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Boris Johnson's Three Plates of Cake

Boris Johnson's Three Plates of Cake

Later today, the eccentric, gaffe-prone, artfully disheveled master political operator Boris Johnson will learn he's going to be the United Kingdom's next prime minister. Having won a majority of votes among the 130,000 members of the Conservative party – a 0.3 percent slice of the population that's older, whiter, and more favorable to Brexit than most Britons – he will take office tomorrow.



Johnson once famously said he's "pro cake and pro eating it too" – so here's what'll land on his plate on day one:

Tensions with Iran: Last week, Iran seized a British tanker that it said had entered its territorial waters, a claim that London denies. Johnson will have few good options to respond: there isn't much left to sanction in the Iranian economy, while a more robust military response in the region risks further escalation or unintended consequences.

But the broader question is whether Johnson will continue to align the UK's position with other European powers that want to preserve, somehow, the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that Donald Trump walked out of, or to run the risk of open conflict with Iran by adopting Washington's more confrontational policy of "maximum pressure."

US-UK relationship: The so-called "special relationship" between the US and UK is under pressure. Johnson and Trump—successful, unconventional provocateurs both—share a mutual admiration, but Washington has signaled that London won't get special treatment when it comes to pressuring Iran, post-Brexit trade deals, or the UK government's decision about whether to use technology supplied by Huawei, the Chinese tech giant that the Trump administration has sanctioned as a security threat. Washington has even signaled that it's not keen on protecting British ships passing through the Strait of Hormuz. With "Special" friends like these…!

And of course… Brexit: Johnson inherits precisely the same dilemma that brought down his predecessor, Theresa May. The UK is – at the moment - committed to leaving the EU, but when it came to hammering out an agreement on how to do that, the best deal that London could get from Brussels failed three times to win a vote of support in the House of Commons.

The Brexit question must be resolved by October 31 or the UK will be stuck with an economically perilous "no-deal" scenario that sends the UK crashing out of the EU with no new agreement on the future of their relationship. Johnson, for his part, has embraced that possibility much more enthusiastically than May, even if only because he believes it will boost his negotiating leverage with the EU. He seems to be betting that a game of chicken will force Brussels to reopen negotiations.

The last bite: Boris Johnson has shown that he is wily and formidable politician – can he now be a successful statesman?

Wales, early 19th century: During breaks from his law studies, William Robert Grove indulges in his passion for science to become an inventor. On his honeymoon in Europe, he learns about the new energy source everyone's talking about: electricity. After learning that electricity allows water to be broken down into its two components, hydrogen and oxygen, his intuition leads him to an idea that ends up making him a pioneer of sustainable energy production.

Watch the story of William Robert Grove in Eni's MINDS series, where we travel through time seeking scientists.

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here, and as we head into the weekend, a Quick Take on, well, the first bombing campaign of the new Biden administration. You kind of knew it was going to happen. Against some Iranian-backed militias in Syria, looks like a couple of dozen, perhaps more killed, and some militia-connected military facilities destroyed. I think there are a few ways to look at this, maybe three different lenses.

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Afghanistan frustrated nineteenth-century British imperialists for 40 years, and ejected the Soviet army in 1989 after a bloody decade there. And though American and NATO forces ousted the Taliban government in 2001 over its support for al-Qaeda, there's no good reason for confidence that nearly 20 years of occupation have brought lasting results for security and development across the country.

But… could China succeed where other outsiders have failed – and without a costly and risky military presence? Is the promise of lucrative trade and investment enough to ensure a power-sharing deal among Afghanistan's warring factions?

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Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Stockholm on Europe In 60 Seconds:

Is there a military coup ongoing in Armenia?

Well, it isn't a military coup as of yet, but it's not far from it either. This is the turmoil that is resulting from the war with Azerbaijan, which Armenia took a large death loss. What happened was that the head of the armed forces asked for the prime minister to resign. That was not quite a coup, but not very far from it. Now, the prime minister sacked the head of the armed forces, there's considerable uncertainty. Watch the space.

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In the fall of 2019, weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic would change the world, Ian Bremmer asked Dr. Fauci what kept him up at night and he described a "a pandemic-like respiratory infection." Fast-forward to late February 2021 and Dr. Fauci tells Ian, "I think we are living through much of that worst nightmare." Dr. Fauci returns to GZERO World to take stock of the nightmare year and to paint a picture of what the end of the pandemic could look like—and when it could finally arrive.

Catch the full episode of GZERO World, where Dr. Fauci discusses the latest in vaccine roll out, schools re-openings, and plenty more, on US public television stations nationwide, beginning Friday, February 26. Check local listings.

The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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