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Paige Fusco

With electric bills soaring, should the EU cap natural gas prices?

Energy prices in the EU have skyrocketed since Russia invaded Ukraine. This week, the cost of electricity across the bloc reached 10 times the decade-long average — mainly due to surging gas prices as a result of Moscow cutting natural gas supplies as payback for sanctions.

As consumers feel the pinch, EU leaders are now under intense pressure to do something to tame runaway energy costs. One way is putting a cap on gas prices for electricity.

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A serviceman of the Russian Southern Military District's 150th Rifle Division looks through binoculars during a military exercise at Kadamovsky Range.

Erik Romanenko/TASS

What We’re Watching: Ukraine updates, Qatari gas, North Korean missile tests, Rwanda-Uganda thaw, Portuguese election

Ukraine troops, talks, and TV. As Russia moved medical units to support its troops at the Ukrainian border — which the Pentagon assessed as a Cold War throwback — US President Joe Biden now says he’ll send a small contingent of American troops to Eastern Europe. Meanwhile, US lawmakers are working on a bipartisan “mother of all sanctions” bill that aims to preempt a Russian invasion. The UK, for its part, upped its game with more troop and air deployments of its own, as well as possible action against Russian oligarchs with London-based assets and connections to Vladimir Putin. On Monday, US diplomats will face off against the Russians at the UN Security Council, although Russia and its ally China will veto any measure they don’t like. As for bilateral diplomacy, the US formally rejected Russia’s demand that Ukraine be barred from NATO, but another round of talks with Moscow is likely. (By the way, don’t miss SNL’s take on Russian misinformation in the Ukraine crisis.)

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What We’re Watching: West dents Russian gas leverage, Honduran president sworn in, Portuguese vote

Nord Stream 2 used as a bargaining chip with Russia. The US now says that if Russia invades Ukraine, it’ll block the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which is set to transfer even more natural gas from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea. This is a big deal, considering that Germany – thirsty for more Russian gas – has long been pushing for the pipeline to start operating despite ongoing objections from Washington. The $11 billion energy project, which would double Russian gas exports to Germany, is seen as (a big) part of the reason why Berlin is reluctant to push back hard against the Kremlin over its troop buildup at the Ukrainian border. Still, German officials admit Nord Stream 2 could face sanctions if the Russians invade, suggesting that the Americans’ threat was likely coordinated with Berlin in advance. This comes amid ongoing diplomatic attempts to de-escalate the Ukraine crisis, with US President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz set to meet at the White House on February 7.

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What We're Watching: Israel finally gets a budget, US expands vax mandate, Portugal elections loom

Israel's political breakthrough. Israel's government has passed a budget for the first time in more than three years. This might sound boring, but it's actually a big deal: for years, former PM Benjamin Netanyahu refused to do it for political reasons, resulting in a lengthy stalemate with four divisive elections in just two years. Getting it done is a big win for Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who managed to get his ideologically-diverse coalition of eight parties to agree on the 2021 budget. Failure to pass it by November 14, as per the coalition deal, would have resulted in yet another election, likely a death knell for the current government which only came together this summer at the eleventh hour. The bill includes $10 billion for Arab communities over five years demanded by Mansour Abbas, head of Ra'am, an independent Arab party that serves in the coalition. For now, Bennett and his main partner, the centrist Yair Lapid, are proving wrong the naysayers who warned that the diverse coalition was doomed to collapse. Negotiations now continue over next year's budget ahead of the March 2022 deadline, but passing the 2021 budget has made a fresh vote — and Netanyahu's dream of returning to power — even less likely.

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A world of George Floyds

Nationwide protests in the US over the police killing of George Floyd have inspired solidarity demonstrations around the world. But in some countries, people are also on the streets to protest discriminatory policing and broader racial injustice in their own countries. Here's a look at a few protests in just the past few days, including in a couple of countries where racial tensions don't always make the global news.

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