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Vox Sentences: Visas — they’re everywhere you want to be, as long as it’s Moscow

Vox Sentences is your daily digest for what's happening in the world, curated by Ella Nilsen. Sign up for the Vox Sentences newsletter, delivered straight to your inbox Monday through Friday, or view the Vox Sentences archive for past editions.

Tonight’s Sentences is written by Dara Lind.

Remember when the war in Afghanistan was going to end?; the US reminds Russia that it can't do 100 percent of the diplomacy with 50 percent of the diplomats; don't look now, but the first round of NAFTA renegotiations is already over.

Trump tries to end the Afghanistandstill

AFP / Brendan Smialowski via Getty
  • During a speech Monday at 9 pm EST, President Trump is expected to announce that the US is sending 4,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, to supplement the 10,000 troops currently in the country attempting to help the beleaguered government reclaim control from Taliban insurgents. [NPR / Philip Ewing]
  • It's the latest attempt to get the country of Afghanistan to a point where the US can fully withdraw from a conflict that's now lasted nearly 16 years — America's longest war — with no good option for "victory" in sight. [Vox / Sean Illing]
  • The new plan has been months in the making. It's consistent with what the Obama administration was doing before Trump arrived in office, and a broad interdepartment review in May recommended 3,000 to 5,000 more troops. [NYT / Michael R. Gordon]
  • The logic was that an extra infusion of troops would buy the struggling Afghan government more time to get on its feet and fight its own battles (literally and figuratively) — while deterring ISIS, on the run in Iraq and Syria, from setting up a new home base. [BBC / P.J. Crowley]
  • But the plan got mired in months of back-and-forth fighting within the Trump White House, with some advisers pointing out (accurately) that sending more troops to Afghanistan wasn't what Americans thought would happen when they elected a president who promised "America First." [Weekly Standard / Peter J. Boyer]
  • (As with any issue on which Trump changed his mind, there are old tweets in which the president attacks his current position. Lots of them.) [Vox / Zack Beauchamp]
  • Trump spent a while attempting to seek out "new" solutions (such as, uh, privatizing the Afghan war and handing it to ex-Blackwater head Erik Prince). But ultimately, he ended up siding with the generals. [NYT / Mark Landler, Eric Schmitt, and Michael R. Gordon]
  • Within the Trump White House, this represents a victory for the "globalists," and a defeat for those (including the recently departed Steve Bannon) who saw "America First" as a meaningful commitment to a less interventionist foreign policy. [Vox / Zack Beauchamp]
  • The question is how it will be seen in the rest of the country. The war in Afghanistan has been all but ignored for the past several years — if there isn't a groundswell of activism to finally end it, there's hardly continued patriotic support for staying there, either. [Foreign Policy / Kelly Magsamen]
  • President Trump is expected to ask Americans to trust his judgment in sending more troops. That would be a tall order for any conflict with this president — but it would also be a tall order for any president with this conflict. [CNN / Stephen Collinson]

A Russian's vacation to America starts with a mini vacation to Moscow

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
  • The State Department announced Monday that it's going to stop processing "non-immigrant" (temporary) visas at all consulates in Russia except for the one in Moscow. [Washington Post / David Filipov and Andrew Roth]
  • In practice, that means that many of the 190,000 or so Russians a year who come to the US for tourism or business travel (or, much less frequently, on work or student visas) will have to travel for their visa interviews — across the world's biggest country by area. It's a huge logistical hurdle. [Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty]
  • The US presents the move as a necessary adjustment, because Russia announced last month that the US would have to reduce its diplomatic presence by hundreds of staff... [FT / Kathrin Hille]
  • ...a decision that was itself a retaliation for a new bill signed by President Trump tightening sanctions on Russia in July. [Vox / Zack Beauchamp]
  • The Russian government doesn't buy that the State Department really needs to shut down consular processing. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the US was trying to undermine confidence in the Putin regime among Russians, by making it harder for them to travel. [Reuters / Andrew Osborn and Polina Devitt]
  • (If anything, of course, it's really the opposite; the Trump administration, here as in other cases, appears to be of the belief that it should treat visa applicants based on how well the US works with their countries.) [Vox / Dara Lind]
  • The good news is that all these differences can get talked through more fully now that Russia has appointed a new ambassador to the US. The bad news is that the new ambassador is under EU sanctions because of his role in Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea. [ABC News / Patrick Reevell and Anastasia Butler]

NAFTA 1.0 took 2 years. NAFTA 2.0 has 5 months.

