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What We're Watching: A widening Bolivian divide

What We're Watching: A widening Bolivian divide

Bolivia's polarizing interim president: After Bolivian president Evo Morales and his deputies were pushed out of office for rigging last month's presidential election, little-known opposition Senator Jeanine Añez took office as interim leader. Añez has promised to guide the country toward a "national consensus" ahead of new elections in January, but she's already risked deepening political divides. On day one, she lugged a giant bible into office, in a perceived swipe at Morales, who had elevated popular indigenous traditions that the ultra-conservative Ms. Añez once called "satanic." She's also abruptly reoriented the country's foreign ties toward Latin America's conservative governments. On her watch, at least eight pro-Morales protesters have been killed by the authorities. Morales himself, exiled in Mexico, says he's the victim of a coup and wants to run in the elections. Añez says he's barred, but his MAS political party still controls both houses of congress and has to be a partner for any smooth transition. Some compromise is necessary, but things don't seem to be going that way.


Impeachment and 2020 Democratic primaries: As the Trump impeachment process grinds on, a potential problem is emerging for some Democratic presidential candidates. If the House impeaches President Trump, there will be a trial in the Senate. If that trial is held in January/February, it will force Democratic senators to be in Washington rather than on the campaign trail engaging voters directly. That's potential bad news for presidential-hopeful Senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, and Cory Booker—and might be good news for rival candidates Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg, who won't be chained to Washington. But do Republicans really want to help Biden beat Warren and Sanders, both of whom might be easier for Trump to beat? We'll be watching to see how Democrats in the House and Senate try to manage this problem.

US walks out on South Korea: Talks on the cost of basing US troops in South Korea ended abruptly Tuesday when the Americans walked out of the meeting, accusing Seoul of falling short of "fair and equitable burden sharing." Washington had demanded a five-fold yearly increase (to $5 billion) in Seoul's contribution to maintaining 28,500 American troops on the Korean peninsula. Earlier this year, Seoul agreed to pay $890 million, more than 40 percent of the day-to-day expenses of keeping US troops in the area. It also paid more than 90 percent of the hefty cost of relocating the US' main Korean base, and buys billions of dollars worth of US arms. Until now, US presidents have seen Washington's security commitments to Seoul — which date back to the 1950s when the Korean War ended without a peace treaty — as mutually beneficial: South Korea gets protection from the North, while the US gets to safeguard its security and economic interests in East Asia. Will President Trump's hardline approach to South Korea work? And will it set an enduring precedent? We're watching because similar talks on cost-sharing with Japan, Germany, and NATO are slated for next year.

What We're Ignoring

Dog days in Turkmenistan: Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, the eccentric autocrat who runs the gas-rich Central Asian nation of Turkmenistan, has long adored his country's renowned horse breeds (even when he's falling off of them.) But now he is pivoting to a different point on the mammalian map: dog. In particular, the Alabai, a hardy little sheepdog that has been part of Turkmenistan's traditionally nomadic society for thousands of years. Recently, he's been writing books and poems about the dogs, and now he plans to build a 50-foot tall statue of one in the capital as a symbol of national unity. We are ignoring this because we're spoiled by the last Turkmen president's penchant for building 25-story gold plated statues of himself that rotated to face the sun. Next to that, this pup stuff doesn't stack up.

Carbon has a bad rep, but did you know it's a building block of life? As atoms evolved, carbon trapped in CO2 was freed, giving way to the creation of complex molecules that use photosynthesis to convert carbon to food. Soon after, plants, herbivores, and carnivores began populating the earth and the cycle of life began.

Learn more about how carbon created life on Earth in the second episode of Eni's Story of CO2 series.

Join us tomorrow at 11 am ET for a GZERO Town Hall livestream event, Ending the COVID-19 Pandemic, to learn about the latest in the global hunt for a COVID-19 vaccine.

Watch here at 11am ET: https://www.gzeromedia.com/events/town-hall-ending-the-covid-19-pandemic-livestream/

Our panel will discuss where things really stand on vaccine development, the political and economic challenges of distribution, and what societies need to be focused on until vaccine arrives in large scale. This event is the second in a series presented by GZERO Media in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Eurasia Group.

