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Syria vs Turkey vs Russia vs the EU… and the refugees

Syria vs Turkey vs Russia vs the EU… and the refugees

Fighting has pushed the Syrian province of Idlib to the breaking point. Russian-backed Syrian forces, Syrian rebels trapped inside the city, and Turkey's military are all directly involved, and the stakes in this conflict have risen dramatically in recent days as the conflict threatens to generate a severe humanitarian crisis that sends shock waves through Turkey toward Europe.

Turkey's President Erdogan and Russia's President Putin reportedly agreed on a ceasefire on Thursday, but previous such deals have fallen apart.

So, what do the big players in this conflict want?


If you're Syria's President Assad, you want your country back. Regaining full control of Syria means forcing the total surrender of rebels in Idlib, the last city your forces don't control. You also want your Russian sponsor to force Turkey's army out of your country.

If you're Turkey's President Erdogan, you want Russia, the big military power in Syria, to stop helping Assad attack Idlib. You want a ceasefire and a deal, because you already have 3.6 million foreign refugees, most of them Syrian, living inside your country, and the fall of Idlib might send a million more scrambling in your direction. You also want financial help from Europe to handle all these refugees and EU political help to get the result you want in Syria. To get this help, you'll threaten to tear up the deal you made with Europe in 2016 to house Syrian refugees in exchange for European cash. To show you're serious, you'll nudge a few thousand of them toward European shores.

If you're Greece's government, you want Erdogan to stop pushing refugees toward your borders. Protests have erupted against the refugees you're already sheltering. You want Europe to send money and troops right now to help keep your borders closed during this time of emergency.

If you're the leadership of the European Union, you desperately want to avoid a repeat of the migrant crisis of 2015-2016, which turned the bloc's politics upside down. You want Erdogan to know that you understand Turkey's problem and are ready to help with more money—but without appearing to give in to blackmail in ways that would encourage Erdogan to blackmail you some more. You want Greece to know that you're ready to help this frontline member state secure its borders. And you want this problem to go away so you can deal with other pressing problems—like Coronavirus and a slowing European economy.

If you're Vladimir Putin, you want to make the most of the Idlib problem. You want your ally Assad in control in Syria. You want to keep Erdogan in his place. But perhaps most of all, you're happy to see a new wave of refugees further poison relations between NATO member Turkey and the rest of Europe. You want Europe to have to spend more money on this problem, and you want a new migrant crisis—or better yet, the continuing threat of one—to poison the political atmosphere among and inside European countries.

Finally, if you're a refugee, or if you're trapped inside Idlib as bombs fall, or if your family has been living in a tent city inside Turkey for the past three years, you want hope. You want to escape hunger and constant fear. You want to believe that one day, you and your children will have a chance at a normal life.

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.

Over the weekend, some 40,000 Russians braved subzero temperatures to turn out in the streets in support of imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. More than 3,000 protesters were arrested, and Navalny called on his followers to prepare for more action in the coming weeks.

But just who is Alexei Navalny, and how significant is the threat that he may pose to Vladimir Putin's stranglehold on power in Russia?

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take (part 1):

Ian Bremmer here, happy Monday. And have your Quick Take to start off the week.

Maybe start off with Biden because now President Biden has had a week, almost a week, right? How was it? How's he doing? Well, for the first week, I would say pretty good. Not exceptional, but not bad, not bad. Normal. I know everyone's excited that there's normalcy. We will not be excited there's normalcy when crises start hitting and when life gets harder and we are still in the middle of a horrible pandemic and he has to respond to it. But for the first week, it was okay.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Russian opposition leader Navalny in jail. Hundreds of thousands demonstrating across the country in Russia over well over 100 cities, well over 3000 arrested. And Putin responding by saying that this video that was put out that showed what Navalny said was Putin's palace that costs well over a billion dollars to create and Putin, I got to say, usually he doesn't respond to this stuff very quickly. Looked a little defensive, said didn't really watch it, saw some of it, but it definitely wasn't owned by him or owned by his relatives.

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Even as vaccines roll out around the world, COVID-19 is continuing to spread like wildfire in many places, dashing hopes of a return to normal life any time soon. Some countries, like Israel and the UK for instance, have been praised for their inoculation drives, while still recording a high number of new cases. It's clear that while inoculations are cause for hope, the pace of rollouts cannot keep up with the fast-moving virus. Here's a look at the countries that have vaccinated the largest percentages of their populations so far – and a snapshot of their daily COVID caseloads (7-day rolling average) in recent weeks.

The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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