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?

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Listen: Stanford historian Niall Ferguson joins Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast to talk about the geopolitics of disaster. Throughout human history we seem to be unable to adequately prepare for catastrophes (natural or human-caused) before they strike. Why is that? And as we emerge from the greatest calamity of our lifetimes in the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the plethora of crises that climate change has and will cause, what can we do to lessen the blow?

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Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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