Meet Alessandra Cominetti, a recipient of MIT Technology Review Magazine's Innovators Under 35 award. As a lab technician at Eni's Research Centre for Renewable Energy in Novara, Alessandra has devoted her career to finding new solutions and materials to optimize solar energy. Much like the serendipitous encounter that resulted in her employment, her eagerness and willingness to try new things allowed her to stumble upon a material for the creation of portable solar panels.
Watch her remarkable story on the latest episode of Faces of Eni.
Joe Biden has vowed to radically change the US' approach to foreign policy and international diplomacy should he win next week's election.
But a lot has happened in four years under Donald Trump that could impede Biden's ability to simply return to the status quo ante. How different would US foreign policy really be under a Biden presidency? What will the two-term former vice president likely be able to change, and what's bound to remain the same, at least for now?
<p><strong>Quick fixes.</strong> </p> <p><strong>Climate.</strong> Biden has said from the get-go that on "<a href="https://medium.com/@JoeBiden/statement-from-vice-president-joe-biden-on-the-anniversary-of-the-paris-climate-accord-c8328db863bd" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">day one" </a>he would reenter the Paris Climate Accord that the Trump administration abandoned back in 2019, a move that left global powers scrambling as to how to tackle climate change without the world's second largest <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/rrapier/2019/12/04/the-worlds-top-10-carbon-dioxide-emitters/#632c33872d04" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">emitter </a>of carbon and largest economy. </p> <p>The US' official exit only occurs on November 4, a day after the US election, and therefore, Biden could readily recommit to the treaty without having to make up for much lost time (though there are some <a href="http://blogs.law.columbia.edu/climatechange/2020/03/11/returning-to-paris-the-next-u-s-ndc/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">compliance</a> issues he would need to address).</p> <p><strong>US allies. </strong>Should he win in November, one of Biden's key policy priorities will be repairing damaged alliances, particularly with European partners. (In 2018, for example, German Chancellor Angela Merkel <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-merkel-usa/merkel-says-europe-cant-rely-on-u-s-to-impose-world-order-idUSKBN1KA1F9" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">said</a> "we can't rely on the superpower of the United States.") To do so, Biden could readily fall back on deep <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/05/us/politics/joe-biden-foreign-policy.html" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">relations cultivated </a>during his two terms as vice president. </p> <p>Indeed, to counter Russian aggression, Biden says he will <a href="https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2020-01-23/why-america-must-lead-again" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">seek</a> to bolster NATO, not only economically, but also by reinforcing the United States' commitment to its shared values. </p> <p><strong>Iran nuclear deal. </strong>Withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal was one of Trump's signature foreign policies. Biden, on the other hand, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/09/13/opinions/smarter-way-to-be-tough-on-iran-joe-biden/index.html" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">says </a>he will rejoin the accord and resume direct negotiations with Tehran on the condition that "Iran returns to strict compliance with the nuclear deal." </p> <p>While notionally — with the backing of US allies like Germany and France — this process seems achievable in the near term, Biden's plan still relies on the Iranians playing ball. For its part, Iran has its own elections coming up next summer, and as journalist <a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/us-election-seen-from-iran-a-rare-window-of-opportunity" target="_self">Negar Mortazavi recently told GZERO</a>, the future of diplomacy between the US and Iran is also largely contingent on whether Iran's (anti-American) hardliners prevail at the polls in 2021. </p> <p><strong>Harder to shift.</strong></p> <p><strong>Trade.</strong> Biden has said repeatedly that Trump's erratic trade policy has disaffected <a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/a-referendum-for-the-whole-world-global-voices-on-the-us-election" target="_self">allies like Canada, Mexico and Europe, </a>and deterred China from making concessions in general. The former VP says he will work with allies to get China in check. But as the global economy suffers its worst recession in decades — while<a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/10/18/economy/china-q3-gdp-intl-hnk/index.html" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"> China's economy </a>continues to recover, putting it ahead of other global heavyweights— Beijing isn't likely to stop playing hardball anytime soon. At the same time, even if Biden is committed to reducing tensions with Beijing by eliminating some tariffs on Chinese goods imposed by Trump, walking back on $360 billion worth of dues is never going to be a cakewalk.</p> <p>Meanwhile, while <a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/bidens-trade-strategy" target="_self">Biden believes </a>in global economic integration, he has to <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/28/business/economy/democrats-biden-trade.html" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">contend</a> with the Democratic party's dominant pro-labor progressive wing, which would likely complicate his administration's efforts to rejoin multinational treaties like the <a href="https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/what-trans-pacific-partnership-tpp" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Trans-Pacific Partnership.</a></p> <p><strong>North Korea and arms control. </strong>While President Trump has held three face-to-face summits with Kim Jong-un in recent years, relations between Washington and Pyongyong are as tense as ever. Biden says he will rally allies — as well as China — to reengage the North in denuclearization talks. However, Kim has shown very <a href="https://www.npr.org/2020/10/10/922618623/kim-jong-un-puts-new-missiles-on-display-at-military-parade-in-north-korea" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">little willingness</a> to do so, and North Korea has in fact recently <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-northkorea-sanctions-un/north-korea-has-probably-developed-nuclear-devices-to-fit-ballistic-missiles-un-report-says-idUSKCN24Z2PO" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">made progress</a> in developing nuclear weapons that could strike US territory.