Anxiety in Moscow

Balance of Power

The Kremlin would deny it, but the Donald Trump years have been pretty good for Russia, whose analysts are already calculating the costs of Joe Biden winning November's U.S. presidential election.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has watched Trump pick fights with European allies, sow doubts over NATO's future, and hand Moscow its biggest strategic victory in the Middle East in decades by pulling U.S. forces out of Syria.

Resentful over years of Washington's criticism of rights abuses in Russia, the Kremlin also has enjoyed seeing bitter U.S. domestic divisions undermine its global leadership as a role model of freedom and democracy.

Now Russian officials are war-gaming what a Democratic victory would mean on issues ranging from sanctions and energy exports to arms control and regional hotspots. As Henry Meyer and Ilya Arkhipov report, people close to the leadership believe Biden will be bad news.

While Trump avoids any criticism of Putin, Biden labels Russia an "opponent." He'd likely move swiftly to repair relations in the western alliance, preventing Putin from exploiting tensions on issues such as gas pipelines and the confrontations over Ukraine and Belarus.

Trump has weathered persistent accusations that he is Putin's man in the White House. He denies Russia meddled in his favor in the 2016 election campaign, despite the U.S. intelligence community's unanimous conclusion that it did.

While the Kremlin predictably denies any interference, the FBI last week said Russia is making "very active" efforts to denigrate Biden.

Facing a choice between a second Trump term and a Biden presidency, there is little doubt where Putin would mark his ballot if he had one.

Anthony Halpin

Biden lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow in 2011.

Photographer: Alexander Nemenov/AFP

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Global Headlines

Warning sign | Black voters are seeing about 4% of their mail-in ballots initially rejected in the swing state of North Carolina, twice the rate of White residents and a troubling sign for Democrats counting on one of the party's most loyal constituencies. The development underscores the problems that may emerge as many pandemic-wary Americans vote by mail for the first time.

  • Trump will make an appeal today to Black Americans, with offers of aid to expand small businesses and further criminal justice reforms.

Campaign 2020

There are 39 days until the election. Here's the latest on the race for control of the White House and Congress.

Biden will pay his respects to the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg today at the Capitol. Trump plans to announce his pick to replace her tomorrow.

Other developments:

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Missile diplomacy | Turkey approached France to procure European-made air defense systems, giving its western allies another opportunity to contribute to its requirements after the purchase of a Russian system strained ties with the U.S. As Selcan Hacaoglu, Firat Kozok and Ania Nussbaum report, the S-400 missiles supplied by Moscow — which remain unactivated — sparked worry that Russia could gather critical intelligence on NATO military projects, including America's most sophisticated warplane.

Another loss | If the TikTok deal blessed by Trump holds, it's a win for China, Shelly Banjo reports. Trump will get almost nothing he demanded when he threatened to ban the popular Chinese-owned video app over national security concerns if it wasn't sold to a U.S. owner. Under the terms, Tiktok's parent company ByteDance will retain majority control, and there's no satisfying resolution to address the risk that TikTok could funnel American data to the Chinese government.

Undercounting coronavirus | The world will officially record 1 million deaths from Covid-19 in the next few days, but the real tally might be almost double that. Fatalities from the worst pandemic in a century may be closer to 1.8 million, and could hit 3 million by year-end. Even in countries with sophisticated health systems, mortality is difficult to gauge accurately, and the virus's ability to spread between people who show no symptoms has enabled it to outrun measures to clearly identify cases, Lisa Du reports.

  • France and the U.K. reported a record number of cases as Europe strains to control the resurgent pandemic. Authorities are fighting back with piecemeal measures dubbed "lockdown lite" to avoid a repeat of the spring's devastating first wave.

  • Scientists have uncovered a common thread in fatal coronavirus cases that may lead to new treatments for the most severe infections. The link is the lack of a substance called interferon that helps orchestrate the body's defense against viral pathogens, Jason Gale reports.

Bracing for Brexit | A sense of urgency is dawning in European Union board rooms as talks over a post-Brexit trade deal head into the critical end-game. While four years of wrangling have brought plenty of 11th-hour stays of execution for the kind of upheaval that failure would bring, many companies are getting ready for a base-case scenario: a no-deal divorce. Now they're stocking warehouses and dusting off contingency plans they hoped they'd never need.

  • EU negotiators have agreed not to allow their opposition to Prime Minister Boris Johnson's plan to break international law to distract them from trying to secure a deal.

What to Watch

  • A last-ditch attempt by Democrats and the White House to restart negotiations on a new stimulus package drew skepticism in Congress that a deal could be reached and written into law by Election Day.
  • Google's search engine, one of the most profitable businesses in history, is about to face its biggest challenge as the U.S. government readies an antitrust lawsuit accusing the company of crushing competition to protect and extend its monopoly.
  • Rebel members of Johnson's Conservative Party are threatening to defeat his government to block new Covid-19 rules and give the U.K. Parliament more say over measures as the chamber prepares to review legislation on Sept. 30.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un issued a rare apology over this week's fatal shooting of a South Korean national north of the border in an apparent bid to ease tensions between the two sides.

Pop quiz, readers (no cheating!). Which country's leader is battling an eruption of ethnic tensions less than a year after winning the Nobel Peace Prize? Bonus Point: Name the leader. Send your answer to

And finally ... Germany is erecting a new iron curtain to shut out virus-infected invaders — but it's not Covid-19, and the intruders aren't people. Officials are building an initial seven-mile barrier on the border with Poland to keep out wild boar that are at risk of carrying African swine fever after discovering 32 cases of the disease. Forestry officials are using drones and dogs to track down dead feral pigs that might be infected and, while it isn't harmful to humans, the deadly outbreak in Europe's biggest hog-producing nation has triggered import bans and hit pork exports.

A wild boar forages in Berlin's Tegel Forest in 2007. The animals thrive in Germany and the rest of central Europe, where the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989 and subsequent expansion of the EU has allowed them to freely roam across borders.

Photographer: Adam Berry/Bloomberg



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