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What We’re Watching: Irish reunification, China’s COVID passports, Ethiopian election boycott

Will Northern Ireland leave the UK? Unifying the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland into one sovereign state has long been a pipedream for Irish nationalists. But recent polls reveal that public sentiment is changing. The combination of demographic shifts and Brexit, which resulted in Northern Ireland exiting the EU as part of the UK, have upped support to break away from London in the near term: one survey found that 42 percent of people in Northern Ireland support reunification, and the number was even higher among the under-45 cohort (47 to 46 percent). Meanwhile, the Irish nationalist Sinn Fein party, which made massive gains in Ireland's general election last year, recently said that Dublin, Belfast, and London need to start getting ready for Irish reunification — and soon. But the issue is extremely difficult to reconcile: The 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which ended decades of bloodshed between Irish nationalists and pro-UK unionists, says that a united Ireland can only be achieved if most Northern Irelanders consent. However, in 2016 most Northern Irish (56 percent) did say they wanted to stay in the EU. Could an Irish reunification referendum actually happen soon?

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What We're Watching: Yemen's aid struggles, North Korean antics, ethnic cleansing in Tigray

Yemen left behind: A virtual pledging event aimed at raising funds for war-torn Yemen raised $1.7 billion, well shy of the $3.85 billion the UN says is necessary to alleviate suffering from years of famine conditions and war. At the session, jointly hosted by Sweden and Switzerland, the US pledged $191 million towards Yemen's humanitarian effort, while the Germans promised $241 million. The UN says the pandemic has limited the ability of wealthy countries to provide humanitarian help for Yemen, where two-thirds of the population rely on food aid to survive after six years of conflict between Iran-backed Houthi rebels and a Saudi-led coalition. This development comes as the Biden administration has sought to enforce a ceasefire in Yemen by stopping US support for the Saudi military campaign there and removing the Houthis from the US' State Sponsors of Terrorism list to help open Yemen up to more aid. Meanwhile, the Houthis continue their assault of the city of Marib, now home to millions of displaced Yemenis, exacerbating the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

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What We're Watching: Ethiopia dam dispute, India-Pakistan ceasefire, upheaval in Armenia

Egypt and Sudan want some dam help: Cairo and Khartoum have called on the US, EU, and UN to intervene in their ongoing dispute with neighboring Ethiopia over that country's construction of a massive hydroelectric dam on the Nile. Egypt and Sudan, which are downstream of Ethiopia and worry about their farmers losing water, want binding targets and dispute resolution mechanisms, while Ethiopia, which sees the dam as a critical piece of its economic future, wants more flexibility and has given little ground in talks. Efforts by the African Union to mediate have failed as Ethiopia presses ahead with filling the dam even after being sanctioned by the Trump administration last year for doing so. The dispute over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, as it is called, has threatened to spill into military conflict at several points in recent years. Can the "international community" turn things around?

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Xi Jinping's WEF speech on China's global leadership falls flat; Italy PM resigns over stimulus

Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics on this week's World In (More Than) 60 Seconds:

What did you think of Xi Jinping's speech at the virtual World Economic Forum?

Well, his last speech at the real World Economic Forum in Davos, I remember being there four years ago, and given that Trump had just been elected, Xi Jinping gives this big, "We want to stand up and be leaders while the Americans are doing America first." And generally speaking, was probably the most important speech of the week. People liked it. This is a pretty different environment, not so much because Trump has gone, but rather because support and belief in Xi Jinping is pretty low. I will say one thing that was generally well responded to was the call not to enter into a new Cold War. Anybody in the business community generally supports that. There's so much integration and interdependence between the US and the Chinese economies that when Xi Jinping says, "We need to find ways to continue to work together," I mean, this is the pro-globalization audience he's speaking to. They generally agree. But otherwise, the message fell pretty flat. So, the idea that China is going to be globally useful on issues of leadership, especially when it comes to anything that might threaten Beijing's sovereignty, they check global norms at the door. And a few examples of that, when Xi called for support for the rules-based international order, that's in obvious contrast with China's violation of the one country, two systems framework in Hong Kong. And they said, "Well, that's a domestic issue." Well, actually that's not what your agreement was with the British handover. And just because you're more powerful doesn't mean that norm doesn't matter anymore.

