Sunday 41 new cases and seven more deaths from COVID-19. All other states and territories have reported single-digit or zero cases for weeks.

Go deeper: Australia plunges into first recession in 30 years

Sep 13, 2020 - World

Greek police use tear gas on protesting refugees

A woman cleans her eyes with water after police used tear gas during clashes near the city Mytilene on the Greek island of Lesbos, on Saturday. Photo: Angelos Tzortzinis/AFP via Getty Images

Greek police on the island of Lesbos used tear gas Saturday on protesters left homeless after their overcrowded refugee camp was destroyed by fire earlier this week, per the BBC.

Why it matters: The island's new Kara Tepe camp can accommodate 3,000 people, with priority given to "vulnerable groups," Ekathimerini.com reports. It's unclear what will happen to the other 8,500 people. Rights groups and local health officials say the displaced people have no access to sanitation.