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Europe fears Afghan refugees will cause a political crisis

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Europe:

What are the fears in Europe stemming out of what is happening in Afghanistan?

Well, there are of course, a lot fears coming, long-term security and other issues, the effect on global politics of this. But more immediate, of course, there is the refugee issue. There's enormous generosity when it comes to full accepting all of those that we've been able to evacuate that have been working with us in force over the years in Afghanistan. But there's also a fear that there will be a repetition of 2015. There are elections coming up in September in Norway and primarily in Germany and in the beginning of next year in France. And you can see the EU internal interior ministers meeting and you can see what President Macron is saying. And I think the reaction is going to be an enormous will to have humanitarian efforts in the region, the hope that the United Nations can stay in Afghanistan and can help in the region. And that is important. But then we also see, of course, that the walls are coming up. The Turks are building a wall on the border with Iran. Greece is building a wall on the border with Turkey. And add to that, of course, we have the problem of the weaponization of refugees. Lukashenko of Belarus is sort of deliberately, a sort of importing, smuggling, and paying for refugees to come to Minsk, and then he is hovering them over the border to Lithuania and Poland and Latvia in order to pressure those particular countries. That has to be reacted to. So, issues are going to be complex when it comes to Afghanistan. We're going to live with the Afghanistan issue for a very long time.

What We’re Watching: EU vs Belarus, US booster shots for all, Afghan lessons for Taiwan

Booster shots for Americans: After initially authorizing COVID vaccine booster shots for immunocompromised Americans, the Biden administration now says that most eligible people should get a booster beginning next month. It's quite an about-face for US health authorities, who just weeks ago insisted a top up was not necessary despite the spread of the more contagious delta variant, responsible for new COVID flare-ups in many parts of the country. Still, the US will likely face backlash from the World Health Organization, which has repeatedly asked nations with broad access to vaccines to hold off on booster shots until all countries inoculate at least 10 percent of their populations. The WHO's argument: if rich nations play me-first vaccine politics by doling out third doses instead of sending them to countries where most people haven't even had one dose, the virus will continue to mutate into new and potentially more lethal variants, making the pandemic harder to contain. But the US isn't the only country to go down the booster track: Israel has already distributed over 1 million, while Germany, France and the UK will begin in September.

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Belarus human rights abuses stacking up; Beirut blast one year later

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week with a look at the deteriorating human rights situation in Belarus, Delta variant woes, and Lebanon one year after the Beirut blast.

An Olympian refuses to return home to Belarus and an anti-Lukashenko activist has been found dead in Ukraine. What's going on?

Yeah. That anti-Lukashenko activist was found hanged in a park in Kiev. Once again, not exactly likely a suicide. These anti-Lukashenko activists have a way of turning up injured or dead. It's a horrible regime. Their friends are limited largely to the Russians. That's about it. The economic pressure is growing from Europe, from the United States, very coordinated. But the problem is a very hard to do much to Lukashenko when he has not only support of his military, but also the support of most of the workers in the country who aren't prepared to strike because they want to ensure they still have jobs. I expect this is going to continue, but human rights abuses are stacking up. It is nice to see that the Americans and the Europeans are coordinating policy as well as they have been.

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What We’re Watching: Iranian inauguration, Taliban go urban, Belarusian activist dead, China’s hog hotels

Raisi won't have it easy: The newly "elected" president of Iran, Ibrahim Raisi, was officially endorsed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on Tuesday. In his inaugural address, the 60-year-old hardliner pledged to get US sanctions removed and to respond to rising socioeconomic grievances within Iran, but he warned that he wouldn't lash Iran's prosperity or survival to "the will of foreigners." In Iran, the president's role focuses mainly on domestic policy, but with the economy reeling one of Raisi's big early challenges will be to continue complicated talks with the Biden administration to renegotiate the 2015 nuclear deal, which would lead to the US lifting some of the harshest sanctions. Both sides say they want a new deal, and have gone through half a dozen rounds of negotiations already, but they remain at odds over who should make what concessions first. Raisi also pledged to restore Iranians' flagging trust in their government and to improve the economic situation, but in ways that are in line with "revolutionary principles." He'll have his hands full with that. And don't forget that the likely imminent (re)takeover of neighboring Afghanistan by the Taliban — whom Tehran don't like at all — will also occur on Raisi's watch. Good luck, Mr. President, you'll need it.

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Olympics corner: Belarusian defection

It was a weird series of events. Belarusian sprinter Kristina Timanovskaya took to Instagram to lament that her country's Olympic Committee had registered her for the 4x400 relay event at the eleventh hour (because a fellow participant had failed to pass drug screenings) despite not having trained.

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Europe’s last dictator, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko

Frequently called Europe's last dictator, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko Lukashenko has sailed smoothly to victory in all six elections he's stood in, despite widespread corruption and fraud in each one. But in 2020 the biggest threat so far to Lukashenko's tight grip on government came in an unlikely package—a former schoolteacher and stay at home mom, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. After the election result was finalized, Lukashenko claimed victory, hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets, and Tsikhanouskaya leads the opposition in exile. Lukashenko recently took his boldest move yet, diverting a plane en route from Greece to Lithuania to arrest another Belarusian dissident. Ian Bremmer discusses whether a democratic transition is remotely possible in Belarus on GZERO World.

Watch the episode: The fight for democracy in Europe's last dictatorship

Is there actually a bromance between Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko?

Do Russian president Vladimir Putin and Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko actually have a good relationship, as photos of them together on Putin's yacht would suggest? Exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya commented, "You know, the strangest thing, maybe the most obvious thing, is that the whole world understands that these two people are not friends. They are making this picture to try to persuade the Russians and the world that they are together." The reality, in her opinion, is that Moscow may be looking for suitable candidates to replace Lukashenko in a new election, because the crisis in Belarus is very inconvenient for the Kremlin. Tsikhanouskaya would prefer that Russia not interfere with Belarusian politics, she said in a conversation with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.

Watch the episode: The fight for democracy in Europe's last dictatorship

This Belarusian great-grandmother is one of Lukashenko’s fiercest critics

Belarusian president Lukashenko dismissed his female opponent's campaign because, he said, society was "not mature enough to vote for a woman." The weight of the presidency, he added, "would cause her to collapse, poor thing." In fact, women have emerged as the protest movement's greatest force, taking over the streets wearing white and carrying flowers and colorful umbrellas. One 73-year-old great grandmother has become a symbol of the protest movement: Nina Baginskaya, who has fearlessly stood up to police during Lukashenko's brutal crackdown.

Watch the episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: The fight for democracy in Europe's last dictatorship

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