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Russia

Why Putin Meeting Was The Perfect Case Of Know-Nothing Trump

The declaration that he'd work with the Russian president on a joint cyber security unit shows that the man in the White House has a basic problem of understanding policy. And the consequences are real.

Putin and Trump meet in Hamburg
Putin and Trump meet in Hamburg
 Leonid Bershidsky

One of the many challenges of dealing with Donald Trump is that he sometimes misunderstands things. The fallout from Trump's meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin Friday shows just how problematic that can be.

Trump tweeted upon his return from Hamburg that he and Putin "discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded." That sounded alarming. Indeed, most commentators took the tweet to mean that the U.S. president was thinking of forming a joint cyber defense mechanism with a foreign leader accused by U.S. intelligence services of hacking the 2016 presidential election. People were predictably outraged.

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Geopolitics

Russia's Military Failures Are Really About Its Soldiers

No doubt, strategic errors and corruption at the highest ranks in the Kremlin are partly to blame for the Russian military's stunning difficulties in Ukraine. But the roots run deeper, where the ordinary recruits come from, how they are exploited, how they react.

Army reserve soldiers go to Red Square to attend a Pioneer Induction ceremony

Anna Akage

To the great relief of Ukraine and the great surprise of the rest of the world, the Russian army — considered until February 24, the second strongest in the world — is now eminently beatable on the battlefield against Ukrainian forces operating with vastly inferior firepower.

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After renouncing the original ambitions to take Kyiv and unseat the Ukrainian government, the focus turned to the southeastern region of Donbas, where a would-be great battle on a scale comparable to World War II Soviet victories has turned into a quagmire peppered with laughable updates by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov on TikTok.

The Russians have not managed to occupy a single significant Ukrainian city, except Kherson, which they partially destroyed and now find difficult to hold. Meanwhile, Ukrainian civilians are left to suffer the bombing of cities and villages from Lviv to Odessa, with looting, torture and assorted war crimes.

The reasons for both the poor performance and atrocities are many, and include deep-seated corruption and lack of professionalism up through the highest ranks, including Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who had never served in the army, and arrived in his position only because of his loyalty to the No. 1 man in the Kremlin.

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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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