What We’re Watching: Draghi’s gamble, new hotspot for US-bound migrants, Russia-Ukraine water wars

What We’re Watching: Draghi’s gamble, new hotspot for US-bound migrants, Russia-Ukraine water wars

"Super Mario" takes his chances: Less than five months after becoming Italy's consensus prime minister, Mario Draghi's coalition government is on shaky ground over Draghi's proposed judicial reforms. "Super Mario" — as he's known for saving the Eurozone as European Central Bank chief during the financial crisis — wants to dramatically speed up Italy's famously slow courts. But his push to reduce judicial backlogs is opposed both by the populist 5-Star Movement, the coalition government's biggest party, and by prosecutors because many cases could be scrapped before reaching a verdict. Draghi, upset that this resistance is stalling his other initiatives to cut Italian red tape, has decided to roll the dice anyway: he'll put his plan to overhaul the courts to a no-confidence vote in parliament. If Draghi wins, he gets the reforms passed without debate; if he loses, the PM technically has to resign, but he'll keep his job because he has enough votes even if the 5-Star Movement bows out of the coalition.


Colombia suddenly a US migration hotspot: US immigration from Latin America significantly slowed in 2020 due to the pandemic. But that's all changed as land borders have reopened. In recent weeks, a record number of migrants have attempted to cross the Darien Gap — dangerous rainforest terrain that straddles Panama and Colombia, and a major crossing point for South Americans trying to reach the US. (Many people die while making the precarious journey; often they are attacked either by wild animals or targeted by gangs.) Panama says 42,000 US-bound migrants have crossed into the country this year alone, up from 8,594 in all of 2020. Meanwhile, the Colombian border town of Necoclí is stretched to its limits, with 1,000 migrants arriving daily, overwhelming its scarce resources and fragile infrastructure. What's more, US authorities are reporting a surge in migration from conflict-plagued Haiti and Cuba. It's a massive concern given that many Latin American countries are experiencing explosive COVID outbreaks.

A liquid flashpoint in Crimea: As a peninsula surrounded by waves, Crimea doesn't leap to mind as a place that lacks for water, but the saltiness of the Black Sea is nothing compared to the latest local acrimony (paywall) between Russia and Ukraine — this time over precisely that: water. After Russia illegally annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, the Ukrainian government cut off a Soviet-era canal that supplied 85 percent of the region's fresh water. Moscow, a little breathlessly, says that this amounts to an attempted "genocide", and is struggling to figure out how to provide drinking water to the more than 2 million residents of the peninsula, most of whom are very happy to be part of Russia again, even if it leaves them a little dry. Kyiv meanwhile is worried that Russia's thirst for Ukrainian territory isn't slaked just yet, and that in addition to backing a separatist enclave in the country's east, the Kremlin might make a move on some nearby rivers that could supply Crimea.

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Iran’s nuclear program runs hotter

Talks between Iran’s government and world powers over the future of Iran’s nuclear program continue. The US and Iran are still not communicating directly; Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia are shuttling between them.

The good news is that they’re all still talking. The bad news is that, after eight rounds of negotiations, the main players haven’t agreed on anything that would constitute a breakthrough.

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January 6 laid bare "the deep divisions, the partisan infighting, the polarization within our society," says Fiona Hill, the former US senior director of the National Security Council. In a GZERO World interview, she spoke with Ian Bremmer about her concerns about the state of democracy in the United States.

Hill famously testified against her impeached boss, Donald Trump, who stayed in power after being acquitted by the Senate of abuse of power and obstructing Congress. She also notes that divisions actually make America look weaker on the global stage — particularly to someone like Russia’s president Vladimir Putin.

Watch this episode of GZERO World: American strife: Will US democracy survive? Fiona Hill explains post-Jan 6 stakes

Kevin Allison, director of geotech at Eurasia Group, is concerned about the rise of very powerful tech companies disrupting centuries of geopolitics led by the nation-state.

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The problem with China’s Zero COVID strategy: GZERO World with Ian Bremmer - the podcast

Listen: Xi Jinping's zero-COVID approach faces its toughest test to date with omicron. Why? Because China lacks mRNA jabs, and so few Chinese people have gotten COVID that overall protection is very low. A wave of lockdowns could disrupt the world's second-largest economy — just a month out from the Beijing Winter Olympics.

That could spell disaster for Beijing, Yanzhong Huang, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, tells Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast. If things get really bad, though, Huang believes China will pivot to living with the virus, especially as the cost of keeping zero COVID in the age of omicron becomes too high.

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 Kiev, Ukraine

First question, how is the crisis in this part of Europe developing?

Not good. There's been a week of intense diplomacy with talks in Geneva, and Brussels, and Vienna that produced virtually nothing. The Russian, sort of key demands are outrageously unrealistic. They know that is the case. The US is trying to engage them on somewhat different issues. We'll see if there's any prospect there, but it doesn't look too good. I think the likelihood is that we gradually will move into the phase of what the Russians call military technical measures, whatever that is.

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For Angela Hofmann, practice head for Industrial & Consumer at Eurasia Group, the world's most visible brands are in for a very rocky year.

Navigating culture wars will be very tricky, as well as fighting with competing demands from consumers, employees, and regulators on issues like China, diversity, and voting rights.

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Political polarization in the US isn’t just a problem within the country, points out former US national security official Fiona Hill. Deep divisions, she says, actually make America look weaker on the global stage — particularly to someone like Russia’s president Vladimir Putin.

“Putin loves our disunity," Russian expert Hill tells Ian Bremmer. "It's incredibly useful as a tool to exploit in that toolkit that he has.”

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An emboldened Putin thrives on American disunity

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