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NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, Finland's President Sauli Niinisto and Sweden's Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson pose after signing a document during a NATO summit in Madrid, Spain.

REUTERS/Violeta Santos Moura

What We're Watching: Turkey backs off, Texas migrant tragedy, bombshell Jan. 6 testimony, Iran woos BRICS

Turkey opens NATO door to Finland and Sweden

The first day of the NATO Summit in Madrid brought concrete results. Turkey, Finland, and Sweden came to an agreement that addresses Ankara’s security concerns and paves the path to Finland and Sweden joining NATO. The Nordics’ joint bid for membership, inspired by Russian aggression in Ukraine, was at the center of the summit’s agenda. Accession demands consensus, and Turkey had raised objections, making security-centric demands from Stockholm and Helsinki that threatened to slow the process. In response, Sweden and Finland have suspended a 2019 arms embargo against Ankara and agreed to cut assistance to the People’s Protection Units, an armed group affiliated with the Kurdistan Worker’s Party, Turkey’s enemy. Some of Ankara’s requests still need to be discussed, but Turkey is walking away from its veto option, swinging the doors open to Finland and Sweden’s membership in NATO. Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, has said the expansion doesn’t threaten Russia but warned that Moscow would respond to any extension of military infrastructure into that region.

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G7 and EU leaders gather for a group shot at Schloss Elmau castle in Germany.

REUTERS/Lukas Barth

What We're Watching: West gets tough(er) on Russia, protests rock Ecuador, Qatar pushes Iran nuclear talks

Western leaders up the ante

Leaders of the G7 — the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Canada — have ended their gathering in the Bavarian Alps, and all of them, including non-NATO member Japan’s prime minister, have arrived in Madrid for a NATO summit set for June 28-30. The agendas for both gatherings have included a range of topics, but none more urgent than collective responses to Russia’s war in Ukraine. There will be more announcements this week on how best to impose heavy near- and longer-term costs on Russia by banning the import of Russian oil and possibly imposing a price cap on the small volumes of Russian oil Western countries still buy. But Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky will continue to warn that Ukraine can’t afford a protracted war and that his military needs powerful weapons ASAP to beat back slow-but-steady Russian advances in the Donbas region. The US has promised to deliver an advanced air defense system. Russia has responded to these gatherings by renewing long-range artillery strikes on Kyiv and other cities, including a missile strike on Monday that hit a shopping mall with more than 1,000 civilians inside.

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Ukrainian fighters from the Azov Regiment searched and guarded by Russian troops in Mariupol.

EYEPRESS via Reuters Connect

What We’re Watching: Putin’s propaganda, new Iran-Israel feud, Title 42 tussle

Putin’s new (propaganda) weapon

Since Russia’s invasion on February 24, Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky, not Russia’s Vladimir Putin, has waged a winning “information war.” Zelensky’s video speeches to foreign governments, the UN, and on Monday to the World Economic Forum at Davos have brought his country substantial military, economic, and political support. Stories like Monday’s anti-war resignation of a senior Russian diplomat and the highly publicized conviction of a Russian soldier for a war crime further boost Ukraine’s momentum. But last week’s surrender of hundreds of Ukrainian fighters from a Mariupol steel plant gives Russia a new propaganda weapon Putin could use for weeks or months to come. Many of the captured fighters belong to the Azov Regiment, a group with a history of ultra-nationalist, white-supremacist politics. While Ukraine’s government says it wants to recover these soldiers in exchange for captured Russians, a leader of pro-Russian Ukrainian separatists said Monday that all these prisoners should be tried for war crimes in Donetsk. A highly publicized trial of Ukrainians as right-wing war criminals won’t change many minds on either side about the war itself, but it could provide Putin a powerful distraction from a season of bad news for Russia.

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A New Iran Nuclear Deal is Critical But Not A Sure Thing, says Iran expert Ali Vaez | GZERO World

A new Iran nuclear deal is critical but not a sure thing, says Iran expert Ali Vaez

The Biden administration has worked hard for the US to return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which former President Trump walked away from in 2018. On GZERO World, Ian Bremmer speaks to Ali Vaez, Iran project director at the International Crisis Group, who says the odds of renewing the deal in the short term are about 50/50. Now, reaching an agreement is more urgent than ever because Iran is closer to getting the bomb, Vaez explains, because the breakout time to enrich enough uranium for a single nuclear weapon is reportedly within weeks.

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Why Israel Now Supports an Iran Nuclear Deal | GZERO World

Why Israel now supports an Iran nuclear deal

Israel fiercely opposed the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, but now is not so against it as it was before.

Why?

Ali Vaez, Iran project director at the International Crisis Group, says the Israelis have realized that a no-deal scenario doesn't serve the country's interest — and that the Trump administration's 2018 withdrawal was a mistake because it brought Iran closer to getting the bomb.

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Ian Explains: The Iran Nuclear Deal | GZERO World

The Iran nuclear deal

The Iran nuclear deal was enacted in 2015 to stop Tehran from getting the bomb in exchange for economic sanctions relief. At the time it was a big win — especially for the Obama administration.

But not everyone was a fan. Critics say the deal only slowed down the nuclear program, didn’t address Iran's support for Hezbollah, and hardly reset US-Iran ties.

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The Pros and Cons of a Nuclear Program for Iran | GZERO World

The pros and cons of a nuclear program for Iran

Has the war in Ukraine changed Iran's calculus on getting nuclear weapons?

Not necessarily, says Ali Vaez, Iran program director at the International Crisis Group. Like the Ukrainians now, the Iranians know Iraq and Libya basically gave up their weapons programs and then got invaded — a sharp contrast to North Korea when Donald Trump was in the White House.

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The US Can’t Let Iran Get Any Closer to Nuclear Weapons, Says Iran Expert Ali Vaez | GZERO World

The US can’t let Iran get any closer to nuclear weapons, says Iran expert Ali Vaez

Even if the US rejoins the Iran nuclear deal, many Republicans are fiercely opposed to it — and could withdraw again in 2025 if they win the White House in two years.

Why do it at all then? Ali Vaez, Iran program director at the International Crisis Group, has some thoughts.

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