Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios Pro Rata

Dive into the world of dealmakers across VC, PE and M&A with Axios Pro Rata. Delivered daily to your inbox by Dan Primack and Kia Kokalitcheva.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Nashville news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Nashville newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Columbus news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Columbus newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Dallas news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Dallas newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Austin news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Austin newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Atlanta news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Atlanta newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Philadelphia news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Philadelphia newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Chicago news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Chicago newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top DC news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios DC newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Egypt’s Abdul Fattah al-Sisi have extended their presidencies through sham elections, China has scrapped term limits to allow Xi Jinping to rule indefinitely, and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has bolstered his popularity with a military offensive in Syria. Even Nicolas Maduro, despite a crippling financial crisis, has maintained his grip on power in Venezuela.

The big picture: 2018 has been a good year to be a strongman. Will that luck run out?

Russia

Putin’s new term begins with outrage at home over a shopping mall fire, and a showdown abroad over the nerve agent attack in the U.K.

  • The bottom line: Axios’ Steve LeVine, who covered Russia for years, says neither event is likely to hurt Putin domestically because the West’s reaction feeds the narrative that Russia is under siege, and outrage over the fire has been pointed more at local officials than the Kremlin.
Egypt

Sisi’s popularity isn’t as rock solid as it once was (while he received 97% of the vote against laughable “opposition,” turnout slid to 41%), and Egypt is facing real security and economic challenges.

  • The bottom line: Sisi faces little pressure from within the state, the business elite, or foreign powers, as the Atlantic Council’s H.A. Hellyer notes. But a young population paired with sky-high youth unemployment could be a combination worth worrying about in a country where protests toppled two leaders in the last seven years.
China

Xi is on a long winning streak, but two thorns have remained in his side: Kim Jong-un (more specifically, the prospect of a Kim-Trump summit with China sidelined), and a looming trade war with the U.S.

  • The bottom line: Chris Johnson, a senior adviser at CSIS and former CIA China analyst, says Kim's recent trip to Beijing has convinced China that "little brother is back onside," while the trade standoff also "seems to be moving toward an interim solution." Still, the Trump factor means neither of those concerns are permanently assuaged.
Turkey

After the success of his military offensive in Afrin, a Kurdish enclave across the border in north-western Syria, Erdogan faces two potential threats: a violent insurgency, and a confrontation with NATO allies. Turkish politics are also highly polarized, as his razor-thin victory in last year’s constitutional referendum showed.

  • The bottom line: The economy is continuing to grow, and the offensive in Afrin has boosted Erdogan's nationalist credentials. Facing no strong, unified opposition, Erdogan may even call for snap elections this year, says Soner Cagaptay, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and author of The New Sultan.
Venezuela

The economy is in freefall, but Maduro and his allies are “pretty confident they can either win or steal” an election currently scheduled for May 20, Brookings fellow and Stanford senior research scholar Harold Trinkunas says. That’s partially because the opposition is divided over whether to even take part.

  • The bottom line: Maduro has been successful at “coup-proofing” the military and undermining the courts and other institutions. But there are indications he can’t last forever. Trinkunas says to keep an eye on the military for signs of movement against this “remarkably unpopular strongman.”
The big picture

All strongmen aren’t created equal — Maduro, for example, is on far less stable footing than Xi — but all five of these leaders have managed to systematically remove checks on their power. Despite the challenges they're facing, the year of the strongman looks likely to continue.

Sign up for Axios World, launching this week and keeping you up to date on the big stories around the globe.

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Prosecutors charge parents of Michigan school shooting suspect

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

The parents of a 15-year-old accused of killing four students and wounding seven other people at a Michigan high school have been charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter, according to court documents.

The latest: Lawyers for James and Jennifer Crumbley told the Detroit News they are "returning to the area to be arraigned," after law enforcement officials announced a search for the Crumbleys had been initiated.

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus variant surveillance varies widely by state — Omicron cases confirmed in 5 U.S. states America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Moderna loses patent battles tied to COVID vaccine.
  3. Politics: Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy — Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate — Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come.
  4. World: WHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron — COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming — Germany approves new restrictions for unvaccinated people.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
7 hours ago - World

Putin to demand legal guarantee against NATO expansion in call with Biden

Biden and Putin meeting in Geneva in June. Photo: Mikhail Metzel\TASS via Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin is demanding a legally binding guarantee that NATO will not expand east — including to Ukraine — and plans to raise the issue in an upcoming phone call with President Biden, according to the Kremlin.

Why it matters: Russia has massed more than 94,000 troops on the border with Ukraine and could be preparing for a large-scale invasion at the end of January, Ukraine's defense minister said Friday.