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What We're Watching: Putin's Belarus play, Ivory Coast election ruling, historic Asian recession

Putin's strings attached: As protesters continued to throng the streets of Minsk, Belarus' strongman Alexander Lukashenko traveled to Moscow earlier this week to seek support from longtime frenemy Vladimir Putin. During a meeting in which body language told much of the story — the burly Lukashenko uncomfortably beseeching Putin who sat stone-faced in a dread manspread — the Russian President said he'd throw his Belarusian counterpart a $1.5 billion emergency loan. But he also pressured Lukashenko to open the way to fresh elections. That's something that the Belarusian president has resisted so far — after all, the current unrest came in response to his rigging of the August election, and it's hardly clear that he would win a redo. That may be precisely the point, from Putin's perspective. He has disliked Lukashenko for years, but the last thing he wants is for street protesters to depose him, which might give Russians some crazy ideas of their own. But a reasonably fair vote might be just the way to get rid of Lukashenko. What's more, the Belarusian opposition has been careful not to alienate Russia, meaning a change of power wouldn't necessarily hurt the Kremlin's interests. What will Lukashenko do? $1.5 billion can buy a lot of vodka and saunas.

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What We're Watching: Uproar in the Ivory Coast, AMLO's brother in hot water, Pompeo's roadtrip

Ivory Coast president sparks uproar: Violence has broken out across major cities in the Ivory Coast in recent days after President Alassane Ouattara announced that he would seek a third presidential term, a move that would involve challenging the constitution, which does not allow for three consecutive terms. (Ouattara's ruling RHDP party says that this rule doesn't apply because of a technicality dating back to 2016.) Ouattara's bid to stay on comes after Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly — whom Ouattara tapped earlier this year to succeed him — died of heart failure last month. Protesters say that Ouattara's move is unconstitutional and that he should step aside after two terms in the job marked by ongoing ethnic violence amid a decade-long civil war that has killed some 3,000 people. Further exacerbating tensions, the country's former president Laurent Gbagbo and former rebel leader Guillaume Soro have been barred from running this October.

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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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