AFP / Paul J. Richards via Getty
  • So, uh, you might not have noticed — President Trump doesn't appear to have noticed either — but the first round of NAFTA renegotiations wrapped up over the weekend. (The next round will be held in Mexico at the beginning of September.) [Reuters / David Lawder and Anthony Esposito]
  • The negotiations got off to an awkward start: US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer was much grumpier, and Trumpier, than his Canadian and Mexican counterparts, and worried them when he said the Trump administration wouldn't accept a mere "tweaking" of NAFTA. [NPR / Danielle Kurtzleben]
  • But by the end of the week, the three countries were cautiously optimistic about their ability to quickly strike a broad deal. [Bloomberg / Andrew Mayeda]
  • Why the shift in tone? It might be less that the NAFTA trade teams think a deal can be done quickly than that they think it has to be. If a new NAFTA isn't set by early 2018, talks will have to restart with a new president of Mexico — and the current frontrunner is pretty down on trade. [The Economist]
  • Writing a trade deal in under six months would be tricky under the best circumstances (NAFTA 1.0 took two years). And then there are the serious sticking points. The US, for example, wants to get rid of a NAFTA chapter so it can unilaterally set trade penalties for export "dumping" — something that Canada has declared is a "red line." [Washington Post / Ana Swanson]
  • And seriously addressing the US trade deficit with Mexico — which is theoretically the Trump administration's primary goal — is something that could cause problems not just with the Mexican trade team but also, potentially, with the US auto industry. [Reuters / David Lawder]
  • The Mexican government is in a tricky position. Mexico wants to come out of these talks with a "win-win-win" deal. But they know that, politically, the Trump administration is only likely to declare victory if it thinks it's beaten Mexico. [LAT / Kate Linthicum]
  • The Canadian delegation appears more sanguine about its relationship with the US — its obsessive attention to not only the US's stance in the negotiations but also the vagaries and moods of Donald Trump is paying off. After all, a whole round of negotiations happened and Trump didn't tweet about it once. [Canadian Press / Alexander Panetta]


  • The 1930s version of antifa: Jewish gangster crews led by Meyer Lansky. [Anarcho-Geek Review / Sadie the Goat]
  • Down syndrome is disappearing from Iceland — because women are aborting fetuses after positive tests for the disorder. Scientific victory, or eugenicist dystopia? [Quartz / Bonnie Rochman]
  • One of New York's police unions just put out a video that calls anti-police sentiment "blue racism," because words have lost their meaning. [Splinter / Rafi Schwartz]
  • The headless torso found just off the shore of Copenhagen Monday might not be the remains of the Swedish journalist Kim Wall (who disappeared August 10 after going out in a Danish inventor's submarine), but the fact that the Danish inventor in question just changed his story from "I dropped her off alive" to "she died on board and I buried her at sea" certainly doesn't bode well for this case. [Reuters]
  • Very important post-eclipse content: a simple test to see if the eclipse damaged your eyes. [The Guardian]


  • “'Dude, he’s Archie Bunker,' Mr. Bannon would say with fondness when talking about Mr. Trump." [NYT / Jeremy W. Peters and Maggie Haberman]
  • "Some demanded that he acknowledge them. 'Look at me, boy!' one raged. He did not. Others professed love for him. He did not care. Some said they were working the Devil from his body. Feel it, they shouted. He did not appear to feel anything." [GQ / Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah]
  • "Most of the rise in alleged narcissism comes from girls and women, and women were, until a few decades ago, often taught that that pride and confidence were unladylike. Is it really a bad thing that fewer millennial women feel the need to downplay their own strengths?" [BuzzFeed News / Elizabeth Nolan Brown]
  • "Blood is not thicker than freedom and it’s not thicker than safety. Sometimes blood is just that, blood." [Very Smart Brothas / Panama Jackson]
  • "The state is neither God nor the Devil, but something pragmatic and unromantic — like a sewage system, or a town dump. Yes, we want it to function smoothly lest the place start to stink, but good taste demands that we not focus obsessively on its operation." [American Affairs / William Wilson]

Watch this: How an MS Paint artist made this picture

Pat Hines used MS Paint for all the illustrations in his book. Here's how. [YouTube / Phil Edwards]

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