What We're Watching: Mali's protests, Israel's annexation, Poland's election

What We're Watching: Mali's protests, Israel's annexation, Poland's election

Go home, Malians tell president: Tens of thousands of Malians gathered in the streets of the capital city, Bamako, on Friday to demand the resignation of increasingly unpopular President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. In the second mass protest against him in less than a month, demonstrators said they are fed up with rampant corruption, a weak and disgruntled military incapable of stopping rising jihadist attacks, and the government's botched response to the kidnapping of opposition leader Soumaila Cissé by Al Qaeda-linked militants. Keita has led the sprawling West African nation since 2013, when he was elected to fill a power vacuum soon after French troops helped put down an Islamist rebellion in the north. The Economic Community of West African States, a regional political and economic bloc, is urging Keita — reelected in 2018 for a new 5-year term — to form a unity government to end the unrest.


Israel pushes ahead with annexation: Despite widespread international condemnation regarding its plan to annex up to 30 percent of the West Bank, Israel's government may, as early as next week, begin the process of doing just that. The move would not extend citizenship to Palestinians in those areas even though they would be subject to direct Israeli rule. Back in January, the Trump administration said that an annexation plan must be tied to a broader Israeli-US peace plan, but that process has since stalled. The stakes are high. Both the Palestinian Authority that operates in the West Bank and the Kingdom of Jordan have threatened to walk away from longstanding security agreements if Israel pushes ahead with annexation, prompting fears of a return to the violence that characterized the Second Intifada in the early 2000s. Meanwhile, in an unprecedented move, the United Arab Emirates Ambassador to the United States published an op-ed in an Israeli daily last week, warning that annexation would threaten the normalization of Israel's relations with the entire Arab world. Prime Minister Netanyahu has made cultivating closer ties with countries including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE a foreign policy priority.

Poland's tight polls: There are just a few days until Poland's June 28 general election, and incumbent right-wing President Andrzej Duda isn't spending many of them in Warsaw or Krakow. Instead, he's headed to the White House for a widely publicized face-to-face with President Trump. Duda says the ad-hoc meeting was scheduled at the last minute to discuss crucial issues of public health and security in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. But many analysts say that with his main opponent, Warsaw mayor Rafal Trzaskowki, rising in the polls, this is Duda's last-ditch effort to cozy up to Trump – who is admired by much of Poland's influential right-wing electorate. Strong ties with Washington are doubly important for Duda given his country's increasing isolation from the European Union, which has criticized his government for eroding democratic norms. Duda may be banking on Trump to get him over the line, but whether that will be enough to overcome the pandemic-induced economic crisis that has been a boon for Poland's centrist candidates in recent weeks remains to be seen.


UPDATE: An earlier version of this article stated that the Israeli government had announced that it was going to begin annexing up to 30 percent of the West Bank next week. In fact, it is not known precisely how much territory the government intends to annex or at what pace.

Demography is destiny. That ominous-sounding pronouncement, credited to French philosopher Auguste Comte, is today taken to mean that a nation's fate depends on the youthfulness of its population. For a poor country to become rich, it needs lots of young people ready to work, to support those too old or too young to work, and to pay taxes. This is called the "demographic dividend."

That's an important part of China's success story. Over the past 40 years, more than one billion people have emerged from poverty in China. Waves of young people surged from the countryside into cities to work in factories. The state invested in education, and wages helped young workers, and then their children, go to school. The state also began a drive to develop the technologies of the future, by any means necessary. In China, once dirt-poor, hundreds of millions have created a middle class.

More Show less

Not everyone thinks that President Biden's decision to pull all US troops out of Afghanistan by 9/11/21 is a good idea. Conservative Congressman Mike Waltz (R-FL), a combat-decorated Green Beret with multiple tours in Afghanistan, thinks that the US still needs to maintain a small presence in the country to avoid incurring "massive risks." In a spirited discussion with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World, Waltz, who served as counterterrorism advisor in the George W. Bush administration, argues, "The next 9/11, the next Pulse Night Club, which is right on the edge of my congressional district, the next San Bernardino, that's now on Biden's watch. He owns it with this decision." Their conversation is featured in the upcoming episode of GZERO World, which airs on US public television starting Friday, April 23. Check local listings.

Vaccines are the best hope to end the COVID-19 pandemic. But rich countries are hogging most of the doses, with more than 83 percent of shots administered to date having gone to residents in high- and upper-middle-income countries. Most poor countries will have to wait years to achieve widespread vaccination, according to one study.

To address this inequity some stakeholders are pushing hard for waivers to intellectual-property (IP) rights through World Trade Organization trade rules so that manufacturers in poorer countries can make their own vaccines locally. India and South Africa have been leading the charge, which would essentially mean that deep-pocketed pharma companies like New York-based Pfizer, for instance, would have to hand over the keys to the kingdom, allowing local companies in New Delhi and Johannesberg to make generic versions of their vaccines.

Unsurprisingly, the debate has gotten fiery, with passionate arguments emerging both for and against.

More Show less

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective on Europe In 60 Seconds:

What are the Russians up to against Ukraine?

We simply don't know, except the fact that they're concentrating a huge amount of military forces. And you don't do that for nothing or for fun. They are there for a purpose, to have pressure or to undertake limited to larger operations. We simply don't know. And when Putin delivered his State of the Union speech the other day, he didn't say a thing about this. They are now talking about withdrawing the forces. But let's wait and see. They have talked about withdrawing forces from Syria for a long time, but we haven't seen that as of yet.

More Show less

Australia rips up Belt & Road deal: Australia cancelled two 2018 deals signed between Victoria, Australia's wealthiest state, and the Chinese government, that committed the two sides to working together on initiatives under China's Belt and Road infrastructure development program. Foreign Minister Marise Payne said that the agreements "were adverse to our foreign relations." Similar deals between Victoria and institutions in Iran and Syria were also abandoned by the Australian government this week, under a 2020 law that allows Canberra to nullify international agreements struck at local and state level. (Australian universities say the "foreign veto bill" amounts to "significant overreach.") Meanwhile, Beijing hit back, calling the move "unreasonable and provocative," and accusing Canberra of further stoking divisions after a series of escalatory moves by both sides that have seen China-Australia relations deteriorate to their worst point in decades. Chinese investment in Australia dropped by 62 percent last year, a massive blow for Australia's export-reliant economy.

More Show less

50: The US will aim to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent from 2005 levels by the end of the decade. The Biden administration's commitment, double the goal set by Barack Obama almost six years ago, was announced to coincide with a virtual Earth Day climate summit attended by dozens of world leaders.

More Show less

Russian president Vladimir Putin on Wednesday threatened an "asymmetrical, rapid, and harsh" response for anyone that dares to cross a "red line" with Russia.

What's the red line? Putin says he'll decide on a case-by-case basis. And the cases at the moment are growing: the US has sanctioned Russia over cyber crimes; Putin critic Alexei Navalny is near death in a Russian prison; the Czechs say Russia blew up a Czech munitions depot; and as many as 120,000 Russian troops are reported to be massing along Russia's border with Eastern Ukraine.

Which is to say: there's potentially a Sol Lewitt's-worth of red lines to ponder now.

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal