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What We’re Watching: Global Gateways vs Belt and Road, US-Russia tit-for-tat, Germany’s COVID challenge

The EU rivals China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The European Commission has unveiled its Global Gateways plan, which aims to invest €300 billion globally in infrastructure projects by 2027. Indeed, Brussels is positioning its plan as a better alternative to China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative. This announcement comes as Beijing has been steadily upping its investment in the Global South, including a pledge this week to supply Africa with an additional 1 billion COVID vaccine doses over the next three years, as well as doling out $10 billion of trade finance to support African exports. But European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen points to several advantages for the European plan. One, Global Gateway focuses both on physical infrastructure – like fiber-optic cables, transportation, healthcare and clean energy resources – as well as investment in research and education. And unlike Beijing’s plan, which saddles recipient countries with debt, the EU will provide cash “under fair and favorable terms.” Its plan will also include buy-in from Europe’s robust private sector. Beijing has not commented on the development, but the Chinese foreign minister’s visit to Ethiopia on Wednesday was likely intended to signal Beijing’s enduring commitment to the region.

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What We're Watching: Steele Dossier skewered

US media trust wars. Remember the Steele Dossier? Yes, the oppo research on Donald Trump compiled by a former British spy that alleged Russia had kompromat leverage over the then-US presidential candidate. After Trump won the 2016 election, several media outlets openly hostile to Trump covered the unverified report — Buzzfeed even published it in full — to suggest that Russia helped get Trump elected. Trump and the GOP-friendly media blasted it as part of a liberal "witch hunt" to undermine his election victory. Well, in the past few days the dossier itself has been skewered after Igor Danchenko, the source of the report's most juicy claim — that Trump got Russian prostitutes to defile a bed Barack Obama slept on in a Moscow hotel — was indicted for lying to the FBI about it. The charges against Danchenko subsequently led the Washington Post to correct two old articles that cited the dossier, the basis for FBI surveillance of the Trump campaign now being probed by US attorney John Durham. Expect the scandal to dominate the US political conversation for weeks, and drive an even bigger media trust wedge between Democrats and Republicans.

Should we still be worried about the nuclear threat?

Everyone loves to say that nuclear weapons are so destructive that they've kept us all safe for decades. But, have they? Nukes expert Kelsey Davenport recalls how during the Cold War the US and the Soviet Union came very close to attacking each other with nukes, and America once almost accidentally detonated a nuke on its own soil. "We've really been quite lucky to have avoided an intentional or accidental nuclear exchange at this point. And my fear is that one day, our luck is going to run out." Despite all that, Davenport says nukes no longer make headlines because they feel "very abstract" for people. Davenport spoke with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.

Watch the episode: Nuclear weapons: more dangerous than ever?

Why CIA director Bill Burns visited Moscow; COP26 limited results

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Europe:

What was the CIA director doing in Moscow the other day?

I think it was an attempt to bring more stability to the long-term relationship between the US and Russia. That does not hide that there are serious concern when it comes to the Russian intention versus Ukraine. And you never know, you might have a crisis there, if not any day, then at any time. But of course, stability and the long-term relationship is good anyhow.

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Russian hackers target US tech companies with little accountability

Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

Has Russian behavior in cyber changed after President Biden and President Putin's meeting earlier this year?

Well, unfortunately, we see ongoing assertiveness and aggression from the Russian side, targeting the US government, but also US tech companies. And the fact that there is so little accountability probably keeps motivating. Shortly before the Russian elections, Apple and Google removed an app built by opposition parties, to help voters identify the best candidate to challenge Putin's party. The company cited pressure on their employees in Russia, but of course, the pressure on the Russian population is constant. And after these dramatic events, the silence from Western governments was deafening.

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Will there be a decisive US response to Russian cyber attacks?

Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

After an attempted hack of a Republican National Committee contractor, is cybersecurity at a breaking point between the US and Russia?

Well, that breaking point has been a long time coming. There was the attempt to manipulate the 2016 elections and now we see a series of ransomware attacks that are escalating. So the question is, what the US can do to decisively change the calculation on the Russian side? Making clear that there will be sanctions and other consequences that hurt should be a start. But it will only be credible if these promises are followed through and enforced.

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Combating cybercrime a focus at G7 and Biden-Putin summits

Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

Cyber issues took center stage at the G7 summit. Is there a consensus among world leaders on how to handle cyberweapons?

Well, depending on who is included, there is a growing consensus that the escalations of conflict in cyberspace must stop. And G7 leaders that are now all representing democracies did call on Russia to hold perpetrators of cybercrime that operate from within its borders to account. So, I guess hope dies last because laws in Russia prevents the extradition of suspects to the US, even if Vladimir Putin answered positively when Joe Biden asked for cooperation on that front. And when it comes to limiting the spread of tools that are used for hacking, surveillance and infiltration, the EU has just moved ahead and adopted new dual use regulations which reflect the concerns for human rights violations when journalists are targeted the way that Jamal Khashoggi was. So ending the proliferation of systems that are used to attack would be an urgent but also obvious step for democratic nations to agree on.

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Why Joe Biden, Russia skeptic, wants to work with Russia

Joe Biden may not trust Vladimir Putin, but he's willing to work with Russia as a "predictable, stable" partner. For Ivo Daalder, former US Representative to NATO, that's somewhat surprising because he regards Biden as the most skeptical about Russia — and Putin himself — of all the post-Cold War US presidents.

Watch his interview with Ian Bremmer on the upcoming episode of GZERO World, which begins airing on US public television this Friday, June 18. Check local listings.

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