What We're Watching: Turkey's Afghanistan play, Indonesia as COVID epicenter, EU's rule of law report

Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan holds a news conference during the NATO summit at the Alliance's headquarters in Brussels, Belgium June 14, 2021

Turkey's Afghanistan play: With the US withdrawal from Afghanistan nearly complete, many countries (and non-state actors) are vying for influence there. The latest player to enter the stage is Turkey, with president Recep Tayyip Erdogan proposing that Turkish troops defend and operate Kabul's international airport when the US is gone. Erdogan said that to make the plan work, the US would need to hand over logistical facilities to Ankara, and has called on Washington to back Turkey in ongoing diplomacy in Afghanistan, which it says is crucial to securing Kabul's airport, the main way into the country for the international community. The Americans, for their part, appear to be open to the idea. That's because it would mean handing over the headache of securing Afghanistan's only international airport to a fellow NATO member, reducing the likelihood of Afghanistan becoming completely shut off from the rest of the world in the (likely) event of a Taliban takeover. From Turkey's perspective, taking a more active role in stabilizing Afghanistan might earn it some goodwill from Washington and Brussels at a time when relations with both are at historic low points. The Taliban, meanwhile, said Turkey's pitch was "reprehensible."


Indonesia — COVID hot zone: Indonesia is now the epicenter of the global COVID crisis, overtaking Brazil this month in recording the most daily deaths from COVID-19. Indonesia, a country of 270 million, is now also registering more new cases than India. The worst outbreaks are on populous Java island, where more than half of all Indonesians live. The country's cumulative official death toll currently stands at over 74,000, but experts say that is certainly an undercount given scarce testing and contact tracing throughout the country. The current deadly surge comes as Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, celebrates the Eid al-Adha holiday, sparking fears of yet more infections spreading despite bans on gatherings in many places. What's more, just 6 percent of Indonesians are fully vaccinated, and mostly with the Chinese-made Sinovac shot, which has a lower efficacy rate than the European and American-made vaccines. (Over 100 healthcare workers died from COVID after being fully vaccinated with the Sinovac shot, according to one study.) Jakarta is now vying for Western made vaccines, which have proven to be more effective against the spreading Delta variant, and said it expects millions of doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech shot to arrive in the second half of this year.

Does the EU's rule of law report matter? When Ursula von der Leyen took the reins of the European Commission in 2019, she backed a new, annual rule of law report for the 27-member bloc as one of several tools to monitor — and prevent — democratic regression in member states. This year's reports, released on Tuesday, shine a light on the usual suspects: Poland and Hungary and their crackdowns on LGBTQ rights and undermining of judicial independence. The report also highlights attacks on the media in Malta and Slovenia, which currently holds the bloc's rotating presidency. But civil society advocates say that while the EU's report is welcome, it's also toothless because it lacks enforcement power and dishes out no real consequences for governments that fail to adhere to EU norms. The Commission, on the other hand, says the report is not meant to be a coercive tool, and that it serves its purpose of illuminating the problem by highlighting best — and worst — practices. We're watching for the responses of both Poland and Hungary, which are waiting on the EU to approve their spending plans for post-COVID recovery. (In order to unlock EU COVID relief funds, the bloc's 27 economic and finance ministers need to give the go ahead to member states' individual spending proposals. Poland and Hungary are still waiting.)

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Learn more about Zoe and her story.

Listen: Can Big Government still rein in Big Tech or has it already lost control? Never before have just a few companies exerted such an outsized influence on humanity. Today's digital space, where we live so much of our daily lives, has increasingly become an area that national governments are unable to control. It may be time to start thinking of these corporations as nation-states in their own rights. Ian Bremmer speaks with Nicholas Thompson, CEO of the Atlantic and former WIRED editor-in-chief, about how to police the digital world.

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

In the lead-up to this year's COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, much of the attention has been focused on last summer's wildfires across the US and Europe, and more recently skyrocketing European energy prices. But what about Asia, the world's biggest and most populated region, which also has the highest share of global carbon dioxide emissions that cause global warming? Asia has unique climate risks but also many opportunities for solutions, and whatever happens at COP26, Asian countries led by China and India are primed to lead the world in the struggle to make the planet greener before it's too late. In a live discussion moderated by Shari Friedman, Eurasia Group's Managing Director of Climate and Sustainability, global experts discussed these and other topics during the first of a two-part Sustainability Leaders Summit sponsored by Suntory.

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We're just days away from COP26, the landmark global climate conference that's been dubbed the last chance to get the climate crisis in check. In the lead-up to the event in Glasgow, dozens of countries have released new ambitions to reduce their future carbon footprints. For years, climate activists and experts have called on governments to introduce carbon pricing schemes – either through taxes or emissions-trading schemes. So who's heeded the warning? We take a look at the top ten carbon emitters' share of global emissions and details about their respective national carbon pricing schemes.

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:

Do cryptocurrencies make it harder to enforce foreign policy sanctions?

Well, that is exactly what the Biden administration worries about. As part of growing concerns of whether unregulated currencies undermine a whole host of policies, sanctions and foreign or trade policy should be a priority area. And just like others who wish to evade tracing of their wealth or transactions, the very states or their sanctioned entities should be assumed to resort to all options to evade restrictions while continuing to do business. So having cryptocurrencies undermining the ability to enforce strategic goals logically raises eyebrows in Washington.

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Back in August, when the Taliban took over, we asked whether anyone in the international community would recognize them. Now it looks like things are heading that way.

This week, the Kremlin hosted a summit with the Taliban that was attended by China, India and Pakistan, as well as all five Central Asian Republics.

The domestically-focused US, however, wasn't there. The US continues to maintain that the Taliban can't be trusted. But does it matter? In 2021 does a Taliban-led government even need American recognition to function and thrive?

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For Kevin Rudd, former Australian PM and now CEO of the Asia Society, the science on climate change is pretty much done, so the only unresolved issues are tech and — more importantly — lack of political leadership. He can't think of a single national political leader who can fill the role, and says the only way to get political action on climate is to mobilize public opinion.

Rudd joined for the first of a two-part Sustainability Leaders Summit livestream conversation sponsored by Suntory. Watch here and register here to watch part two Friday 10/22 at 8 am ET.

Taking place on October 21 and 22, the Sustainability Leaders Summit will go beyond preexisting narratives and debate priorities for governments and industries ahead of COP26. Placing the spotlight on Asia's role in the global sustainability agenda, the event will address whether Asian countries and companies can achieve shared sustainability goals, and what is needed to help get them there. The summit will be co-hosted by Tak Niinami, CEO of Suntory Holdings, and Ian Bremmer, founder and president of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media. We will address three key questions: How can Asian countries, with the help of the private sector, achieve shared Sustainability Goals? Why does this matter? And what are the policy changes needed to bring it about?

Attendance is free and open to the public. Register to attend.

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