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Niall Ferguson: Blame bureaucrats, not leaders, for mismanaging disasters

When a government fails on disaster response, Stanford University historian Niall Ferguson says we often point the finger at the wrong person: the president — even if he's Donald Trump — instead of the mid-level bureaucrats who're actually responsible for most decisions. "When people are inclined to blame the person at the top, on closer inspection the point of failure is not there," Ferguson tells Ian Bremmer in the upcoming episode of GZERO World. Check local listings to watch on US public television.

Merkel and Johnson will discuss post-Brexit relationship

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

What are Angela Merkel and Boris Johnson going to talk about when they meet this week?

Well, I guess they need to start discussing a relationship post-Brexit. It was five years ago, and the relationship is still dominated by sort of Brexit-related issues. The uncertainty over the Northern Ireland protocol is a cloud over the relationship, but there are also common issues. Needless to say, the pandemic is still with us.

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What We're Watching: Biden meets Boris, Iranian ships in the Atlantic, Argentinian president's mishap

Biden hangs with Boris: On his first trip to Europe as US president, Joe Biden stopped first in the UK where he met with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. While Biden is keen to reaffirm the close bond between the two countries, there are also some thorny issues on the agenda. The US president likely reiterated the importance of London safeguarding the fragile peace in Northern Ireland, and instructed Johnson to refrain from triggering a provision in the EU-UK post-Brexit trade agreement that would reestablish a land border separating Northern Ireland, part of the UK, and the Republic of Ireland, an EU member state. Indeed, on this issue, Johnson will have to find a middle ground in managing the warming temperature in Northern Ireland, and placating the US president, who he desperately wants to agree to a juicy post-Brexit US-UK trade deal. Also on the agenda: coordination on climate change and ensuring the smooth and safe reopening of US-UK travel after 16 months of chaos.

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Biden goes to Europe, but is America really “back”?

As he packs his bags for his first foreign trip, US President Joe Biden has some convincing to do.

On Wednesday he leaves on a weeklong journey to Europe, where he will meet with European allies, visit NATO headquarters, attend the G7 meetings in Cornwall, and hold a face-to-face with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva.

Biden's European hosts will be glad to see him. After four years of a Trump administration that treated most of them with contempt, here comes a US president who values Washington's traditional alliances and seems interested in working with US partners to tackle big global issues like climate change, technology regulation, a rising China, and a revanchist Russia. "America," Biden has said, "is back."

But there are thorny items on the agenda too.

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Scotland's rocky road ahead

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland's first minister, says another independence referendum for Scotland is now a matter of "when not if," and that after leaving the UK, Scotland will launch a bid to rejoin the EU. But there are formidable obstacles ahead.

Getting to a vote will force a complex game of chicken with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. If a majority of Scots then vote for independence — hardly a sure thing – the process of extricating their new country from the UK will make Brexit look easy. Next, come the challenges of EU accession. In other words, Scotland's journey down the rocky road ahead has only just begun.

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Scotland votes, with independence on its mind

Scots go to the polls this week to vote in their first parliamentary election since Brexit. We already know that the incumbent Scottish National Party will win most seats. Will its majority be big enough to demand another independence referendum?

Almost seven years ago, Scotland turned down independence in a plebiscite by a 10-point margin. But that was before the entire United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union in 2016 — against the wishes of most people in Scotland.

Many Scots felt cheated in the 2014 referendum because a lot of them voted to remain in the UK precisely to also stay in the EU. As post-Brexit political chaos that followed has further boosted nationalist sentiment in Scotland, the outcome of Thursday's vote will be closely watched in four capitals.

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What We're Watching: Johnson's big mouth, US withdrawing from Afghanistan, back from the brink in Somalia

Boris Johnson's big mouth: Boris Johnson is no stranger to controversy over crazy things that he's said — his perilously off-the-cuff style is part of his political brand. But the British PM is currently under fire over reports that he told advisers last fall he was prepared to "let the bodies pile high in their thousands" rather than impose another lockdown in the UK. Johnson denies it, but the BBC journos who reported the story are standing by it. The flap comes right as Johnson is also being accused — by his estranged former chief advisor Dominic Cummings — of having used campaign donations to refurnish his Downing Street residence. The clash between Johnson and Cummings, who is still influential among Johnson's own Tories, centers on Cummings' accusation that the PM's handling of the pandemic was incompetent. A swift vaccine rollout has helped the polarizing Johnson claw his way back to 51 percent approval rating in recent weeks — whether these latest antics and scandals will hurt his support remains to be seen.

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European soccer’s civil war

Early this week, it took barely 48 hours for a multibillion-dollar separatist movement in European football to collapse. Twelve of the continent's richest clubs formed the Super League, a breakaway pan-European tournament from the world's biggest annual sports competition: the UEFA Champions League. In response to furious backlash from fans, players, managers, other clubs and governments, the project has been put on hold. But the very contentious issues that prompted the split in the first place remain unresolved.

While the dust settles, let's examine why the Super League's founders are so at odds with everyone else with a stake in European soccer, including some divisions with political undertones.

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