What We're Watching: France's post-AUKUS win, Haiti's election cancelled, Japan ends COVID emergency

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis speaks as French President Emmanuel Macron listens on during a signing ceremony of a new defence deal at The Elysee Palace in Paris, France September 28, 2021.

France gets a post-AUKUS win: Greece and France have inked a $5 billion deal for Athens to buy at least four French-made warships. French and American contractors had been in a bidding war since 2019, when Greece announced it was looking to buy half a dozen naval attack vessels. For French President Emmanuel Macron, it was a much-needed win after the recent AUKUS debacle, when the US froze Paris out of a security pact with Australia and the UK, nixing a contract for Australia to buy French submarines. At the signing ceremony in Paris, Macron and Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis touted the deal as a move towards European "strategic autonomy" (since coming to power in 2017, Macron has been a strong advocate of Europe pursuing a defense strategy independent from the US). Greece, for its part, has also been looking to boost its own military capabilities amid deteriorating relations with longtime foe Turkey over competing maritime claims in the Eastern Mediterranean.


Haiti's election postponed until next year: Haiti will no longer hold a general election in November, after PM Ariel Henry dismissed the nine-member Provisional Electoral Council, an extremely unpopular body among politicians and the public that's responsible for executing presidential and parliamentary votes. It's the fourth time the planned election has been stalled, and comes as the country is experiencing a full-blown social and economic implosion since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July. Haiti has long been mired in crisis, but much of the recent chaos started a year before, when Moïse tried to organize a referendum to increase his powers and bypassed the Supreme Court in appointing members to the electoral committee, causing a constitutional crisis. Henry, who has been accused of capitalizing on Moïse's death to consolidate his own power, now says that a vote on changing the referendum and elections will be held early next year, though most observers remain deeply skeptical.

Japan ends COVID emergency, gets new PM: Japan's outgoing PM Yoshihide Suga announced on Tuesday that the pandemic state of emergency currently in place across half the country will be lifted this week as Japan's once-sluggish vaccine rollout speeds up, with around 60 percent of the population now fully vaccinated. But Japan turned the tide on vaccines too late for Suga, who decided to step down less than a month ago when his own approval rating hit rock-bottom due to his very unpopular decision to hold the Tokyo Olympics amid a pandemic. Meanwhile, the race to succeed Suga within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party — which has almost always governed Japan since World War II — now has a winner. The LDP on Wednesday picked Fumio Kishida, an ex-top diplomat trusted by party insiders, as its next leader over Taro Kono, the charismatic vaccines minister who was by far the most popular among rank-and-file LDP members — yet viewed by some party leaders as too outspoken on government policies. Since the LDP dominates both houses of parliament, Kishida will become Japan's next prime minister ahead of the upcoming election in November.

During the past year, 58% of all cyberattacks observed by Microsoft from nation-states have come from Russia. And attacks from Russian nation-state actors are increasingly effective, jumping from a 21% successful compromise rate last year to a 32% rate this year. Russian nation-state actors are increasingly targeting government agencies for intelligence gathering, which jumped from 3% of their targets a year ago to 53% – largely agencies involved in foreign policy, national security or defense. The top three countries targeted by Russian nation-state actors were the United States, Ukraine and the UK. These are just a few of the insights in the second annual Microsoft Digital Defense Report. Read additional highlights from the Microsoft on the Issues blog and find the full report here.

If you had to guess which current world leader has made the most trips to Africa, who would you say? China's Xi Jinping? Nope, hardly — he's been there just four times. France's Emmanuel Macron? Pas de tout.

The answer may surprise you: it's Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who's been to the continent more times than the leader(s) of any other non-African state. Just this week he notched his 28th visit, with stops in Angola, Nigeria, and Togo. Sure, being in power for two decades creates a lot of opportunities for exotic travel, but even Putin isn't close: he's been to Africa just five times, all to visit South Africa or Egypt.

More Show less

Former Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi was killed by rebels on 20 October, 2011, after a NATO intervention designed to protect civilians helped strengthen an uprising against his regime. Since then, the country has been mired in chaos as different factions have battled for control, resulting in extensive destruction and human causalities. Libya has been nominally governed since 2014 by warring administrations backed by foreign powers in the west and east of the country. Last year, UN mediation efforts finally began to gain traction with an agreement on a cease-fire and a roadmap for elections to be held later this year. We talked with Eurasia Group expert Ahmed Morsy to find out how things are going.

More Show less

China's GDP grew a lower-than-expected 4.9 percent year-on-year in the third quarter of 2021, a whopping three percentage points less than in the previous period. It's a big deal for the world's second-largest economy, the only major one that expanded throughout the pandemic — and now at risk of missing its growth target of 6 percent for the entire year.

Normally, such a drastic slowdown would have put the ruling Communist Party in a tizzy. But this time, Xi Jinping knows this is the price he must pay for his big plans to curb rising inequality and boost the middle class at the expense of the CCP's traditional economic mantra: high growth above all else.

More Show less

6,000: Poland has doubled the number of troops guarding its border with Belarus to almost 6,000 because of a surge in migrants trying to cross over (there were 612 attempts on Monday alone). Warsaw accuses Minsk of sending non-EU migrants into Poland as payback for EU sanctions against Belarus.

More Show less

Religious tension rising in Bangladesh: Clashes between Hindus and Muslims in Bangladesh have surged over the past week, leaving at least four people dead. After an image was posted on Facebook showing the Quran at the feet of a statue at a Hindu temple, Muslims burned Hindu-owned homes and attacked their holy sites. Both sides have taken to the street in protest, with Hindus saying that they have been prevented from celebrating Durga Puja, the largest Hindu festival in the country. Such acts of sectarian violence are not uncommon in Bangladesh, a majority-Muslim country where Hindus account for nine percent of the population. Indeed, as Eurasia Group's Kevin Allison recently warned, unverified social media content stoking inter-ethnic conflict is a massive problem throughout South Asia, where for many people Facebook is synonymous with the internet.

More Show less

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Read Ian Bremmer's wide-ranging essay in Foreign Affairs that puts in perspective both the challenge, and the opportunity, that comes from the unprecedented power of Big Tech.

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here on the road, something we haven't done very much recently, but will increasingly as we try to move through COVID. And I want to talk to you about a new article that I just put out in Foreign Affairs that I'm calling "The Technopolar Moment." Not unipolar, not bipolar, not multipolar, technopolar. What the hell does technopolar mean?

It means that increasingly big technology companies are themselves geopolitical actors. So to understand the future of the world, you can't just look at the United States, Europe and China. You need to look at the big tech companies, too.

More Show less

China gets away with a lot these days in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and elsewhere. That's because over the past decade, its economy has experienced explosive growth, making it an indispensable trading partner for almost every country in the world. At the same time, China has been expanding its share of the global economy, and is now set to overtake the US as the world's biggest economic powerhouse in the near term. We take a look at China's annual growth rate and share of the global economy based on GDP over the past decade.

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

Colin Powell's legacy

US Politics

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal