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What We're Watching: Lukashenko looking worried, explosion in Lebanon's "darkness", royal flight from Spain

What We're Watching: Lukashenko looking worried, explosion in Lebanon's "darkness", royal flight from Spain

Lukashenko's nerves: As Belarusians prepare to head to the polls on Sunday, strongman president Alexander Lukashenko, who's seeking re-election again after 26 years in power, lashed out at adversaries who he says are seeking his downfall. But Lukashenko wasn't laying into the Europeans or the NATO alliance — typically hostile to his strongman agenda — rather, he condemned "puppet masters" in...Russia. This is the latest episode in the deteriorating relationship between Minsk and Moscow. Lukashenko recently accused Moscow of sending mercenaries to destabilize the country and rile up Belarusian protesters dissatisfied with the government's handling of the pandemic. But it's also a sign that Lukashenko is worried about losing his grip on power. After barring two rivals from running in the election, he's now facing off against 37-year old Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, a seemingly accidental candidate who's managed to unite the opposition against a man once dubbed "Europe's last dictator.


Darkness in Lebanon: The already-grim situation in Lebanon took a terrible turn Tuesday as a massive explosion tore through a warehouse at Beirut's port, killing at least 100 people. The cause of the blast is still being investigated, but the timing of the tragedy, which is believed to have caused around $3 billion in damages, couldn't be worse. Coronavirus lockdowns have caused prices of basic goods to triple since March as Lebanon's currency shed 80 percent of its value, pushing much of the country's once-vibrant middle class into poverty. Recurrent power outages — a result of mismanagement, Lebanon's shambolic electrical grid, and a series of corruption scandals involving an Algerian state-run oil company — have also worsened, with reports of blackouts for up to 20 hours a day in some parts of the country. This prompted disillusioned Lebanese to storm the Ministry of Energy on Tuesday, demanding an end to the "corruption" that has led the country into "darkness." Skirmishes with security forces ensued. The heavily-indebted country is hoping that international creditors like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will help pull it back from the brink, but that's unlikely to happen unless the Lebanese government makes crucial reforms to root out mismanagement and corruption, which it's so far been unwilling to do. Will this latest tragedy change that?

Former king ditches Spain: Former Spanish King Juan Carlos I has fled his country, weeks after the high court opened an investigation alleging that he received millions of euros in illegal kickbacks from a high-speed rail deal in Saudi Arabia. A Swiss prosecutor has also accused him of tax fraud. Until a decade ago, Juan Carlos was beloved by most Spaniards for helping steer Spain's transition to democracy in the late 1970s and early 1980s. But after a string of more recent scandals — including infidelities and breaking his hip while elephant hunting in Botswana as his countrymen were mired in a recession — he passed the throne in 2014 to his son, the current King Felipe VI. Earlier this year, Felipe himself grew concerned enough about the negative paternal publicity that he cut off his dad and renounced his own inheritance. Juan Carlos — now believed to be in either neighboring Portugal or the Dominican Republic — appears to have left Spain to spare his son (and Spaniards) further embarrassment, but he says he'd return to face formal charges. We're watching the royal legal drama but also a bigger question: will the disgraced former king's antics fuel a fresh debate over the future of the Spanish monarchy itself?

Khant Thaw Htoo is a young engineer who works in Eni's Sakura Tower office in the heart of Yangon. As an HSE engineer, he monitors the safety and environmental impact of onshore and offshore operations. He also looks out for his parents' well-being, in keeping with Myanmar's traditions.

Learn more about Khant in the final episode of the Faces of Eni series, which focuses on Eni's employees around the world.

On his first day as president, Joe Biden signed a remarkable series of executive orders. Boom! The US rejoins the Paris Climate Accord. Bang! The United States rejoins the World Health Organization. Pow! No more ban on immigration from many Muslim-majority countries. Biden's press secretary reminded reporters later in the day that all these orders merely begin complex processes that take time, but the impact is still dramatic.

If you lead a country allied with the US, or you're simply hoping for some specific commitment or clear and credible statement of purpose from the US government, you might feel a little dizzy today. The sight of an American president (Barack Obama) signing his name, of the next president (Donald Trump) erasing that name from the same legislation/bill, and then the following president (Biden) signing it back into law again will raise deep concerns over the long-term reliability of the world's still-most-powerful nation.

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"There needs to be a dramatic and deep reduction in the amount of debt on the poorest countries. That's clear." As the world's poorest nations struggle to recover from a devastating pandemic, World Bank President David Malpass argues that freeing them of much of their debt will be key. His conversation with Ian Bremmer is part of the latest episode of GZERO World.

Listen: Renowned tech journalist Kara Swisher has no qualms about saying that social media companies bear responsibility for the January 6th pro-Trump riots at the Capitol and will likely be complicit in the civil unrest that may continue well into Biden's presidency. It's no surprise, she argues, that the online rage that platforms like Facebook and Twitter intentionally foment translated into real-life violence. But if Silicon Valley's current role in our national discourse is untenable, how can the US government rein it in? That, it turns out, is a bit more complicated. Swisher joins Ian Bremmer on our podcast.

Ian Bremmer discusses the World In (more than) 60 Seconds:

Biden's first scheduled call with a world leader will be with Canada's Justin Trudeau. What's going on with the Keystone Pipeline?

Well, Biden said that that's it. Executive order, one of the first is that he will stop any construction or development of the Keystone Pipeline. This is of course an oil pipeline that would allow further oil sands oil to come to the United States. The infrastructure is significantly overstretched, it's led to backlogs, inefficiency, accidents, all the rest, but it also facilitates more energy development and keeps prices comparatively down if you get it done. So, there are lots of reasons why the energy sector in Canada wants it. Having said all of that, Trudeau, even though he's been a supporter of Keystone XL, let's keep in mind that he did not win support in Alberta, which is where the big energy patch in Canada is located. This is a real problem for the government of Alberta, Canada is a very decentralized federal government, even more so than the United States. The premier of Alberta is immensely unhappy with Biden right now, they've taken a $1.5 billion equity stake in the project. I expect there will actually be litigation against the United States by the government of Alberta. But Trudeau is quite happy with Biden, his relationship was Trump was always walking on eggshells. The USMCA in negotiations ultimately successful but were very challenging for the Canadians, so too with the way Trump engaged in relations on China. All of this, the fact that Trump left the nuclear agreement with Iran, the Paris Climate Accords, WHO, all of that is stuff that Trudeau strongly opposed. He's going to be much more comfortable with this relationship. He's delighted that the first call from Biden is to him. And it certainly creates a level of normalcy in the US-Canada relationship that is very much appreciated by our neighbors to the North.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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