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The United States, and much of the rest of the world, will turn its collective attention tonight to the campus of Hofstra University, where Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will hold their first presidential debate. A quick look at the American and international press today shows just how much anticipation there is ahead of what's shaping up to be a very tight race between two very different choices.


Much of the pre-debate chatter has been about politics, often in the smallest sense of the word. Who's going to launch the first insult? How many times will they call each other a liar? Will Trump manage to stick to the script? Will Clinton finally go off-script? Can Trump look presidential? Can Clinton be likeable? Will debate moderator Lester Holt check facts or just his watch?


No doubt, at some point, the question of Syria will be raised. The five-year-long civil war there is escalating again, with Vladimir Putin's Russia and Islamist terrorism making a seemingly intractable situation somehow even more complicated. Just yesterday, after yet another failed ceasefire, dozens of civilians in the city of Aleppo were killed by Russian and Syrian regime bombing raids. What do Clinton and Trump have to say about that? What exactly would they say to Putin right now? Or to the Pentagon brass? Who will win on Nov. 8 is America's decision. But one way or another, the consequences will be felt worldwide.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Sergey Lavrov, Putin’s Decoy-In-Chief

The Russian Foreign Minister, among the country’s most recognizable figures, embodies both the corruption and confusion of the Putin regime. Not everything is what it seems — and that’s the point.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a diplomatic reception for heads of African diplomatic missions

Anna Akage

From the outside, one might have the impression that the Russian Federation is run through a highly complex and well-coordinated apparatus that ensures that any single cog in Vladimir Putin’s system is by definition both in synch with the other cogs — and utterly replaceable. The Kremlin appears to us through this lens as an impregnable citadel with long arms and peering eyes that are literally everywhere.

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And yet, this is a completely false picture — and there’s no greater proof than in looking more closely at one of Russia's most prominent figures, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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