What We're Watching: India's angry farmers, NATO's search for meaning, Israel's election threat

People on a tractor shout slogans at a site of a protest against the newly passed farm bills at Singhu border near Delhi, India, December 1, 2020.

Farmers protest in India: Some 20,000 farmers have descended on the Indian capital of New Delhi in recent days, blocking roads and setting up encampments to protest new agriculture laws that they fear will harm their livelihoods. The measures, passed in September, eliminate requirements for farmers to sell their produce to government-run wholesale markets. That creates more market opportunities for farmers, but they worry it will mean the end of government-guaranteed prices that they can depend on, opening the way to exploitation by large agriculture corporations. In a country where farming is the primary source of income for nearly 60 percent of the population, farmers' welfare is a huge political issue. At the moment, things are deadlocked in Delhi: the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi says it's willing to negotiate with the farmers, but not until they decamp from the center of the city. The farmers, meanwhile, say they won't budge until talks start. We're watching to see who blinks first.


NATO seeks to define itself, again: NATO foreign ministers are currently gathered for two days of soul-searching, as the 71-year old alliance searches for a new purpose in the 21st century. Ever since the end of the Cold War — which gave rise to the pact first signed in 1949 — that purpose has been somewhat unclear. Among the challenges the alliance now faces are waning US interest in the war in Afghanistan, which for 17 years has been NATO's primary engagement, as well as the problem of Turkey — an increasingly combative and undemocratic member of the club which has developed military ties with... Russia. A new report under discussion at the summit proposes focusing more on countering the strategic and political threat of China. That idea comes on the heels of a proposal from the EU — home to 28 of NATO's 30 members — to form a more explicitly anti-China technology alliance with the incoming US administration of Joe Biden.

Israel's (fourth) election threat: With the Knesset, Israel's parliament, mired in deadlock — in part over the national budget — Israel is inching closer to yet another election, its fourth in less than two years. Much depends on how the centrist Blue and White party, led by Benny Gantz, who joined Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition government seven months ago after a bitter election cycle, votes Wednesday on a bill to disband parliament. (Gantz gave a scathing speech Tuesday that suggests he will likely vote to dissolve the government.) But either way, the coalition agreement stipulates that if no state budget is passed by December 23 for 2020 and 2021, the government automatically collapses, and fresh elections will be called. It's a delicate dance for all sides: Gantz has been trying to ensure that if this government survives, he still gets to rotate in to become prime minister next fall (this was also a part of the coalition deal). Netanyahu, for his part, wants to retain the top job, but eventually weed out Blue and White so he can cobble together a strong majority that will help him pass an immunity law and avoid a corruption trial. While Netanyahu's Likud party and Gantz's Blue and White loathe each other, neither leader really wants to go back on the campaign trail so soon. It now seems they will have to anyway.

Iran was involved in two naval incidents in the Gulf of Oman in recent days. The US, UK, and Israel have blamed Iran for a drone attack that killed two European nationals. Iran has rejected the accusations. Iran is also suspected in the "potential hijack" of a tanker off the coast of the United Arab Emirates.

These provocations are happening just as Iran inaugurates a new president, Ebrahim Raisi, and as talks continue over the possible US re-entry into the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. What's the connection between these events? We asked Henry Rome, Eurasia Group's deputy head of research and a director covering global macro politics and the Middle East.

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This week, the market value of Tencent, China's biggest video game company, nosedived after a state media outlet suggested that online gaming was as addictive and destructive as opium. Tencent immediately pledged to cap the number of hours people can play, and to keep minors off its platforms.

It's the latest example of a months-long crackdown on major Chinese technology firms that until recently were viewed as some of the world's most powerful and successful companies, as well as a source of national pride. Beijing's about-face on its own tech titans could have big implications for China, and beyond.

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Whenever Burkina Faso is in the news, it's often about how the crisis-ridden country has got caught up in the crosshairs of horrific jihadist violence plaguing the Sahel.

But this week, the nation of 20 million was celebrating because Hugues Fabrice Zango won its first-ever Olympic medal after finishing third in the men's triple jump in Tokyo.

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Should people get COVID vaccine booster shots? Not yet, says the World Health Organization, which is pushing for rich nations or those with access to jabs to hold off until at least the end of September so all countries get to fully vaccinate at least 10 percent of their populations before some jump ahead with boosters. But the WHO's call has fallen on deaf ears in nations like Israel, France, Germany and Russia, which are already planning to offer boosters, in part to better protect people against the more contagious delta variant. What's more, mRNA vaccine makers Pfizer and Moderna are recommending supplemental doses for the same reason. The problem is that, beyond the obvious moral imperative for equal access to vaccines, if the rich continue hoarding jabs while vaccination rates stay low elsewhere, the virus will continue to thrive — and mutate into new, potentially even more infectious variants that sooner or later will reach every corner of the planet.

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80: If polar ice caps continue to melt at their current pace due to climate change, 80 percent of all emperor penguins will be wiped out by the end of the century because they need the ice for breeding and keeping their offspring safe. American authorities want to list emperor penguins, which only live in Antarctica, as an endangered species so that US fishing vessels will be required to protect them when operating in their habitat.

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Jon Lieber, Managing Director of the United States for Eurasia Group, shares updates on recent COVID-19 policy developments:

The Biden administration extended an eviction moratorium even after the Supreme Court said they couldn't, what's next?

Well, the CDC imposed a nationwide eviction moratorium in light of increased risk from evicted people because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Supreme Court in June ruled that they (CDC) overextended their authority in doing so and mandated that the moratorium expire on schedule in July. A group of progressive activists weren't happy about this and raised a huge stink in Congress, but Congress recessed for their August vacation before they could solve the problem, putting big pressure on President Biden to extend the moratorium even though he said he didn't think that it would pass constitutional muster. The CDC did it anyway, extending the moratorium until October 3rd, which is a time that's short enough to probably avoid it being overturned by lawsuits, but long enough that Congress has time to figure out how to either extend it on a bipartisan basis or put more money into a rental assistance fund that few people have taken advantage of so far. This whole incident shows the power of progressive activists in the Biden administration who were able to elevate the profile of this issue and potentially prevent millions of people from losing their homes this summer.

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On GZERO World, Ian Bremmer takes a look at the yin and the yang of alcohol's role in high-level diplomacy and society at large. Alcohol can bring people together just as easily as it can tear them apart. From a 1995 Clinton/Yeltsin Summit where a drunk Yeltsin almost derailed Bosnian peace talks, to Obama's Beer Summit and the recent G7 Summit, booze plays a part in how world leaders interact. Globally, alcohol consumption has been steadily increasing, by over 70 percent between 1990 and 2017, according to one report. . Low and middle-income nations like Vietnam, India, and China are a driving force behind that trend, with drinking in Southeast Asia rising by over 34 percent between 2010 and 2017. And yet, amidst this global booze boom, the world has only grown more and more divided.

Watch the episode: The (political) power of alcohol

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Does alcohol help bring the world together?

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