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A woman reacts to the damage left from a gunfight between militants and police in the Kashmiri city of Srinagar
A woman reacts to the damage left from a gunfight between militants and police in the Kashmiri city of Srinagar

Welcome to Friday, where the European flood death toll tops 100, Lebanon's prime minister steps down and a teenager gets a seat on Jeff Bezos' trip to space. We also get a look from Kommersant on the rising hopes of the reformist revolution in the post-Soviet state of Moldova.

• Germany death toll rises to at least 103, hundreds missing: "Once-in-a-century" flooding in Western Europe has left at least 103 people dead in Germany, and at least nine dead in neighboring Belgium. Hundreds remain missing as search teams continue to look for survivors. The scale of destruction has surprised even climate change experts.

• Merkel's White House farewell: In an otherwise warm final visit to the White House as Chancellor, Angela Merkel and U.S. President Joe Biden disagreed on the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline that the United States fears will increase European reliance on Russian gas. Biden was the fourth occupant of the White House since Merkel took office in 2005.

• COVID spreading in Asia and Africa: As Indonesia becomes Asia's new COVID epicenter, nearby countries are planning new restrictions with Singapore"s announcement it will limit social gatherings, a move that South Korea is also considering. Across Africa, cases have "surged by 43 percent in the space of a week." There is concern that the Delta variant could mutate into more dangerous variants as it sweeps through largely unvaccinated regions.

• Lebanese prime minister steps down: Prime Minister Saad Hariri of Lebanon has decided to step down after nine months of attempting in vain to form a functioning coalition of cabinet members. Hariri was designated prime minister in the wake of the Beirut port explosion and the ongoing economic crisis, and his exit will likely delay any international aid packages.

• Dutch crime reporter dies: Peter R. de Vries, the acclaimed Dutch crime reporter known for his investigations into mobsters and drug lords, died Thursday from injuries sustained when shot at close range in central Amsterdam last week.

• Pacific Rim leaders discuss post-pandemic economic recovery: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will chair a virtual meeting for members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum to discuss post-COVID economic recovery plans. Presidents Joe Biden, Xi Jinping, and Vladimir Putin, as well as Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga are among the other leaders to be included in today's special meeting.

• Teen to fly to space with Bezos: Oliver Daemen will become the youngest person to enter space after the anonymous public auction winner who was slated to go stepped down due to scheduling conflicts. Bezos' "Blue Origin" flight will also include Wally Funk, 82, who is set to be the oldest person to enter space.

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Geopolitics

The Days After: What Would Happen If Putin Opts For A Tactical Nuclear Strike

The risk of the Kremlin launching a tactical nuclear weapon on Ukraine is small but not impossible. The Western response would itself set off a counter-response, which might contain or spiral to the worst-case scenario.

An anti-nuclear activist impersonates Vladimir Putin at a rally in Berlin.

Yves Bourdillon

-Analysis-

PARISVladimir Putin could “go nuclear” in Ukraine. Yes, this expression, which metaphorically means “taking the extreme, drastic action,” is now literally considered a possibility as well. Cornered and humiliated by a now plausible military defeat, experts say the Kremlin could launch a tactical nuclear bomb on a Ukrainian site in a desperate attempt to turn the tables.

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In any case, this is what Putin — who put Russia's nuclear forces on alert just after the start of the invasion in late February — is aiming to achieve: to terrorize populations in Western countries to push their leaders to let go of Ukraine.

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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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