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What We’re Watching: UK vaccine rollout, Eritrea in Tigray, football diplomacy

UK rolls out COVID vaccine: The United Kingdom on Tuesday kicked off the first COVID-19 vaccination campaign in a Western country amid global hopes of seeing a light at the end of the coronavirus tunnel. "Go for it," said the first patient to be inoculated, a woman who turns 91 next week. Great Britain is pioneering a vaccine jointly developed by US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and German company BioNTech which has proven to be 95 percent effective against COVID-19 infections. Meanwhile, Russia "launched" its own national vaccination campaign just ahead of the UK despite the fact that its miracle drug, Sputnik V, is still in the midst of clinical trials to test its safety and efficacy. With the US thought to be next in line to start vaccinating large swaths of residents, the success of these national vaccine rollouts — which will likely take way longer to carry out in developing nations — will be crucial towards global efforts to end the pandemic as soon as possible.

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What We're Watching: Ethiopia's ongoing ethnic tensions, Australia-China spat deepens, Bolsonaro rejected

Ethiopia on the brink: After ethnic tensions between Ethiopia's federal government and separatist forces in the northern Tigray region erupted into a full-blown armed conflict in recent weeks, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced his forces had taken control of Tigray's capital on Saturday and declared victory. But the fugitive Tigray leader Debretsion Gebremichael quickly called Abiy's bluff, saying the fighting is raging on, and demanded Abiy withdraw his forces. Gebremichael accused Abiy of launching "a genocidal campaign" that has displaced 1 million people, with thousands fleeing to neighboring Sudan, creating a humanitarian catastrophe. The Tigray, who make up about five percent of Ethiopia's population, are fighting for self-determination, but Abiy's government has repeatedly rejected invitations to discuss the issue, accusing the coalition led by Gebremichael's Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) of "instigating clashes along ethnic and religious lines." As the two sides dig in their heels, Ethiopia faces the risk of a civil war that could threaten the stability of the entire Horn of Africa.

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Putin may never congratulate Biden; humanitarian disaster in Ethiopia

Ian Bremmer discusses the World In (more than) 60 Seconds:

Why hasn't Putin congratulated Biden yet?

There's no really good reason at this point. Pretty much every leader around the world has given the nod. As you know, Trump has not in any way conceded at this point. He may never. I suppose, at some point Putin may decide that he doesn't need to formally congratulate Biden. I mean, it's not like we're friends, right? The United States and Russia has a directly confrontational relationship, unlike the US and China, where there is a lot of interdependence, particularly economically between the two countries. That's not true with the US and Russia. You have virtually no trust and very little engagement. I will say that the Biden administration will be interested in re-entering the Open Skies agreement that we just left with the Russians, even though we're now decommissioning the spy plane, so it may be hard for the Americans and selling them for scrap, so it may be difficult to get back in and the intermediate nuclear forces agreement and new start.

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Quick Take: Latest vaccine news may be a light at the end of the tunnel

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hey, everybody. Ian Bremmer here, happy Monday, Thanksgiving week. Things starting to look increasingly normal in terms of outlook, in terms of having all of these vaccines. I understand that the next few months in the United States are going to be incredibly challenging, but so much easier when you see that there's light at the end of the tunnel and you know where that's coming. Most recently, the AstraZeneca announcement, which for me, in some ways is a bigger deal globally, even than what we've seen from Moderna and Pfizer, because it doesn't require freezing, it's just refrigeration, which means that countries around the world that don't have the infrastructure to deal with this cold chain requirements of these vaccines will be able to use another set of vaccines with different technology. That's not just AstraZeneca, it will be Johnson and Johnson. It's the Russians. It's the Chinese.

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