{{ subpage.title }}

A demonstrator holds up a mock mouse head during a protest against inflation in Panama City.

REUTERS/Erick Marciscano

What We're Watching: Panama protests, US-Taiwan drama, Russia-Ukraine grain deal

Protests paralyze Panama

In yet another example of how inflation caused by the pandemic and the war in Ukraine is stoking social upheaval around the globe, the Central American country has been paralyzed for weeks by protests over the high cost of food and gasoline. The demonstrations began in late June, fueled by footage of lawmakers partying with $340 bottles of whisky, and they have continued despite the government’s move to lower gasoline prices over the weekend. Now, with highways partly shut by protesters, food, and fuel shortages are worsening, and the government is rationing electricity to parts of the country because fuel trucks can’t get through. For decades, Panama has been relatively stable, owing to revenue from the Panama Canal and the fact that its currency is pegged to the US dollar. But as the Panamanian salsero Rubén Blades once noted, life is full of surprises: the pandemic crushed GDP by nearly 20% in 2020, and the recovery has been slow, with the jobless rate remaining above 12%. Meanwhile, inequality ranks among the highest in the region, and activists say corruption is rampant, even though the country returned to democracy in 1990 after Uncle Sam’s heavy metal ouster of dictator Manuel Noriega.

Read Now Show less

From left to right, the presidents of Russia (Vladimir Putin), Iranian (Ebrahim Raisi), and Turkey (Recep Tayyip Erdogan) hold talks in Tehran.

utnik/Sergei Savostyanov/Pool via REUTERS

What We're Watching: Tehran trilateral, EU food jitters, Sri Lankan presidential vote

Putin, Raisi & Erdogan in Tehran: friends with differences

Leaving the former Soviet region for the first time since he ordered the invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin met in Tehran on Tuesday with his Iranian and Turkish counterparts. The conflict in Syria, where Russia and Iran are on the opposite side of Turkey, was the main item on the agenda, but little of substance was announced beyond a pledge to rid the country of terrorist groups and to meet again later this year. Importantly, Turkey’s recent threat to invade northern Syria to destroy Kurdish militant groups based there still hangs in the air — a point underscored by Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s call for Russia and Iran to be more “supportive” of Turkey’s security concerns. Still, both Moscow and Tehran have warned him against an invasion. Putin and Erdogan also failed to close the remaining gaps on a UN-backed plan to restart Ukraine’s seaborne grain exports. Lastly, while Putin and the Iranians traded shots at NATO and the West, there was no public mention of the current, fast-fading efforts to revive the long-stalled 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

Read Now Show less

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi meet on the sidelines of the Caspian Summit in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.

Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via REUTERS

Putin in Iran: Alliances, arms, and energy on agenda

Iran and Russia are considered staunch enemies of the West, paying for it with crippling sanctions and diplomatic isolation — in Tehran's case over its nuclear program and in Moscow's over its invasion of Ukraine. The two countries, consequently, have turned to one another and boosted their economic and military cooperation.

But even as the US attempts to back a new, anti-Iran order in the Middle East, Russia is making its own moves there.

Read Now Show less
Ukraine's grain exports are being held hostage.
REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

What We’re Watching: Russia & Ukraine talk grain, US talks fish

Russia and Ukraine get granular, finally

The two countries at war on Wednesday agreed in principle to a UN-backed plan to resume exports of grain from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports. Before Russia’s invasion, Ukraine was one of the world’s largest exporters of wheat and cooking oils, but the war has crippled those shipments, inflaming food prices globally and undercutting food security in dozens of emerging market countries. Under the UN plan, Ukraine would clear mines from its ports, Russia would allow safe passage for grain boats, and Turkey would provide safe shipping corridors. But Kyiv is wary about Moscow using the de-mined sea lanes to launch a fresh naval offensive, and Moscow insists on the right to inspect any boats for weapons. The two sides and Turkey are set to ink an official deal next week. For complete coverage of the growing global food crisis, be sure to see our Hunger Pains project.

Read Now Show less
Paige Fusco

What is Turkey thinking?

It’s been over a month since Finland and Sweden applied to join NATO. But despite expectations of a speedy process, the joint bid has been met by an unexpected and troublesome obstacle: Turkey.

Read Now Show less
EU Decision to Grant Ukraine & Moldova Status: Will Shape Policies | Europe In :60 | GZERO Media

Ukraine & Moldova are on the path to EU membership

Carl Bildt, former prime minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Hostomel Airport, just outside of Kyiv.

What's going to be the impact of the EU decision to grant Ukraine and Moldova the status of candidate countries?

Well, it is a momentous decision because it opens the door for EU membership, something that quite a number of the EU member states have been reluctant to discuss previously, because they considered rightly to be such an enormous undertaking for the future, that it would be sort of too much for the European Union to be able to do in the years ahead. But now that decision will be taken, and that is something that will shape policies for quite some time to come. There's no guarantee. Things can go wrong in the meantime. Turkey is an example of that. And it's a long slog ahead to align with all of the policies and the practices of the European Union in the years ahead. Part of that has already been done with the free trade agreement, the DCFTA, that was after some controversy, to put it very mildly, signed in 2014, but now the door will be open and the road to EU membership will begin. But before that, need to say, the war that was begun here at this very spot, will have to be won. And we are very far from that as of yet.

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.

Read Now Show less

Taiwan and US flags are placed for a meeting in Taipei.

REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

What We’re Watching: Trading with Taiwan, Türkiye talk, battered Boric

Washington & Taipei launch new trade deal

The US and Taiwan just unveiled a new trade initiative to expand cooperation across a number of sectors, including agriculture, tech, and labor regulation, among others. Taipei sees the pact as a precursor to an eventual free trade deal. For Washington, this is the latest initiative to come from its strong Asia focus in recent weeks. Just days ago, President Joe Biden launched the Indo-Pacific Regional Framework, a trade deal with 13 states – including regional heavyweights India, Japan, Australia, South Korea, and some Pacific islands – in a bid to counter China’s regional clout. (Taiwan was not invited to that deal to avoid really irking Beijing.) The US wants to address technology trade with Taiwan, specifically semiconductor production. The self-governing island produces more than 90% of the world’s semiconductors, which power the device you’re reading this on and have been in short supply thanks to the pandemic’s distribution and production disruptions. Washington would love to help prop up Taiwan’s semiconductor industry to block China from getting a bigger piece of the global tech pie. Beijing, obviously not thrilled, called on Washington to “stop elevating relations with Taiwan,” which it sees as part of the mainland.

Read Now Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

Latest