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Sri Lankan army patrol on a main road in Colombo following clashes between anti-government protesters and supporters of the Rajapaksa family.

REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

Sri Lanka on the brink

For weeks, Sri Lanka has been in the grips of a deepening economic and political crisis, teetering on the brink of anarchy and chaos as a largely bankrupt state at risk of becoming a failed one. Massive protests driven by soaring fuel and food prices have forced the resignation of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and upped the pressure on the international community to help alleviate the suffering of Sri Lankans. China and India, which have both vied for influence in the small island nation, are looking on nervously. We spoke to Eurasia Group’s Peter Mumford to get a sense of what might happen next and what the geopolitical stakes are.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv.

Reuters

What We're Watching: Zelensky snubs Berlin, IMF warns of debt shock, Indonesia passes sexual assault bill

The latest from Ukraine

In a stunning rebuke, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday refused to host German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who was planning a solidarity tour to Kyiv along with the presidents of Poland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Zelensky’s snub comes just days after he rolled out the red carpet for British PM Boris Johnson and strolled around the Ukrainian capital with him. Part of this is about Steinmeier specifically: during his two stints as German foreign minister – including in 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea – he showed great deference to Moscow. What’s more, he’s good buddies with former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, who is famously cozy with the Kremlin himself. But Zelensky is also peeved at the Germans more broadly for failing to kick their Russian gas habit and sever economic ties with Moscow. Critics have also condemned Berlin for not sending Kyiv enough weapons. Still, was Zelensky’s decision to shame Europe’s largest economy a wise move? After all, he will still need Germany on board to further isolate Vladimir Putin – economically and militarily. That’s all the more true since Putin said Tuesday that peace talks with Kyiv have reached “a dead end,” vowing that his troops would continue to pursue their “noble” aims in Ukraine.

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Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi poses for a photograph with Sri Lanka's Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa during their bilateral meeting in Colombo, Sri Lanka, January 9,2022.

REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

The looming pandemic debt cliff

Right on the buzzer, Sri Lanka on Tuesday narrowly avoided its first-ever sovereign debt default. But the cash-strapped country is still on the hook for a lot more cash this year, which is shaping up to be a very painful one for low-income countries deep in the red due to COVID.

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Fatima, 7, one of Azrat's eight children, is tying to stay warm in Kabul, 24 November 2020.

Stefanie Glinski/Thomson Reuters Foundation

Winter has come to Afghanistan

A much-feared humanitarian and economic crisis in Afghanistan has now begun, and the country's Taliban government has issued an urgent appeal for cash. In particular, its foreign minister has called on Washington to help.

After the Taliban seized power in August, the US, World Bank, and International Monetary cut off Afghanistan's access to more than $9.5 billion in foreign reserves and loans. The Taliban want the Biden administration to release this money and to allow the World Bank and IMF, institutions in which Washington wields exceptional influence, to free up loans. So far, the White House has said no.

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What's next for Lebanon?

Some of the worst sectarian clashes since Lebanon's 15-year civil war (1975-1990) broke out in Beirut this week between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, and Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. Shiite protesters were rallying against the state probe into the Beirut port blast, which occurred last year. They say authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. Below is our original piece on the Beirut port explosions published on August 5, 2020.


The twin explosions at Beirut's port on Tuesday were so powerful that the aftershocks reverberated as far as the Eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, 150 miles away. The specter of fire and smoke was such that many suggested on social media that Beirut had experienced a nuclear blast.

In the days ahead, more details will come to light about why a deadly cache of materials was haphazardly stashed at a port warehouse, and why Lebanon's government failed to secure the site. So, what comes next for crisis-ridden Lebanon?

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IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva talks to Chinese Premier Li Keqiang before a news conference following the "1+6" Roundtable meeting at the Diaoyutai state guesthouse in Beijing, China November 21, 2019.

REUTERS/Florence Lo

Should China get more IMF power?

The annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund normally gets little attention beyond economists and policy wonks. But this time all eyes were on the fate of Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, widely praised for the IMF's swift action to avoid a pandemic-fueled global depression and recently caught in the latest crossfire between the US and China.

Georgieva finally kept her job after being confirmed by the IMF board late on Monday despite strong objections from the Americans and the Japanese, the Fund's two biggest shareholders. But what was all the fuss about?

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Ian Bremmer: Trouble at the IMF | Quick Take | GZERO Media

Trouble at the IMF

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody, Ian Bremmer here, and a happy Monday to you. A Quick Take on the scandal surrounding the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and its Managing Director, Kristalina Georgieva. Disclosure, full disclosure, she's someone I know very well and am very friendly with actually and have been since well before she got the IMF post. She used to be number two at the World Bank, and that is the origin of the crisis.

A "Doing Business" report, something the World Bank comes out with every year. It is used by investors to assess competitiveness of different governments around the world. And as one might imagine, there's a lot of jockeying and lobbying behind the scenes by these governments to try to show that they're doing a great job. And as a consequence, their rankings should be high.

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IMF Chief Kristalina Georgieva Expects 1 Billion COVID Vaccine Doses from G7 | GZERO Media

GZERO event highlights: IMF chief, G7 vaccine pledges, global health security

For IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva (above), a two-track pandemic means a two-track recovery that'll hurt the entire world in the long run. That's why she anticipates G7 leaders meeting this week will commit to sending about one billion doses of COVID vaccines to the developing world by the end of the year in new financing and shots unused by wealthy nations. Georgieva hopes it'll be a summit that gives all countries "a fair short in the arm, a fair shot at the future."

Georgieva was one of many experts who joined this week's two-part livestream discussion about post-pandemic health security hosted by GZERO Media in partnership with Flagship Pioneering, Beyond the Pandemic: A Radical New Approach to Health Security, presented in partnership with Flagship Pioneering.

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