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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi upon his arrival in Cairo.

Saudi Press Agency/Handout via REUTERS

What We’re Watching: MBS on tour, Lithuania vs. Russia, Spain’s moderate swing

MBS makes BFFs ahead of Biden visit

With barely a month until his controversial summit with President Joe Biden, the Saudi crown prince is on a regional tour this week to show that he’s hardly the “pariah” that America’s president once promised to make him. In Jordan, Mohammed bin Salman will look to patch up a monarchy-to-monarchy relationship that became strained last year over allegations of Saudi involvement in a plot to overthrow King Abdullah II. The Jordanians hope MBS’s visit leads to a resumption of lavish Saudi financial support. In Egypt, Crown Prince Mohammed will be highlighting Riyadh’s tight relationship with the Arab world’s most populous country. Egyptian strongman Abdel Fattah el-Sisi enjoys strong backing from the Saudis, who have gifted or invested billions of dollars in Egypt in recent years. But the most significant stop on MBS’s tour will be in Turkey, where always-dicey relations between the regional rivals nearly broke off entirely over the Saudi government’s 2018 murder of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul. But with Turkey looking for financial help to right a listing economy, and MBS looking to shore up ties with a mercurial member of NATO, it seems that bygones are bygones.

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Egypt Wants COP27 To Be All About Implementation | Global Stage | GZERO Media

Egypt wants COP27 to be all about implementation

Later this year, Egypt will be hosting the COP27 Climate Summit. What does the gathering hope to accomplish at such an uncertain time for climate action?

It's time to go from pledges and commitments to implementation, Egyptian Minister for International Cooperation Rania al-Mashat says during a Global Stage livestream conversation hosted by GZERO Media in partnership with Microsoft.

"We want it to be an implementation COP," she explains. "And for that to happen, there needs to be a way for all the private-sector commitments that were made in Glasgow to make their ways to countries. And the only way to do that is if more climate finance ... is presented to actually de-risk some of the private-sector investments."

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Is Global Economic Inequality Getting Worse? | Global Stage | GZERO Media

Is global economic inequality getting worse?

Yes, said the majority of respondents in a recent GZERO poll.

What's happening in Ukraine has undone much of the momentum for narrowing the equality gap created during the pandemic, said Ian Bremmer, president of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media, during a Global Stage livestream conversation hosted by GZERO in partnership with Microsoft. The event was held on site at the headquarters of the World Bank in Washington, DC , and was moderated by Jeanna Smialek, Federal Reserve reporter at The New York Times. The war has aggravated pre-existing problems like high inflation and supply chain disruptions. A cease-fire would help end all this, but don't count on it.

This week the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are holding their annual spring meetings. The conflict is top and center on the agenda, as is financial assistance to first help Ukraine keep the lights on and someday rebuild when the Russians leave.

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Ukrainian soldiers during a funeral for a fellow service member in Lviv.

REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

What We're Watching: Ukrainian war morale, Nicaraguan opposition crackdown, Sinai summit

“On the brink of surviving war”

In wartime, all battlefield reports must be treated with large doses of skepticism. All of them. Propaganda and the “fog of war” are powerful forces. We do know that Russia’s military has captured very few of its most strategically important targets. To varying degrees, Ukraine’s largest cities have suffered terrible, lasting damage and a substantial number of both military and civilian casualties. In addition, a Russian media outlet reported on Monday that the country’s Defense Ministry has acknowledged that 9,861 Russian soldiers have been killed in Ukraine in the past month. If true, that’s more than the number of American soldiers killed during the entire wars in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. (That report, which can’t be verified, was quickly pulled down, but it squares with Western intelligence estimates.) We’ve already written in Signal about the various problems, including low morale, that may be plaguing Russian soldiers.

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Mariupol residents evacuate from the embattled city to Russia.

Mikhail Tereshchenko/TASS via Reuters Connect

What We’re Watching: Mariupol filtration camps, Egyptian bread prices, Europe kicks Russian energy habit

Connecting Russia’s bloody dots in Ukraine

For now, the very worst Ukraine war-related horrors the outside world is hearing about are coming from Mariupol, a port city of 430,000 on the Sea of Azov that has the misfortune to lie between the Russian-controlled territories of the Donbas in Ukraine’s east and Crimea on its southern Black Sea coast. The Russian military is determined to connect the two regions at the expense of all trapped in their path. For now, Mariupol is the one major Ukrainian city where Russian soldiers have entered in large numbers and where deadly firefights empty city streets.

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A Ukrainian soldier tests a US-supplied M141 Bunker Defeat Munition weapon in Lviv.

REUTERS/Roman Baluk

What We’re Watching: Foreigners advised to leave Ukraine, Egypt-Sudan blockade, Canadian truckers vs auto makers

Ukraine alert level rises. Americans and Brits are being urged to leave Ukraine. On Friday, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan advised American citizens “to depart [Ukraine] immediately” within the “next 24 to 48 hours” and characterized the threat as “immediate.” A Russian military move against Ukraine, he said, could begin "before the Olympics have ended." Sullivan also noted that a significant amount of territory in Ukraine could be occupied by Russian troops. The British foreign office similarly told Brits living in the region to leave while commercial flights are still available.

Lithuania, meanwhile, says it will send Kyiv a cache of Stinger surface-to-air missiles in the next few days to bolster Ukrainian defenses against a possible Russian invasion. Battlefield bonafides aside, the symbolism is rich: these same weapons helped bury the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Meanwhile, diplomatic efforts to prevent war continue, if choppily. The UK defense minister will meet his Russian counterpart in Moscow on Friday, though the Kremlin doesn’t seem to take London very seriously. Russia’s top diplomat shot down threats of British sanctions as “empty slogans” and said his talks on Thursday with UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss were a meeting of “the mute with the deaf.” With Russia massing troops on Ukraine’s border and running massive war games in neighboring Belarus, stakes are high. The next big diplomatic moves? German Chancellor Olaf Scholz meets Monday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky before heading to Moscow to see Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday.

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What We're Watching: Australia hearts coal, Egypt emergency lifted, US lobbies for Taiwan

Australia's underwhelming climate pledge: After waffling on whether he'd attend COP26, Prime Minister Scott Morrison now says Australia will achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. But there's a catch: the scheme would not involve overhauling the country's lucrative fossil fuel sector. The PM also stopped short of making ambitious targets by 2030, one of the key objectives of COP26. Australia is one of the world's top coal-producing countries and has one of the biggest carbon footprints per capita, but its government has long dragged its feet on climate change — mainly because fossil fuel exports are a boon for the economy. "We won't be lectured by others who do not understand Australia," Morrison said in response to criticism about his government's weaker-than-hoped-for pledges. While the US has pledged to halve its carbon output by 2030, and the EU says it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions 55 percent from 1990 levels by 2030, Australia is aiming for a mere 26 percent cut on 2005 emissions in that period.

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Podcast: American democracy is in danger, warns Ben Rhodes

Listen: Ben Rhodes, a former Deputy National Security Adviser to President Barack Obama, joins Ian Bremmer to talk about the state of American democracy in the 21st century. Trump, he says, cannot take all the blame for the US's fall from grace on the global stage. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the 2008 financial crisis and disinformation on social media have all played a big role too. What will it take to get America back on track and restore the country's place in the world as a beacon of democracy?

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