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Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman receives US President Joe Biden at the Royal Palace in Jeddah.

Reuters

Are Saudi and Israel getting close to a normalization deal?

The US and Saudi Arabia have reportedly agreed on the outline of a normalization deal between Israel and the Gulf Kingdom that could take place within 9-12 months.

Though it’s unclear what the two parties have decided, it’s relevant that US officials leaked this update in an attempt to raise expectations that progress is being made.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping attend a reception at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia March 21, 2023.

Sputnik/Pavel Byrkin/Kremlin via REUTERS

What We're Watching: Russia strikes Ukraine amid dueling wartime trips, Boris Johnson’s ‘Partygate’ showdown, Israeli settlements U-turn

After Xi-Putin summit, Moscow strikes Ukraine

Over the past few days, Vladimir Putin pulled out all the stops to entertain his "good old friend" Xi Jinping in Moscow, during what was perhaps the most geopolitically significant bilateral summit of the year so far.

Seven-course dinner — check. Insanely long red carpet at the Kremlin — check. Putin doing Xi the rare courtesy of showing up on time — check.

But beyond the pomp, ничего особенного (nothing much). The summit ended with a joint press conference featuring boilerplate statements about Sino-Russian cooperation. There was no mention of China potentially supplying arms to Russia, and no call for a ceasefire in Ukraine, although Putin did say that Xi's peace plan could be a first step toward a negotiated settlement “once the West and Kyiv are ready for it."

But then right after Xi's visit on Wednesday, the Kremlin launched fresh drone and missile strikes on Ukrainian cities, killing at least four people in a residential area outside Kyiv.

While President Volodymyr Zelensky has so far tried to remain open to Beijing's intervention, he tweeted that "every time someone tries to hear the word 'peace' in Moscow, another order is given there for such criminal strikes."

Is Putin feeling emboldened? From Putin's perspective, a visit from Xi, who’s been something of a homebody himself since the pandemic, lets Putin show that although the US and its allies have blackballed him, he is still far from isolated globally – and that the Russia-China friendship “without limits” is an axis of power Washington has to reckon with.

We're watching to see how — or if — Beijing responds to the latest onslaught that comes on the heels of Xi's whirlwind diplomacy.

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Iran: lynchpin in the Saudi-Israeli relationship
Iran: Lynchpin in the Saudi-Israeli Relationship | GZERO World

Iran: lynchpin in the Saudi-Israeli relationship

US President Joe Biden didn't get much from his recent trip to Saudi Arabia — other than some symbolic progress on Saudi ties with Israel.

Indeed, Biden's plane flew directly to the country from Israel, and now Israeli airlines will be allowed to overfly Saudi airspace. But is this really a big deal?

"I would describe it as [...] giving crumbs to Biden," Bernard Haykel, a Princeton University professor and expert on Saudi Arabia, tells Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.

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Biden could get Saudis to push Russia out of OPEC+
Biden Wants Saudis to Increase Oil Production & Russia Out of OPEC+ | World In :60 | GZERO Media

Biden could get Saudis to push Russia out of OPEC+

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week on World In :60.

What does Biden hope to come from his trip to Saudi Arabia?

Well, first he hopes he isn't smashed by progressives in his own party after saying when he campaigned that he wanted to make Saudi Arabia into a pariah internationally. Traveling to Saudi Arabia and visiting with Mohammed bin Salman doesn't do that, but of course, $120 plus oil doesn't do that either. Look, I think it's sensible for him to go. I'm glad he's actually making the trip. In particular, he wants to see the Saudis increasing their oil production beyond present announced quotas to reduce the price. It's impacting Americans at the pump with record levels right now. He'd love to see Russia thrown out of OPEC Plus. I think that's plausible and beyond that, the possibility that Saudi Arabia and Israel would formally open diplomatic relations, an extension of the Abraham Accords which was one of the biggest accomplishments in foreign policy of the Trump administration. Biden's completely aligned with that and I think he's going to try to push on that. So, I do think there will be some direct takeaways from this trip that'll be positive for the Biden administration.

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Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky

REUTERS

What We're Watching: Zelensky's olive branch, dialogue in the desert, emergency in El Salvador

Zelensky’s peace offer is a first step, not a game changer

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky says he’s ready to discuss “neutrality” for Ukraine as part of a peace deal with Russia. That’s a positive development. But even as an opening bid, this is no game changer. Here’s why…

First, Zelensky insists that “neutrality” – a promise written into Ukraine’s constitution to never join NATO – can only be approved by popular referendum. That vote, Zelensky says, can’t take place while Russian soldiers remain on Ukrainian soil. Leaving aside disputes over what counts as Ukrainian soil – Crimea? The occupied Donbas region? – Putin is highly unlikely to withdraw all Russian forces without knowing the outcome of the vote.

