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When strongmen move from push to shove

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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What We’re Watching: Australia-HK extradition, Ivorian PM dies, WHO reviews itself

Australia ends extradition with Hong Kong: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his country would suspend an extradition treaty with Hong Kong in response to China's new security law, which severely compromises the city's autonomy. Morrison also said Canberra would give around 10,000 Hong Kong students and visa holders in Australia a path to permanent residency. Australia-China ties have been deteriorating in recent months — in response to Morrison's calls for an investigation into China's handling of the pandemic, Beijing slapped fresh tariffs on Australian goods in May. Australia's latest move follows a similar one by Canada last week, while Britain has also condemned China's draconian security law and said it will offer 3 million Hong Kongers a path to citizenship. We're watching to see whether the international blowback will have any effect on Beijing's policy.

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What We’re Watching: Brits arm Saudis, Belgrade riots, Chinese nukes

UK ends ban on Saudi arms sales: The UK is ready to resume weapons exports to Saudi Arabia after a one-year moratorium. In June 2019, a British court ruled that those sales were unlawful if the arms would later be used against civilians in Yemen, where the Saudi military has been fighting Houthi rebel forces since 2015. The UK government said it is now confident that the Saudis will not use British-made weapons in Yemen in any way that violates international humanitarian law. The decision to end the ban has raised ethical concerns about the UK's involvement in this war, where thousands of Yemeni civilians have been killed by Saudi strikes. Prior to the ban, the UK was the second top arms seller to Saudi Arabia after the US. Meanwhile, the war in Yemen — considered the world's worst humanitarian crisis right now — continues this week with a fresh Saudi campaign against the Houthis, following a short-lived ceasefire due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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What We're Watching: Trump and AMLO's rendezvous, and Uighurs seek justice at the ICC

AMLO and Trump: an unlikely duo – When Mexico's populist president Andrés Manuel López Obrador, known as AMLO, shakes hands with President Trump at the White House on Wednesday to celebrate the new United States-Mexico-Canada trade deal, it will mark AMLO's first foreign trip since he assumed office nearly two years ago. In the run up to the meeting, both Trump and AMLO have boasted of warm personal ties, but the friendship is… an unlikely one. Recall when AMLO was elected in 2018, most analysts predicted that he would clash with Trump over immigration and trade (AMLO had long advocated for Mexicans' right to work in the United States, while Trump infamously referred to Mexican migrants as "criminals" and vowed to abolish NAFTA, the free trade agreement that was a boon for Mexico's economy.) But in endearing himself to Trump, AMLO may have calculated that, from Mexico's standpoint, a revised trade deal is better than no trade deal at all, and has thus been willing to appease the US president on issues like immigration. (As part of an agreement with the Trump administration, for example, AMLO deployed the National Guard to stop Central Americans trying to reach the US via Mexican territory.) Moreover, in flying to Washington now AMLO might also be keen to distract attention from his own poor handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has seen Mexico's death toll surpass 30,000 in recent days, now one of the highest in the world.

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Quick Take: On masks & mishandled US response

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Got through the Fourth of July. Pretty rough one for 2020 here in the United States. Still in the thick of it as we see caseload exploding in the United States. But really, the virus is all about developing markets right now. Poor countries around the world very soon, with the exception of the US and the UK, all of the top 10 countries around the world in terms of coronavirus caseload will be poorer countries. Let's keep in mind, these are countries that test a lot less, which means the actual numbers, in the United States the experts are saying probable likelihood of total cases is about 10x what we've actually seen in the US, in emerging markets and most of them, it's more like between 20 and 100. In other words, this is really where the virus now is.

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