When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

Moscow To Beijing To DC, When Strongmen Take Charge

Putin and his Akita guard dog
Putin and his Akita guard dog
Benjamin Witte

PARISVladimir Putin, a former KGB officer with black belts in multiple martial arts, has the skill and know-how to kill a man with his bare hands. He also has a big scary dog, as a pair of Japanese journalists were reminded before interviewing Putin on Wednesday.

The journalists "grimaced" and "stood there frozen" when Putin brought in Yume, his four-year-old Akita, who barked at the frightened visitors, CNN reported. With cameras rolling, the powerful president then led the large animal through a series of tricks. "You were right to take caution," Putin later told the Japanese men. "Yume is a no-nonsense dog … She is being a guard dog."

The Russian leader's alpha-male antics contrast sharply with the measured, soft-spoken approach cultivated by his outgoing U.S. counterpart, President Barack Obama. Of course Obama is about to be replaced by Donald Trump — a blustery billionaire with his own unabashed tough-guy vibe minus the karate chops. And then there's the imposing Xi Jinping, who is also accumulating the kind of personal power in China that hasn't been seen since the 1970s.

The three strongmen have little time or interest, it would seem, in normal checks and balances. And they prefer "deal-making" to diplomacy, Alain Frachon of the French daily Le Mondeargued in a recent article. That could include agreements among themselves whereby each leader recognizes and respects the other's sphere of influence. Trump said as much during his campaign for the presidency, suggesting, for example, that he won't interfere with Putin's plans for the Crimean Peninsula.

Writing in Russian daily Kommersant, Sergei Strokan and Maksim Yusin say the view in Moscow is that Trump (like Putin) is ultimately as much of a "pragmatist" as a strongman.

Still, as history has shown, the balance-of-power act can be a tricky one to maintain. Take the most horrific spot on the world map at the moment: Aleppo. With Putin's backing, the forces of Syria's own strongman, Bashar al-Assad, have taken back full control of the country's largest city and historic economic capital. Putin didn't bat an eye in the face of widespread reports of widespread civilian casualties in Aleppo.

But, as Georges Malbrunot writes in another French daily, Le Figaro, the Putin-Assad axis has its limits: Now that the so-called "useful Syria" is back under regime control, Putin (who has other hot spots to worry about) may want to push for negotiations and an end to the conflict and possibly to Assad's rule. The Syrian leader instead appears eager to reconquer all the territory he's lost, up to the Turkish and Iraqi borders. Whether a shift in the Russian-Syrian alliance means more or less bloodshed remains to be seen. Strongmen at odds or strongmen in cahoots — which is worse?

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.


The West Has An Answer To China's New Silk Road — With A Lift From The Gulf

The U.S. and Europe are seeking to rival China by launching a huge joint project. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States will also play a key role – because the battle for world domination is not being fought on China’s doorstep, but in the Middle East.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Indian Prime Minister Narendra and U.S. President Joe Biden shaking hands during PGII & India-Middle East-Europe Economics Corridor event at the G20 Summit on Sept. 9 in New Delhi

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Indian Prime Minister Narendra and U.S. President Joe Biden during PGII & India-Middle East-Europe Economics Corridor event at the G20 Summit on Sept. 9 in New Delhi

Daniel-Dylan Böhmer


BERLIN — When world leaders are so keen to emphasize the importance of a project, we may well be skeptical. “This is a big deal, a really big deal,” declared U.S. President Joe Biden earlier this month.

The "big deal" he's talking about is a new trade and infrastructure corridor planned to be built between India, the Middle East and Europe.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi described the project as a “beacon of cooperation, innovation and shared progress,” while President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen called it a “green and digital bridge across continents and civilizations."

The corridor will consist of improved railway networks, shipping ports and submarine cables. It is not only India, the U.S. and Europe that are investing in it – they are also working together on the project with Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

Saudi Arabia is planning to provide $20 billion in funding for the corridor, but aside from that, the sums involved are as yet unclear. The details will be hashed out over the next two months. But if the West and its allies truly want to compete with China's so-called New Silk Road, they will need a lot of money.

Keep reading...Show less

The latest