What We're Watching: Biden meets Boris, Iranian ships in the Atlantic, Argentinian president's mishap

U.S. President Joe Biden laughs while speaking with Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson during their meeting, ahead of the G7 summit, at Carbis Bay, Cornwall, Britain June 10, 2021

Biden hangs with Boris: On his first trip to Europe as US president, Joe Biden stopped first in the UK where he met with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. While Biden is keen to reaffirm the close bond between the two countries, there are also some thorny issues on the agenda. The US president likely reiterated the importance of London safeguarding the fragile peace in Northern Ireland, and instructed Johnson to refrain from triggering a provision in the EU-UK post-Brexit trade agreement that would reestablish a land border separating Northern Ireland, part of the UK, and the Republic of Ireland, an EU member state. Indeed, on this issue, Johnson will have to find a middle ground in managing the warming temperature in Northern Ireland, and placating the US president, who he desperately wants to agree to a juicy post-Brexit US-UK trade deal. Also on the agenda: coordination on climate change and ensuring the smooth and safe reopening of US-UK travel after 16 months of chaos.


What's Iran up to in the Atlantic? Earlier this week, POLITICO reported that two Iranian warships, possibly carrying weapons, were making their way across the Atlantic Ocean. They seem to be headed for Venezuela, which received oil shipments from Iran last year, skirting US economic sanctions on fuel-starved Caracas. Iran's provocative move, sending "destroyer" vessels charting across international seas, is likely to spook many nations. Venezuela's neighbors, like Colombia for example, will be nervous to see strongman President Nicolás Maduro flushed with weapons at a time when the two states have severed diplomatic relations. (Colombia recognizes opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the country's legitimate president.) The US, meanwhile, will not be pleased to see Iranian military vessels on its doorstep at a time when relations between Washington and Tehran are also extremely fraught. Some experts say this maneuver is performative, with Iran trying to flex its muscle after its biggest navy ship recently caught fire and sank near the Strait of Hormuz. Either way, there is little that the US or its allies can do right now to stop the ships advancing.

What We're Ignoring:

The Argentine president's literary and historical misunderstandings: "The Mexicans came from the Indians, the Brazilians came from the jungle, but we Argentinians came here on boats from Europe." Thus Argentine President Alberto Fernández's attempt to create a vibe with visiting Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez at a presser earlier this week. But the observation, which he incorrectly attributed to Mexican poet Octavio Paz, managed to piss off people across the ideological spectrum. Right wing Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro and his son Eduardo (who are of Italian origin) bristled at the notion that they were from the jungle, while left wing Brazilians pointed out that more than half of Brazil's population identifies as descendants not of "the jungle" but of millions of slaves brought from Africa. And while it's true that the European immigration to Argentina was larger, as a percentage of the population than in Mexico or Brazil, almost a third of Argentines still claim indigenous blood. To top it off, literature buffs note that the actual quote attributed to Paz lands a bit differently: "The Mexicans descended from the Aztecs, the Peruvians descended from the Incas… the Argentines descended from boats." Fernandez has apologized.

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The German people have spoken. For the first time in over 70 years, the country's next government is all but assured to be a three-way coalition.

That coalition will probably be led by the center-left SPD, the most voted party, with the Greens and the pro-business FDP as junior partners. Less likely but still possible is a similar combination headed by the conservative CDU/CSU, which got its worst result ever. A grand coalition of the SPD and the CDU/CSU — the two parties that have dominated German federal politics since World War II — has been rejected by half the electorate.

Both the Greens and especially the FDP have been in coalition governments before. But this time it's different because together they have the upper hand in negotiations with the big parties wooing them.

The problem is that the two minority parties don't agree on anything much beyond legalizing weed. So, where does each stand on the policies that divide them?

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here. Happy week to all of you and thought I'd talk a little bit about Germany and Europe. Because of course, we just had elections in Germany, 16 years of Angela Merkel's rule coming to an end - by far the strongest leader that Germany has seen post-war, Europe has seen since the collapse of the Soviet Union. And indeed in many ways, the world has seen in the 21st century. Xi Jinping, of course, runs a much bigger country and has consolidated much more power, but in terms of the free world, it's been Angela Merkel.

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Germany's historic moment of choice is finally here, and voters will stream to the polls on Sunday for the country's first post-World War II vote without a national leader seeking re-election. They will elect new members of the Bundestag, Germany's lower house of parliament. The leader of the party that wins the most seats will then try to secure a majority of seats by drawing other parties into a governing partnership. He or she will then replace Angela Merkel as Germany's chancellor.

If the latest opinion polls are right, the center-left Social Democrats will finish first. In coming weeks, they look likely to form a (potentially unwieldy) governing coalition with the Green Party and the pro-business Free Democrats, which would be Germany's first-ever governing alliance of more than two parties.

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As the US economy powers ahead to recover from COVID, many developing economies are getting further left behind — especially those in Latin America. Economic historian Adam Tooze says the region, which did relatively well during the global recession, is now "looking at a lost decade." Watch his interview with Ian Bremmer on the latest episode of GZERO World.

Watch the episode: How the COVID-damaged economy surprised Adam Tooze

The pandemic hit the global economy hard, and many economies are still hurting. But it could have been even worse. In May 2020, economic historian Adam Tooze told GZERO World that the world was facing a second Great Depression. Now in a new interview with Ian Bremmer, Tooze is back to explain why the US economy rebounded so surprisingly fast, while much of the rest of the world lags behind.

Listen: The pandemic hit the global economy hard, and many economies are still hurting. But it could have been even worse. In May 2020 as a guest on the GZERO World podcast, economic historian Adam Tooze told Ian Bremmer that the world was facing a second Great Depression. In a new interview, Tooze is back to take stock and explains why the US economy rebounded so surprisingly fast, while much of the rest of the world lags behind.

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.

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

Who's going to be the leading voice politician in Europe after Angela Merkel leaves?

Well, that remains to be seen. First, we need to wait for the outcome of the German election, and then it's going to take quite some time to form a government in Germany to see who's going to be chancellor. And then of course we have elections coming up in France in the spring. Macron is likely to win, but you never know. So by next summer, we'll know more about that. And then there are other personalities there. There's Mario Draghi, prime minister of Italy, who has a strong personality. Mark Rutte of the Netherlands, as long as he's there. So it's going to take quite some time for this to be sorted out.

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After Merkel, who leads Europe?

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