</p> <p>While at this stage, Biden has little leverage with the North, he can — and likely will — renew America's commitment to broader <a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/the-start-of-the-end-for-arms-control" target="_self">arms control</a> by extending the New START treaty — a 2011 deal limiting long-range nuclear weapons between the Kremlin and the Obama administration that expires next February — <em>without preconditions.</em> (So far, the Trump administration has <a href="https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/09/24/trump-putin-russia-new-start-nuclear-arms-control-u-s-allies-worry-trump-administration-might-let-key-nuclear-treaty-with-russia-die/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">failed to reach an agreement</a> with Moscow on terms for the extension.) </p> <p><strong>Bottom line:</strong> Leaders are always constrained by the actions of those who came before them. In this particularly tumultuous global moment, what Biden <em>want</em>s to do and what he actually <em>can</em> do will be divergent agendas. </p>
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October 29, 2020
"If [the election] is very close and it ends up in the courts, that kind of protracted situation I think will lead many Americans to believe that it was an unfair election." Rick Hasen, election law expert and author of Election Meltdown, lays out some of the worst-case scenarios for Election Day, ranging from unprecedented voter suppression to dirty tricks by foreign actors. The conversation was part of the latest episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer. The episode begins airing nationally in the US on public television this Friday, October 30. Check local listings.
October 29, 2020
Emmanuel Macron in trouble: These are trying times for Emmanuel Macron, as the French president suddenly finds himself dealing with three major crises at once. First, France is currently reeling from a massive second wave of coronavirus, which has forced Macron to order a second national lockdown. Second, he is facing rising social tensions at home over the (long-fraught) question of integration into French society, after an Islamic beheaded a teacher who had shown derogatory images of the Prophet Mohammed as part of a lesson on free speech. The killing of three people outside a Nice church by a knife-wielding man of Tunisian origin yesterday heightened the sense of crisis. Lastly, Macron is facing a backlash from much of the Muslim world over his controversial comments in response to the teacher's murder, in which he pledged to crack down on extremism but also seemed to target Islam in general. There have been anti-French protests across the Muslim world, and several countries have called for a boycott of French goods. Macron doesn't face voters again until 2022, but he's already had to reset his presidency a few times. And his rivals — particularly from the far right, anti-immigrant National Rally party— may start to smell blood in the water.
<p><strong>India's pandemic politics:</strong> Citizens of Bihar, India's third most populated state, are already<a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-india-cases/millions-vote-in-indias-first-election-in-shadow-of-coronavirus-idUSKBN27D0EY" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"> voting</a> in the country's first regionwide parliamentary election since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected<a href="https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/10/29/929049468/india-crosses-8-million-coronavirus-cases-second-only-to-u-s" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"> over 8 million</a> Indian citizens and killed more than 121,000. The vote is going ahead despite calls to postpone it due to COVID-19, although Bihar has<a href="https://www.deccanherald.com/national/the-curious-case-of-coronavirus-numbers-in-bihar-908386.html" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"> not been hit as hard</a> as other Indian states. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not on the ballot, but the election is seen as a<a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-54687892" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"> major test</a> for popularity of his ruling BJP party, which currently governs Bihar without a majority and faces a united opposition. The BJP recently came under fire for offering to dole out<a href="https://www.rfi.fr/en/international/20201029-politicians-pledge-covid-vaccine-as-india-s-bihar-state-goes-to-polls" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"> free COVID-19 vaccines if it wins in Bihar</a>, giving the world a taste of what future pandemic politics may look like in countries where a shot of a miracle drug is now worth more than bags of cash to buy votes. Whether or not the BJP follows through on its promise, we're watching to see whether Modi's party holds onto power in Bihar, and if a loss hurts the PM.</p><strong>China, US militaries talk "crisis":</strong> The military chiefs of China and the US held<a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-usa-military-idUSKBN27E1XJ" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"> video talks</a> this week on "crisis communication" amid rapidly deteriorating ties between Beijing and Washington and an increasing risk of conflict in the<a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/us-now-rejects-beijings-south-china-sea-claims-so-what" target="_self"> South China Sea</a> or<a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/the-taiwan-trap" target="_self"> Taiwan</a>. The Chinese defense ministry says that US Defense Secretary Mark Esper gave assurances that America will not seek war with China if President Trump loses next week's election, while his Chinese counterpart urged him to "walk the talk." Interestingly, the conversation took place as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is on a tour of Asia to rally support for a (still unofficial) <a href="https://www.wionews.com/india-news/quad-effect-asian-nato-rattles-china-as-local-press-propaganda-goes-in-high-gear-338406" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">NATO-style military alliance against China</a>. Beijing, as expected, is not pleased with Pompeo's plans nor with the Trump administration's recent move to sell<a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/hard-numbers-poland-restricts-abortion-us-arms-taiwan-oecd-migration-drops-guinea-post-election-violence" target="_self"> $2.4 billion</a> in military equipment to Taiwan, which China regards as part of its territory. Regardless, it's always a good sign that the two of the world's most powerful militaries are still talking in private, no matter how much their governments bash each other in public.
