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Balance of Power: Dialing Moscow

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It was the call the Kremlin had been asking for.

When Vladimir Putin talked with Donald Trump Tuesday, the two leaders tried to move past the tensions triggered by last month's U.S. missile strike on Russia's ally Syria.

The White House called the conversation “very good.” The Kremlin praised its “constructive” tone. Though short on specifics, the readouts were in stark contrast to the chill visible earlier in the day when Putin met with Angela Merkel and tensions over the Ukraine conflict were on open display.

For Putin, the improved mood music with Washington is important. He's looking for a foreign policy win as low oil prices drag down his domestic economy. His diplomatic drive continues today when he meets Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with the Kremlin needing Turkish help to make a Russian-brokered cease fire in Syria stick.

But what Putin really needs are warm words from Trump to keep hopes alive that the Russian leader might get a chance to break out of his isolation. Unfortunately for him, the outlook in Washington for rapprochement with Russia doesn't seem likely to improve soon, with a new round of hearings coming on Capitol Hill into alleged election meddling by Moscow.

SOCHI, RUSSIA - MAY 2, 2017: Russia's President Vladimir Putin (R) and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel ahead of a joint news conference following their talks at Bocharov Ruchei residence. Mikhail Metzel/TASS (Photo by Mikhail Metzel\TASS via Getty Images)

Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel ahead of a joint news conference in Sochi on May 2, 2017.

Photographer: Mikhail Metzel/TASS via Getty Images

Global Headlines

French showdown | Forget campaign rallies, tactics or even policies, it's now all down to delivery. Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron will go head-to-head in tonight's debate before Sunday's final round of the French presidential election. It will give Le Pen her last chance to deploy her nationalist soundbites in a bid to cut into Macron's 20 point-lead. The debate starts at 9 p.m. in Paris (3 p.m. EST) and you can follow our live blog here.

U.S. could sanction China over North Korea | Trump's nominee for ambassador to China warned that the U.S. could slap sanctions on Chinese companies that do business with North Korea. The comments from Iowa Governor Terry Branstad to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday come as Trump praises China's efforts to deal with Kim Jong Un's regime.

Hillary Clinton cites misogyny as one reason for loss | Clinton said in New York Tuesday that she takes full responsibility for her failed presidential campaign -- but that misogyny, Russian hacking and FBI Director James Comey’s last-minute intervention played roles in her defeat. “If the election were on Oct. 27, I would be your president,” Clinton said.

Giuliani seen as “disingenuous” by sanctions judge | A federal judge called former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani “disingenuous” in statements he made to defend a Turkish businessman accused of violating sanctions against Iran. The judge said Giuliani and former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey dismissed the trafficked items as "consumer goods," but prosecutors charge the transactions aided Iran’s elite special forces unit.

Brexit tension | Pressure keeps building ahead of talks, with angry leaks and rebuttals going back and forth between Brussels and London. As the EU's chief negotiator unveiled his vision for how talks should proceed, his U.K. counterpart threatened to walk out on talks if he's pushed too hard. Banks, meanwhile, aren't waiting to see who prevails. JPMorgan said it plans to move hundreds of bankers from London to offices around Europe "to be ready for day one."

Saudi scales back austerity | Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, second-in-line to the throne, pledged more cash payouts and subsidized housing in a rare televised address to the nation last night. It's the latest reversal on budget policy and follows calls for protests and stinging criticism on social media among citizens accustomed to generous state handouts.

And finally... Trump's tweet storms don't shake up the foreign exchange markets as much as you might think. But when they do, it's time to get on board. That's the conclusion of a Deutsche Bank study, which says that when a currency moves by a least a quarter of a percent on his tweets, it keeps going in that direction for at least 12 hours. And that's a lifetime in the world of financial markets.

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