Second, Zelensky also insists that Ukraine could only agree to neutrality if its security is guaranteed by outside (read Western) powers. Without those security guarantees, Ukraine can’t be confident that Russia won’t just invade again in the future. But a security guarantee from Western powers is the central benefit of NATO membership, and Putin has little reason to agree to that.

Third, an offer not to join NATO in exchange for peace assumes that Putin will allow Ukraine to one day join the European Union and that Ukrainians will retain the right to make their own foreign and trade policy. Putin’s approach toward Ukraine over the past 20 years indicates that would not be acceptable to Moscow.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday there may be another obstacle to successful peace talks: Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich has said that he and Ukrainian negotiators suffered symptoms of poisoning after they met in Kyiv to discuss peace recently. Abramovich blames hardliners in Moscow who don’t want to end the war.

Finally, President Joe Biden’s comment in Poland that Putin “cannot remain in power” could persuade Russia’s president that no guarantee of neutrality from Ukraine can allow Moscow to claim victory. Not if the US still intends to cripple Russia’s economy with sanctions – and maybe force Putin out.

Zelensky’s offer might start an important conversation, but it comes nowhere near ensuring a diplomatic breakthrough.

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Elon Musk, Time Person of the Year? Naftali Bennett visits UAE
Naftali Bennett Visits UAE | Elon Musk, Time Person of the Year? | World In :60 | GZERO Media

Elon Musk, Time Person of the Year? Naftali Bennett visits UAE

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week with a look at Naftali Bennett's first official visit to the UAE, China's response to recent US sanctions, and Elon Musk's chances at Time Person of the Year.

How did Naftali Bennett's first official visit to the UAE go?

Went extremely well. This was probably President Trump's largest and most unexpected foreign policy success, The Abraham Accords, which meant opening diplomatic relations between Israel and the UAE, in addition to other countries in the region. Now we have the prime minister of Israel touching down on an official visit in the UAE, where he met with Mohammed bin Zayed, who is the defacto ruler of all of the Emirates, as well as a lot of other leaders. We're seeing more investment, more tourism, and we're also seeing more intelligence cooperation, especially around issues like Iran, where frankly, both the Arab governments and the Israelis have problems. Big question everyone's watching out for is when are the Saudis going to open up to Israel? The Saudis are really reluctant in part because they feel like that would seed too much ground to Iran on the Palestinian question, and also lead to much more pushback given a much more conservative Saudi population. The UAE is one of the most cosmopolitan populations out there, frankly.

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Israel-Palestine conflict worsening and could lead to a war
Israel-Palestine Conflict Worsening And Could Lead To A War | World In :60 | GZERO Media

Israel-Palestine conflict worsening and could lead to a war

Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics this week:

Why has there been a recent escalation of violence in Jerusalem?

Well, it started with demonstrations of the Palestinians expecting a verdict on these cases of Palestinians that have been pushed out of their homes in East Jerusalem by settlers, contested territory that has belonged to the Palestinians. You've had lots of violence against them by Israeli police, then you had Gaza missiles from Hamas, and then Israeli missiles into Gaza, and now we've got a couple dozen Palestinians dead and the potential for this to get a lot worse is real. The shekel has even moved a little bit because there's concerns that this could lead to a war. It's not a broader war. This is not as much of a priority for the Arabs in the region, so it doesn't kill the Abraham Accords, Iran is still moving ahead with a deal, but in terms of potential for real bloodshed between Israel and the Palestinians, absolutely. That's something to worry about.

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The geopolitics of the Middle East shake up
Ian Explains: The Geopolitics of the Middle East Shake Up | GZERO World

The geopolitics of the Middle East shake up

How have geopolitics in the Middle East changed over the last few decades, and what does it mean for the Biden administration's strategy in this region? Like the two presidents before him, Joe Biden is eager to shift focus and resources away from the Middle East to China and the growing competition it presents. But there are some loose ends to tie up first in the Middle East, to say the least. Ian Bremmer explains on GZERO World.

Watch the episode: Is the US Misjudging the Middle East's Power Shifts? Vali Nasr's View

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