CHANNELING GEOPOLITICS: THREE STORIES ABOUT CANALS

CHANNELING GEOPOLITICS: THREE STORIES ABOUT CANALS

Some people build walls to cut off their rivals, but Saudi Arabia is taking its ongoing diplomatic dispute with Qatar to a whole other (sea) level. Riyadh reportedly wants to dig a canal along their shared 38-mile border that would turn the small, peninsular kingdom into an actual island. If that weren’t enough, part of the canal zone is to be used for dumping nuclear waste. Last year, Saudi Arabia and the UAE isolated the Qataris symbolically, by imposing an air and sea blockade over Doha’s alleged support for terrorism (psst: it was really about long-running tensions between a House of Saud that sees itself as the neighborhood heavy and a Qatari monarchy that has shrewdly sought to be an independent player in the Gulf.) But a year later, the embargo seemsonly to have strengthened Qatar’s economic and diplomatic resilience. If the canal gets built, how bad could island life be?


Meanwhile, now that Turkey’s President Erdogan has secured his supercharged presidency, let’s see if he follows through on a megalomaniacal infrastructure project to match. The Kanal Istanbul — which would bypass the treacherous Bosporus strait as an easily navigable link between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean — is by Erdogan’s own admission a “crazy” project and a “dream.” But officials have been laying the groundwork for the project in recent months. What a way it would be for Erdogan to celebrate the centenary of the modern Turkish state in 2023. One critical issue to consider is that while international law regulates free passage for merchant and military vessels through the chronically-congested Bosporus, any new canal would be entirely under Istanbul’s jurisdiction, giving Erdogan huge discretion over Russian, American, and potentially Chinese access to the Black Sea. That won’t sit well with Putin, Trump, or Xi, will it?

Da ultimo, we travel to the most famous canal city of all — Venice — where Chinese policemen have recently completed a seasonal pilot program to patrol the city’s plazas and waterways with their Italian counterparts. The program, which Marco Polo himself would doubtless love, is now in its third year and it reflects the tremendous surge of Chinese global tourism in recent years. According to the latest figures from the UN World Tourism Organization, Chinese tourists spent $261 billion abroad in 2016, roughly equal to outlays by American, German, and British travelers combined. That China is sending its own policemen — unarmed and accompanied though they may be — to patrol foreign cities (Rome and Milan are also part of the program) is a subtle but extraordinary milestone in the expansion of China’s global clout. In a sense it mirrors the broader sweep of Chinese power today, in which Beijing is broadening its commercial and infrastructure networks first — and then slowly looks to expand its military reach to protect those assets thereafter.

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.

More Show less

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?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

More Show less

In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

More Show less

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.

More Show less

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?

More Show less

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...

More Show less

28: The UK and the EU have again failed to agree on post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. In a 28-page document, the British government had suggested further changes to trade rules that were already negotiated as part of the Brexit settlement, but Brussels was not having any of it.

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

GZERO World with Ian Bremmer. Watch episodes now

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

GZERO World with Ian Bremmer. Watch episodes now

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal