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So You're Having Trouble with the Americans? Merkel and Putin Meet

So You're Having Trouble with the Americans? Merkel and Putin Meet

Just last week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that with American protection of Europe no longer assured, it was time for Europe to craft its own foreign policy. Today, she will get her first shot at showing what that might look like when she meets Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi.


Merkel’s relationship with Putin has been a mercurial one over the past 15 years. Their shared upbringing behind the Iron Curtain and fluency in each other’s languages gave them a special bond early on, but they broke over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014, and things haven’t been the same since.

Now Trump’s loveless treatment of Europe has pushed Merkel to seek out renewed possibilities with Russia. Their meeting will likely focus on…

  • salvaging the Iran deal without the US, because neither Merkel nor Putin wants Iran to bolt from the deal now and foment a regional nuclear arms race, but she is particularly concerned about the fate of German companies now potentially exposed to renewed US sanctions on Iran.
  • exploring peace options for Syria — Merkel has drawn closer to Moscow on this recently, calling for European-Russian cooperation to broker a solution to the civil war and pointedly sitting out the US-led airstrikes on Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons facilities last month. This gives Merkel more credibility as an interlocutor with Moscow on this issue than any other European leader.
  • energy ties — the $10 billion Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project would increase flows of Russian gas to Germany, already one of the largest energy relationships in the world. The US government, which opposes the project, said this week that scrapping the pipeline was one way for Germany to win permanent exemptions from the Trump administration’s steel and aluminum tariffs.

Khant Thaw Htoo is a young engineer who works in Eni's Sakura Tower office in the heart of Yangon. As an HSE engineer, he monitors the safety and environmental impact of onshore and offshore operations. He also looks out for his parents' well-being, in keeping with Myanmar's traditions.

Learn more about Khant in the final episode of the Faces of Eni series, which focuses on Eni's employees around the world.

On his first day as president, Joe Biden signed a remarkable series of executive orders. Boom! The US rejoins the Paris Climate Accord. Bang! The United States rejoins the World Health Organization. Pow! No more ban on immigration from many Muslim-majority countries. Biden's press secretary reminded reporters later in the day that all these orders merely begin complex processes that take time, but the impact is still dramatic.

If you lead a country allied with the US, or you're simply hoping for some specific commitment or clear and credible statement of purpose from the US government, you might feel a little dizzy today. The sight of an American president (Barack Obama) signing his name, of the next president (Donald Trump) erasing that name from the same legislation/bill, and then the following president (Biden) signing it back into law again will raise deep concerns over the long-term reliability of the world's still-most-powerful nation.

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Kevin Sneader, Global Managing Partner at McKinsey & Company, provides perspective on what corporate business leaders are thinking during the global coronavirus crisis:

Should businesses be pessimistic or optimistic about 2021?

It's easy to be gloomy about the year ahead when faced with the realities of a cold, bleak winter in much of the world. Add to that lockdowns across Europe, surging case numbers and hospitalizations, and dreadful events in the Capitol in the US to name a few reasons for pessimism. But I think there is a case for optimism when it comes to this year. After all, it's true to say that it's always darkest before the dawn, and my conversations with business leaders suggest there are reasons to be positive by 2021.

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Renowned tech journalist Kara Swisher has no qualms about saying that many of the country's social media companies need to be held accountable for their negative role in our current national discourse. Swisher calls for "a less friendly relationship with tech" by the Biden administration, an "internet bill of rights" around privacy, and an investigation into antitrust issues.

Swisher, who hosts the New York Times podcast Sway, joins Ian Bremmer for the latest episode of GZERO World, airing on public television nationwide beginning this Friday, January 22th. Check local listings.

Brexit pettiness lingers: Here we were naively thinking the Brexit shenanigans were over after the EU and UK agreed to an eleventh-hour post-Brexit trade deal last month. We were wrong — the saga continues. Now, a new row has erupted after the Johnson government said it will not give the EU ambassador in London the same diplomatic status awarded to other representatives of nation states. Unsurprisingly, this announcement peeved Brussels, whose delegates enjoy full diplomatic status in at least 142 other countries. The UK says it will give the EU envoy the same privileges as those given to international organizations, which are subject to change and do not include immunity from detention and taxation given to diplomats under the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations. EU members are furious, with officials accusing London of simply trying to flex its muscles and engaging in "petty" behavior. The two sides will discuss the matter further when UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets EU representatives next week, their first face-to-face since the two sides settled the Brexit quagmire on December 31. Alas, the Brexit nightmare continues.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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