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Emergency workers during an emergency response drill to simulate the aftermath of a dirty bomb explosion outside Madrid.

REUTERS/Andrea Comas

What We’re Watching: Fact vs. fiction in Ukraine, Petro vs. Big Oil in Colombia

Information wars in Ukraine

The Russian and Ukrainian governments are working hard to persuade the world that the other side is planning to commit an atrocity. The Kremlin has claimed more than once in recent days that Ukrainian forces intend to set off a so-called “dirty bomb” as part of a plan to bolster Western support for Kyiv and add pressure on Moscow by blaming Russia for the attack. Ukrainian and Western officials warn that Russia has invented this story to hide its own plans to use banned weapons and that Russian forces are planning a radioactive “terrorist act” with material stolen from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant it continues to occupy. This is a reminder of two things. First, both sides know that information remains a powerful weapon of war. Second, international monitors are badly needed on the ground inside the war zone to separate fact from fiction. Russia’s credibility with Western governments is now close to zero, but nothing can be taken at face value during the active phase of a war.

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ECB President Christine Lagarde addresses a news conference in Frankfurt.

REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

Hard Numbers: ECB rate hike, China-India thaw, Indigenous oil drilling pause, Nigerian donkey penises

75: The European Central Bank on Thursday raised interest rates by an unprecedented 75 basis points, which means some Europeans will shell out more for their mortgages. Following the US Federal Reserve’s path, the ECB also warned of further hikes until inflation cools.

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Luisa Vieira

Angolans (finally) get an interesting election

On Wednesday, Angolans will go to the polls to vote in the most competitive parliamentary and presidential election since the oil-rich country’s 27-year civil war ended 20 years ago.

For the first time, the opposition UNITA party has a shot at (peacefully) beating the ruling MPLA party, which has governed Angola throughout its entire independent history. But the MPLA has no plans of handing over the reins to its longtime enemy — whatever voters decide.

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Paige Fusco

Hard Numbers: Saudi oil windfall, Castillo's friends, Chinese map raid, Truss ahead

48.4 billion: Saudi Aramco, the (almost entirely) state-owned Saudi oil company, made a record $48.4 billion in profits in the second quarter of 2022, up 90% year-on-year thanks to high global prices. Fist bump notwithstanding, US President Joe Biden’s call for Crown Prince MBS to pump more oil has so far fallen on deaf ears.

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An oil pump is seen at sunset near Reims, France.

REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

Does the world really need more oil right now?

We’ve heard dire warnings in recent weeks from oil industry analysts and professionals about how already-high oil prices could rise to record levels in the coming months. Goldman Sachs has increased its price forecast for the second half of the year to $135 per barrel. Trading giant Trafigura predicted that prices could rise even higher to over $150 per barrel.

Underpinning these alarms are fears that the war in Ukraine will lead to a big fall in Russian crude production and exports. Ever since Russia invaded its western neighbor, markets have been on alert for signs of acute disruptions that would squeeze crude supplies.

But what if they are looking in the wrong direction? What if the fixation on the risk of a supply shock (losing Russian barrels) is diverting attention from a very real weakening of global demand for oil?

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Jess Frampton

Hard Numbers: AUKUS compensation, $5 gas in America, Iran-Venezuela cooperation, counting toes in Zimbabwe

600 million: Australia will cough up $600 million to compensate the French defense company it scrapped a submarine deal with in order to join AUKUS. Le sub snub strained relations between Canberra and Paris and opened up a can of worms with Beijing.

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Orbán holds a news conference after the parliamentary election in Budapest.

REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo

Hard Numbers: Orbán clams up over oil, monkeypox on the move, global executions rise, body hunters in Las Vegas

0: Hungary’s PM Viktor Orbán warned he will have zero to say about the EU’s proposed Russian oil sanctions at a bloc-wide summit next week. Orbán, whose country depends almost entirely on Russia for crude imports, wants EU financial support to help him find other energy sources. Without unanimous approval, the sanctions package will fail. On Tuesday, Orbán also announced that his government will assume emergency powers so it can quickly respond to challenges created by the war.

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Gabriella Turrisi

Hard Numbers: Chipmaking under lockdown, UN veto power questioned, Russian oil for India, crypto CAR

2/3: Two-thirds of workers at a major semiconductor company in Shanghai haven't gone home since China's largest city locked down a month ago. Xi Jinping won’t let zero-COVID stop Chinese factories from churning out chips to sustain the country's supply while the world is still running low.

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