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Kazakhstan

New Monday, New World: Russia Is In Charge

In Kazakhstan's capital Astana
In Kazakhstan's capital Astana

Well that was quite a first weekend. After Donald Trump's inauguration on Friday, an estimated two million people took to the streets worldwide to protest against the controversial new president, who continued his open warfare with the American press — and some would say, with the truth itself. Now, he faces a first work week at the Oval Office that promises to be no less hectic, as he starts rolling out his plan for his first 100 days, before welcoming British Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday.

But even for the man who promised to put "America first," the most important event of his first Monday in office, which could shape his whole presidency, is taking place halfway across the world, in the capital of Kazakhstan.

Representatives of the Syrian government and of the rebellion are gathering today in the city of Astana for peace talks brokered by Russia, together with Turkey and Iran. While the long-term goal is to bring back peace to Syria and initiate a political transition, French reporter Georges Malbrunot writes in Le Figaro that the immediate objective in Astana is to reinforce a fragile ceasefire agreed on Dec. 29.

But for Moscow, the summit also takes on a strategic dimension. Any positive outcome from Astana will resonate as a diplomatic victory for the Kremlin, and like yet more evidence of the American hegemony's demise. The timing and setting could not be better for Vladimir Putin's Russia. Out with an Obama administration that has stood in the way of its interests. Out with the old world's summits in places like Vienna and Geneva, replaced by the futuristic, shiny capital of a former Soviet state. What it all suggests is plain to see: In the Middle East, at least, America is no longer first.

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Ideas

A Writer's Advice For How To Read The Words Of Politics

Colombia's reformist president has promised to tackle endemic violence, economic exclusion, pollution and corruption in the country. So what's new with a politician's promises?

Image of Colombian President Gustavo Petro speaking during a press conference in Buenos Aires on Jan 14, 2023

Colombian President Gustavo Petro, speaks during a press conference in the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) Summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on January 24, 2023.

Manuel Cortina/ZUMA
Héctor Abad Faciolince

-Essay-

BOGOTÁ — Don't concentrate on his words, I was once advised, but look at what he's doing. I heard the words so long ago I cannot recall who said them. The point is, what's the use of a husband who vows never to beat his wife in January and leaves her with a bruised face in February?

Words are a strange thing, and in literal terms, we must distrust their meaning. As I never hit anyone, I have never declared that I wouldn't. It never occurred to me to say it. Strangely, there is more power and truth in a simple declaration like "I love her" than in the more emphatic "I love her so much." A verbal addition here just shrinks the "sense" of love.

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