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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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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi upon his arrival in Cairo.

Saudi Press Agency/Handout via REUTERS

What We’re Watching: MBS on tour, Lithuania vs. Russia, Spain’s moderate swing

MBS makes BFFs ahead of Biden visit

With barely a month until his controversial summit with President Joe Biden, the Saudi crown prince is on a regional tour this week to show that he’s hardly the “pariah” that America’s president once promised to make him. In Jordan, Mohammed bin Salman will look to patch up a monarchy-to-monarchy relationship that became strained last year over allegations of Saudi involvement in a plot to overthrow King Abdullah II. The Jordanians hope MBS’s visit leads to a resumption of lavish Saudi financial support. In Egypt, Crown Prince Mohammed will be highlighting Riyadh’s tight relationship with the Arab world’s most populous country. Egyptian strongman Abdel Fattah el-Sisi enjoys strong backing from the Saudis, who have gifted or invested billions of dollars in Egypt in recent years. But the most significant stop on MBS’s tour will be in Turkey, where always-dicey relations between the regional rivals nearly broke off entirely over the Saudi government’s 2018 murder of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul. But with Turkey looking for financial help to right a listing economy, and MBS looking to shore up ties with a mercurial member of NATO, it seems that bygones are bygones.

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Biden's Trip to Saudi Arabia is About More Than Pumping Oil | US Politics In :60 | GZERO Media

Biden's trip to Saudi Arabia is about more than pumping oil

Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares his perspective on US politics:

What is President Biden hoping to achieve by visiting Saudi Arabia?

This week the White House announced that President Joe Biden would make a visit to the Middle East. The most important part of the trip will be a stop in Saudi Arabia and a visit with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The President came into office saying he wanted to make the Saudis pariahs for their history of human rights abuses, including the kingdom's involvement in the 9/11 attacks, the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and an ongoing war in Yemen that has resulted in tens of thousands of civilian casualties. But unfortunately for President Biden, his Middle East strategy has followed the Mike Tyson maxim that everyone has a plan until they're punched in the mouth.

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GZERO Media

Will Biden say sorry to MBS?

Bizarre marriages of convenience dominate the geopolitical landscape: Russia and China; Iran and Venezuela; Israel and Turkey. The list goes on.

When President Biden came into office, he said he wouldn’t give a “blank check” to the world’s autocrats, including those associated with longtime US allies.

As part of his human-rights focused foreign policy, Biden rejected any dialogue with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), the 36-year-old de facto Saudi leader who’s credited with big reforms like allowing Saudi women to drive. He’s also overseen acts of incredible brutality, including the murder of dissident-journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the scorched-earth military campaign in Yemen.

But two years in and ample crises later, Biden is ready to sit down for a face-to-face with MBS next month in Riyadh. Why the massive about-face?

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People participate in the March for Our Lives on the National Mall in Washington, DC.

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

What We're Watching: US gun-control deal, Indian protests, Macron's majority, Biden goes to Saudi

US Senate reaches compromise on guns

On Sunday, a group of 20 US senators announced a bipartisan framework on new gun control legislation in response to the recent wave of mass shootings. The proposal includes more background checks, funding for states to implement "red-flag" laws so they can confiscate guns from dangerous people, and provisions to prevent gun sales to domestic violence offenders. While the deal is much less ambitious than the sweeping ban on assault weapons and universal background checks President Joe Biden called for after the massacre in Uvalde, Texas, it's a rare bipartisan effort in a deeply divided Washington that seeks to make at least some progress on gun safety, an issue on which Congress has been deadlocked for decades. Biden said these are "steps in the right direction" and endorsed the Senate deal but admitted he wants a lot more. The announcement came a day after thousands of Americans held rallies on the National Mall in the capital and across the country to demand tougher gun laws. Will the senators be able to turn the framework into actual legislation before the momentum passes?

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Albanese addresses supporters in Sydney after winning Australia's election.

REUTERS/Jaimi Joy

What We’re Watching: Australia elects new PM, Poland hearts Ukraine, Saudis stand by Russia

Albo takes over in Oz

After his Labor Party won Saturday's parliamentary election, Anthony Albanese, known popularly as Albo, is set to become Australia’s new prime minister. But it remains unclear whether Labor has a parliamentary majority: if his party falls just short in the end, it'll be a minority government, so Albanese will need some support from the Greens and climate-focused independents to get laws passed. In a gesture toward both, Albanese announced Sunday that he wants to make Australia a renewable energy superpower — a sharp departure from Scott Morrison, aka ScoMo, his coal-loving conservative predecessor. While mail-in ballots are still being counted, Albanese was sworn in Monday as acting PM in order to attend the Quad Summit in Tokyo on Tuesday. Albanese will need to hit the ground running because Australia is also in the AUKUS security partnership, which China doesn’t like one bit. Just weeks after Beijing inked a deal with the neighboring Solomon Islands that'll allow the Chinese to gain a military foothold in the Pacific, expect the China question to continue dominating Australian foreign policy under the new government.

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Paige Fusco

De-facto ruler no more — UAE’s new president is ambitious, sophisticated

One of the world’s richest men and arguably the most powerful political player in the Arab world has ascended to the presidency of the Middle East’s most dynamic Islamic state. Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, 61, was appointed on Saturday as the ruler of the oil-rich United Arab Emirates, after the death Friday of Sheikh Khalifa, his elder half brother.

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