A Tale of Three Meetings

A Tale of Three Meetings

Moon-Kim: As I write, South Korea’s Moon Jae-in and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un are sitting exactly 2,018 millimeters apart (in honor of this 2018 summit) in a “Peace House” inside the demilitarized zone (DMZ). It’s the first meeting between leaders of the two Koreas since 2007.


This is must-watch TV, but on substance, don’t expect the dawning of a new day. Maybe Moon and Kim will reopen the Kaesong Industrial Complex, a project that employs tens of thousands of North Korean workers at South Korean-owned factories. Maybe they’ll allow reunions for some of the 60,000 family members separated by the Korean War. These things matter for people’s lives, even if they don’t shift the international status quo. They have produced a “peace agreement,” though not one that moves US troops, the DMZ, or its landmines. And the word “denuclearization” won’t mean much until Kim defines it for Trump and makes clear what he expects in return.

Beyond symbolism, the meeting’s greatest importance is as prelude to the much-anticipated meeting Kim hopes to have with President Trump in May or June. For today, we can enjoy the pageantry as the North and South Korean leaders plant a commemorative pine tree.

Trump-Merkel: After President Trump’s back-patting, high-fiving boys club meeting with Emmanuel Macron, the French president left Washington with little more than Shinzo Abe won from Trump the week before. Like Moon and Kim, Macron and Trump planted a tree together, but Macron got no pledge to spare the Iran deal, no reversal on the Paris climate accord, and no long-term US commitment in Syria.

What hope then for Germany’s Angela Merkel, who meets with Trump today? She won’t play golf with Trump, as Abe did, or hold hands with him, as Macron did. She won’t have more success than Macron in changing Trump’s mind on Iran or persuade him to offer Europe a permanent waiver on steel tariffs. (Trump might extend the waiver beyond its current expiration date of May 1, but “permanent” is more than he’s likely to give.) He’ll talk tough on trade deficits, she’ll look bored, both will wave, and the curtain will fall. Europe’s two heaviest hitters will have taken their turns at bat this week. Like Japan’s Abe, they will have little to show for it.

Modi-Xi: A much more interesting conversation is taking place today and tomorrow in Wuhan, China, where India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets with China’s President Xi Jinping. Talks between Modi and Xi are intended to manage tensions rather than break new ground, but given the stakes between these Asian powers, any progress would be significant.

They’ll discuss how best to avoid a repeat of last summer’s 73-day border faceoff that inspired Indian and Chinese troops to (literally) throw rocks at one another. They’ll talk about China’s Belt and Road investment plan, its expanding ties with Pakistan, its growing presence in the Indian Ocean, and India’s concerns about all these things.

The most promising aspect of this meeting is that it centers on informal private conversations between Xi and Modi. Asia’s two most important leaders won’t plant a tree together, but they might build a new level of personal trust.

Building on more than 15 years of sustainability leadership, Walmart is doubling down on addressing the growing climate crisis by targeting zero emissions across the company's global operations by 2040. Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are also committing to help protect, manage or restore at least 50 million acres of land and one million square miles of ocean by 2030 to help combat the cascading loss of nature threatening the planet.

One of the world's most famous political dissidents may die in a Russian prison this week.

Alexei Navalny has been on a hunger strike since March 31 over the authorities' refusal to let his own medical team examine him after he developed signs of tuberculosis. Now, one of his aides says Navalny is "close to death."

The fate of Vladimir Putin's most prominent critic — who was poisoned last summer, allegedly by state officials, treated in Germany, and then jailed upon his return to Russia — is being closely watched both inside and outside the country.

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How bad is the climate crisis? Every year, the UN's Emissions Gap Report shows a large gap between the trajectory we're on and the trajectory we ought to be on, explains climate journalist Elizabeth Kolbert. "Every decade now is warmer than the decade before. And we're seeing the damage pile up," says Kolbert, whose latest book is Under A White Sky: The Nature of the Future. "We saw the tremendous wildfire season in California last fall. The hurricane season in the Gulf. These are all connected to climate change, and we're just going to keep seeing more of that." She spoke with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World, airing on US public television stations starting April 16. Check local listings.

Watch the episode: Can we fix the planet the same way we broke it?

Ian Bremmer and Bill Maher discussed the global leadership of the United States compared to that of China on a recent episode of Real Time. "The level of corruption in China, the level of corruption in China, even the buildings and the rails you talk about - the average building the Chinese build lasts for 20, 25 years. In the United States, it lasts for 40 to 50. There's a reason why we are still the world's most powerful country," Ian argued. "I'm just saying China's not eating our lunch - that's all."

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As the price of Bitcoin has skyrocketed in recent months, so has the amount of energy that procuring it hogs. Research shows that Bitcoin "mining" now uses 80 percent more energy than at the start of 2020. Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates recently sounded the alarm on crypto, saying that he would not invest in Bitcoin because mining for the digital currency requires huge amounts of energy, much of which is powered by fossil fuels that harm the environment. So where does Bitcoin rank in electricity consumption compared to nations?

Even if the US, Europe, China, and India reduce carbon emissions at the rate they've promised, much climate damage has already been done. That shouldn't stop these and other countries from doing all they can to meet their net-zero emissions targets, but they also better start preparing for a world of people on the move.

Climate change will displace an unprecedented number of people in coming years, creating not just a series of humanitarian crises in many parts of the world, but lasting political, economic, and social upheaval as those of us who live on higher ground try to find a sustainable place for these climate refugees to live.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody, Ian Bremmer here, kicking off your beautiful spring week from New York City. A little Quick Take. I thought I'd talk today about Russia, going to be in the news this week. Putin doesn't like it when they're out of the news for too long, certainly plenty going on between the US and Russia right now.

I'd say, first of all, to start off, the relationship is in the toilet. We know this. It is the worst it's been since the early '80s. That was true even under Trump. Trump and Putin personally had a pretty good relationship, but Trump wasn't able to get anything really done for the Russians, because both the Republicans in Congress, key members of cabinet under Trump, massive amount of constraints on what Trump could actually do, whether it's trying to bring Russia back into the G7 or recognize Crimea as a part of Russia, or remove or reduce sanctions. None of that actually got done. In fact, the relationship deteriorated over the four years.

But now we've got Biden and the focus is of course, more on human rights. The focus is more on climate change, which means that Russia as a massive energy exporter and particularly in terms of their influence on Eastern Europe and Western Europe on the downstream for gas delivery, for example, something that Biden is much more focused on. So a lot more pressure on the Russians, and the Russians don't care. Their willingness to hit back and show that the Americans are not willing to take any significant risks to constrain the Russians is also fairly significant. And this is playing out in a number of ways.

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Pakistani radicals vs French cartoons: It's been a tumultuous week in Lahore, Pakistan's second largest city. After widespread protests broke out across the Muslim world late last year after Paris defended French publications' rights to publish satirical images of the Prophet Mohammad, the radical Pakistani Islamist group Tehrik-i-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), gave Pakistan's government until April 20 to expel the French ambassador, when it had planned nationwide demonstrations. When Prime Minister Imran Khan refused to meet their demands, more violence erupted across the country and authorities arrested the TLP leader — prompting TLP supporters to hit back by kidnapping six state security personnel in Lahore this past weekend. Authorities have now banned the TLP outright and are bracing for more violence in the coming days. France, meanwhile, has urged all of its citizens to leave Pakistan.

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