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.

In Italy, stacks of plastic boxes in supermarkets and stores are not garbage - they are collected and reused, thanks to a consortium that specializes in recycling them for food storage. How do these "circular" plastic boxes help reduce energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions?

Learn more in this episode of Eni's Energy SUPERFACTS series.

Over the past few years, we've seen three major emerging powers take bold action to right what they say are historical wrongs.

First came Crimea. When the Kremlin decided in 2014 that Western powers were working against Russian interests in Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops to seize the Crimean Peninsula, which was then part of Ukraine. Moscow claimed that Crimea and its ethnic Russian majority had been part of the Russian Empire for centuries until a shameful deal in 1954 made Crimea part of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic. Americans and Europeans imposed sanctions on Russia. But Ukraine is not part of NATO or the EU, and no further action was taken.

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British economist Jim O'Neill says the global economy can bounce back right to where it was before, in a V-shaped recovery. But his argument is based on a lot of "ifs," plus comparisons to the 2008 recession and conditions in China and South Korea that may not truly apply. Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group's Robert Kahn take issue with O'Neill's op-ed, on this edition of The Red Pen.

Today, we're taking our Red Pen to an article titled "A V-Shaped Recovery Could Still Happen." I'm not buying it. It's published recently by Project Syndicate, authored by British economist named Jim O'Neill. Jim O'Neill is very well known. He was chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management. He's the guy that coined the acronym BRICS, Brazil, Russia, India, China. So, no slouch. But as you know, we don't agree with everything out there. And this is the case. Brought to you by the letter V. We're taking sharp issue with the idea that recovery from all the economic devastation created by the coronavirus pandemic is going to happen quickly. That after the sharp drop that the world has experienced, everything bounces back to where it was before. That's the V. Economists around the world are debating how quickly recovery will happen to be sure. But we're not buying the V. Here's why. W-H-Y.

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The United States and the European Union have comparable population sizes, but their COVID-19 death toll trajectories have recently become very different. Since the beginning of July, the average number of both new fatalities and new deaths per 1 million people is rapidly increasing in the US while it remains mostly flat in the EU. We compare this to the average number of new cases each seven days in both regions, where the US trend continues upward but is not surging like the death toll. EU countries' robust public health systems and citizens' willingness to wear masks and maintain social distance could explain the disparity.

"Neither America first, which is ultimately America alone, nor America the world's policeman," Sen. Chris Coons told Ian Bremmer in describing VP Joe Biden's approach to foreign policy should he win the presidential election in November. In the latest episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer, Sen. Coons provides details of how U.S. relationships with foreign governments and multilateral alliances could change in a Biden presidency. He also defended President Obama's track record, saying "I think it is a mischaracterization of the Obama-Biden foreign policy for President Trump to say that we were picking up the tab and fighting the world's wars and that we were disrespected." Coons stated that Biden would work to restore U.S. involvement in alliances like NATO, and shore up global support to pressure China on labor and environmental standards. The exchange is part of a broad conversation with the Senator about COVID response and economic relief, Russian interference in elections, and the 2020 presidential race. The episode begins airing nationally in the U.S. on Friday, July 10. Check local listings.