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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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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

Will sanctions work against Lukashenko?

Are the European Union's sanctions against Belarus effective? The initial European response to the fraudulent election in Belarus was swift, but didn't go far enough, said opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, emboldening President Alexander Lukashenko to think he could continue to act with impunity and even hijack a Ryanair plane. The EU has stated that while it wants to impose sanctions that will punish the Belarusian president and the government, they don't want to hurt the Belarusian people - but Tsikhanouskaya affirmed that sanctions are the leverage that people on the ground are asking for. "People don't feel safe, and they want to end the regime as soon as possible," she told Ian Bremmer in an interview on GZERO World.

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

The fight for democracy in Europe's last dictatorship

Is there a path to democracy for Europe's last dictatorship, Belarus? Exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya discusses her hopes and fears for the country with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World. President Alexander Lukashenko has maintained a tight grip on power in Belarus for the last 26 years and rigged the results of his last election which led to widespread protest and unrest in his country, though few consequences globally. But will he now be held accountable after diverting a flight between two European capitals to arrest a dissident journalist? And just how close are he and Vladimir Putin?

Life under dictatorship in Belarus

What should you put in your bag before leaving home in Belarus nowadays if you openly criticize the government? Opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya recommends packing an extra pair of pants and socks in case you get kidnapped or thrown in jail because under strongman President Alexander Lukashenko, you "feel that you don't have rights at all."

Her conversation with Ian Bremmer is part of an interview on the upcoming episode of GZERO World, which begins airing on US public television Friday, June 11. Check local listings.

What the EU will — and won’t — do about Belarus

The European Union on Monday agreed to sanction Belarus for having used a fighter jet and a bomb threat to ground a Vilnius-bound EU commercial airplane in order to arrest a dissident journalist. Along with the usual strongly-worded statements and in an unusually swift move, the bloc banned its sole airline from EU airspace and airports, and asked EU airlines to avoid Belarusian airspace.

Brussels also expanded current economic and travel sanctions against the regime led by strongman President Alexander Lukashenko. But tougher measures than that? Unlikely.

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