Three Key UNGA Meetings We Won't See

The speeches may be boring, but the annual UN General Assembly (UNGA) allows world leaders the chance, if they want it, to meet one-on-one to talk about sensitive topics. Crossing paths in UN corridors allows for freer conversation than formal bilateral summits with all their protocols and political pitfalls.


Unfortunately, as the 74th installment of the UNGA gets under way, we have to note three potential encounters that aren't happening this week, and one meeting that probably shouldn't. Read the full list here.

1. Iran's President Hassan Rouhani and his US counterpart Donald Trump. This was always a long shot, but it become a stratospheric reach after Iran evidently blew up Saudi Arabia's main oil facilities last week. Trump, who had talked up the potential for a chat multiple times, quickly changed his tune. That's too bad, because regional tensions, and the threat of a US-Iran war, won't cool themselves.

2. South Korea and Japan. These two East Asian powers are locked in a growing trade spat rooted in unresolved grievances about Japanese actions during World War II. And yet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae-in are not, in fact, expected to meet this week. These are two of the world's largest economies, and they're now locked in a fight with losers on both sides.

3. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and India's Narendra Modi. After Modi abruptly stripped Kashmir of the autonomy it has enjoyed for 70 years just last month, Khan compared him to Hitler. It's never encouraging when these two nuclear-armed neighbors talk at, rather than with, one another.

The meeting that is happening but maybe shouldn't: Trump will meet with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky, whom he has allegedly (and perhaps impeachably) pressured to probe the Ukrainian business dealings of the son of US presidential hopeful Joe Biden.

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Donald Trump can still win re-election in November, but foreign governments read the same polls we do. They know that Joe Biden heads into the homestretch with a sizeable polling lead — both nationally and in the states most likely to decide the outcome. Naturally, they're thinking ahead to what a Biden foreign policy might look like.

They're probably glad that Biden gives them a half-century track record to study. (He was first elected to local office in 1970 and to the US Senate in 1972.) The six years he spent as ranking member, then chairman, of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, his term as co-chairman of the Senate's NATO Observer Group, and his eight years as Barack Obama's vice president tell them that he's essentially a "liberal internationalist," a person who believes that America must lead a global advance of democracy and freedom — and that close cooperation with allies is essential for success.

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On the GZERO World Podcast, Ian Bremmer explores the escalating tension between the world's two biggest geopolitical and economic players—the US and China. With guest Zanny Minton Beddoes, Editor-in-Chief of The Economist, Bremmer discusses the modern history of China after the fall of the Soviet Union and why another Cold War might be inevitable.

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On the latest episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer, Zanny Minton Beddoes, Editor-in-Chief of The Economist, explains why, in her view, Cold War analogies fall short as tensions between the US and China rise. Unlike the former Soviet Union, China is an economic powerhouse and a trade partner and technology provider to nations around the world. Simply cutting off ties with China seems untenable, but, as she asks, "How can you safely continue that integration, continue that interaction, with a country whose ideology you absolutely don't share, and that you fundamentally don't trust." The full episode of GZERO World begins airing on US public television on Friday, July 31, 2020. Check local listings.