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Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made a lot of foreign governments really mad. Let's call the roll.
Europe. The EU is angry that Turkey is drilling for oil in the eastern Mediterranean, and NATO is furious that member Turkey has defied its protests to purchase S-400 missiles from Russia. Erdogan has repeatedly rejected pushback from EU leaders by calling them fascists and Islamophobes.
Just this week, Erdogan refused to express sympathy with France following the beheading of a French schoolteacher by an Islamist extremist, attacked Macron's own response to the murder, suggested the French president needed "some sort of mental treatment," and countered Macron's vow to crack down on Islamist radicals with calls for a boycott of French products.
<p><strong>US.</strong> Last weekend, Erdogan confirmed that Turkey has tested those Russian S-400 missiles, and <a href="https://apnews.com/article/turkey-istanbul-recep-tayyip-erdogan-ankara-russia-5c8014ac07099875577e43d2e8af139a" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">dared the US to impose sanctions</a>. The Turkish leader has few remaining friends in Washington, and if Joe Biden is elected president and Democrats win a Senate majority, <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/usa-election-turkey-analysis-int/analysis-biden-risk-looms-for-turkeys-erdogan-and-beleaguered-lira-idUSKBN2761JY" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">US sanctions</a> become much more likely. "You do not know who you are playing with," said Erdogan last Sunday. </p><p><strong>Russia.</strong> Vladimir Putin likes to engage Turkey, if only to upset NATO leaders, but he doesn't like that Turkey actively opposes Russian proxies and allies in Syria, Libya, and the disputed enclave of <a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/war-in-the-south-caucasus" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_self">Nagorno-Karabakh</a>. Russia expressed its displeasure earlier this week by <a href="https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/10/26/airstrike-in-northwestern-syria-kills-over-50-rebel-fighters" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">bombing</a> a Syrian rebel camp in Idlib, the last stronghold of the Turkish-backed Syrian opposition on Turkey's border. </p><p><strong>Saudi Arabia.</strong> Longtime rival Saudi Arabia is taking aim at Turkey too. Broad disagreements over the proper role of Islam in politics and specific issues like disputes over the <a href="https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/9/30/erdogan-khashoggi-murder-serious-threat-to-world-order" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">murder in Istanbul</a> of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi have created plenty of bad blood between Erdogan and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. </p><p>Aware that Turkey's economy is in bad shape, the Saudi government has made clear to its business community that it wants a total boycott of Turkish goods into the kingdom. The boycott remains unofficial, and <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/saudi-turkey-trade/saudi-imports-from-turkey-rise-in-august-despite-informal-boycott-idUSKBN27A0A8" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">latest economic statistics</a> don't yet show a big impact on Saudi imports, but the push will likely continue, and Turkish companies will feel the heat. </p><p><strong>China.</strong> Perhaps aware that Turkey will need at least one deep-pocketed friend, Erdogan has been <a href="https://thediplomat.com/2020/08/china-buys-turkeys-silence-on-uyghur-oppression/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">uncharacteristically restrained</a> in his criticism of China for forcing one million Turkic Muslim Uighurs into internment camps in China's Xinjiang region. But even here, Erdogan's government can't completely overlook such a large-scale crime against Muslims, and Turkey's foreign ministry expressed its "<a href="https://www.trtworld.com/turkey/turkey-reiterates-concern-over-china-s-rights-violations-against-uighurs-40386" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">concerns</a>" earlier this month. </p><p><strong>Turkey's economy is hurting. </strong>Erdogan's economic policies are creating turmoil too, and Turkey's people are now suffering real economic pain. <a href="https://www.focus-economics.com/countries/turkey" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Inflation and unemployment are rising</a>. The coronavirus has taken a toll. The <a href="https://www.aljazeera.com/economy/2020/10/27/turkeys-lira-hits-another-record-low-as-geopolitical-risks-mount" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">currency</a> has hit historic lows against the dollar. </p><p>Maybe Erdogan believes that picking fights with foreigners will appeal to national pride and divert public attention from these hardships. It fits the neo-Ottoman image he has worked to build of Turkey as a strong and independent actor on the world stage. </p><p>But a strong Turkey needs a strong economy, and the health of that economy depends on both <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-turkey-erdogan-markets-analysis/cold-turkey-investor-exodus-tests-erdogans-economic-experiment-idUSKBN1ZZ0K7" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">trade and foreign funding</a>. In a moment of economic crisis, new sanctions and boycotts aren't going to help. </p><p><strong>The big questions:</strong> How much economic pain will Erdogan accept before he becomes less combative with those who have the power to hurt him? And how long before he pays a heavier political price at home?</p>
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