Apoorva Mandavilli, science & global health reporter for the New York Times, will moderate a conversation with:

  • Lynda Stuart, Deputy Director, Vaccines & Human Immunobiology, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Rohitesh Dhawan, Managing Director, Energy, Climate & Resources, Eurasia Group
  • Mark Suzman, CEO, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Gayle E. Smith, President & CEO, ONE Campaign and former Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development

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The long-simmering conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over a region called Nagorno-Karabakh erupted over the weekend, with more than 50 killed (so far) in the fiercest fighting in years. Will it escalate into an all-out war that threatens regional stability and drags in major outside players?

What's the background? For years, Armenia and Azerbaijan have been at odds over the rugged highlands of Nagorno-Karabakh, which lies between them. In the dying days of the USSR, the two sides fought a bloody six-year war to control the enclave, which was part of Muslim-majority Azerbaijan but mainly populated by ethnic Armenian Christians.

The conflict ended in 1994 with over 30,000 dead, more than one million displaced, and a fragile truce that left Nagorno-Karabakh as a de facto independent state, recognized and supported by Armenia but not by most other countries, including Azerbaijan. Low-level clashes have persisted ever since — including deadly skirmishes in 2016 — and both governments often use the conflict to stoke nationalist flames at home.

Although the trigger for the latest violence is still unclear, bilateral tensions have been rising since mid-July, when 16 soldiers died in border clashes. That violence sparked an uproar in Azerbaijan, where thousands of Azeris took to the streets calling for the army to "recapture" Nagorno-Karabakh. Now, both sides are accusing each other of throwing the first punch, and have declared martial law.

A war over the enclave would resonate far beyond the region. The South Caucasus, where Armenia and Azerbaijan are located, has enormous strategic importance because it is crossed by two major energy pipelines that carry Azeri oil and Caspian Sea gas to Turkey and Europe.

Two outside players — Turkey and Russia — are on opposite sides of the conflict. Turkey has close relations with fellow Turkic Azerbaijan, and historically there is little love lost between Ankara and the Armenians. Moreover, Azerbaijan is Turkey's main oil supplier. Turkey has denied reports that it has sent 4,000 Syrians to fight on behalf of the Azeri army, but Turkish President Recep Erdogan's moves here merit close attention.

Russia is the dominant player in the region. But although it sells weapons to both Azerbaijan and Armenia, Moscow keeps troops garrisoned in Armenia and is, technically, treaty-bound to defend the country. If things escalate further, Vladimir Putin will have to decide whether to honor that obligation. Doing so could quickly put Ankara and Moscow on opposite sides of another nasty war (they already back different sides of the civil war in Libya.)

Finally, Iran also as a stake. It borders both countries, and Azeris are Iran's largest ethnic minority. Although Tehran has traditionally backed Yerevan, and often bickers with Baku over energy and security in the Caspian Sea, the Iranians offered to mediate when the latest tensions began two months ago. Will they try again now?

On September 23, GZERO Media — in partnership with Microsoft and Eurasia Group — gathered global experts to discuss global recovery from the coronavirus pandemic in a livestream panel. Our panel for the discussion Crisis Response & Recovery: Reimagining while Rebuilding, included:

  • Brad Smith, President, Microsoft
  • Ian Bremmer, President and Founder, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media
  • Jeh Johnson, Partner, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP and former Secretary of Homeland Security.
  • John Frank, Vice President, UN Affairs at Microsoft
  • Susan Glasser, staff writer and Washington columnist, The New Yorker (moderator)

Special appearances by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde, and comedian/host Trevor Noah.

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62: In a referendum over the weekend, nearly 62 percent of Swiss voters said they wanted to preserve freedom of movement between the European Union and Switzerland, which is not a member of the EU. The right-wing Swiss People's Party had proposed imposing migration quotas at the border, saying that the current frontier is basically a... (okay, they didn't actually say it's a "Swiss cheese" but still).

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Panel: How will the world recover from COVID-19?

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