What We're Watching: Merkel's Putin pipeline dilemma, India-China border clash, Morales setback in Bolivia

Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrive for a joint news conference in Moscow

Putin, Merkel and a poison pipeline: As the evidence mounts that Russian state actors were behind the poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has threatened to punish Vladimir Putin by imposing sanctions on a critical gas pipeline that is meant to link Russia to Germany. Navalny has been receiving treatment in Germany, and so far Moscow has ignored Merkel's demands for a thorough accounting of the attempt on his life, which occurred nearly two weeks ago in a Siberian airport. This has put Merkel in a tough spot: on the one hand, stopping construction of the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline would inflict a huge blow on gas-exporting Russia. But German business groups and international investors in the project are pressuring her to keep politics separate from the nearly-complete project, which is meant to massively increase gas imports for German factories and households.


Shots fired on the India-China border: For the first time in years, Indian and Chinese troops exchanged fire on the contested border known as the Line of Actual Control, with both sides blaming the other for the massive escalation. Beijing says Indian troops fired "warning shots" which it called "a grave military provocation," while New Delhi denied this claim, saying the shots came from Chinese aggressors trying to "intimidate" their troops. The flare-up comes after weeks of rising tensions during which both sides amassed thousands of reinforcement troops as well as advanced weaponry to survey the contested area. Back in June skirmishes between Chinese and Indian forces resulted in dozens of deaths on both sides. Worsening diplomatic relations between the countries' two highly nationalistic leaders — China's Xi Jinping and India's Narendra Modi — have recently trickled down to the streets of India, where the public is largely hostile to China and many have advocated boycotting Chinese-made products.

Morales comeback blocked: A Bolivian court has upheld an earlier ruling barring former president Evo Morales from running for a seat in the country's senate. The left-winger Morales, Bolivia's former president (and the country's first indigenous leader), was ousted last year by the military and fled abroad, first to Mexico and then Argentina. In February, a court blocked him from a senate run because he resides outside the country. For his part, Morales says that he is still registered to vote in the Bolivian city of Cochabamba, and that he is in exile over fears for his safety back in Bolivia, given that the country's right-wing caretaker government, led by Jeanine Áñez, has threatened to prosecute him for various crimes, including "terrorism and sedition." Meanwhile, a member of Morales' Movement for Socialism (MAS) party is the current frontrunner in the race for president, which will be held on October 18.

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Australian Open - First Round - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - January 21, 2020 China's Peng Shuai in action during the match against Japan's Nao Hibino

The Women’s Tennis Association this week decided to suspend all tournaments in China, over doubts that the country’s star player Peng Shuai is safe and sound. Peng recently disappeared for three weeks after accusing a former Vice Premier of sexual assault. Although she has since resurfaced, telling the International Olympic Committee that she’s fine and just wants a little privacy, there are still concerns that Peng has been subjected to intimidation by the Chinese state.

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Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

What are the DSA and the DMA?

Well, the twin legislative initiatives of the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act are the European Union's answer to the challenges of content moderation online and that of the significant role of major market players, also known as gatekeepers in the digital markets. And the intention is to foster both more competition and responsible behavior by tech companies. So the new rules would apply broadly to search engines, social media platforms, but also retail platforms and app stores.

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Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

What is happening to Roe v. Wade?

Well, this week, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case called Dobbs v. Jackson, which challenges a Mississippi law that would outlaw abortions after 15 weeks in the state. That law itself is a direct challenge to the legal precedent set by Roe v. Wade nearly 50 years ago, which is one of the most politically important Supreme Court decisions in American history. It has driven deep polarization between the right and the left in the US and become a critical litmus test. There are very few, if any, pro-life Democrats at the national level and virtually no pro-choice Republicans at any level of government. Overturning Roe has been an animating force on the political right in the US for a generation. And in turn, Democrats have responded by making protecting Roe one of their key political missions.

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What We're Watching: Angela Merkel's punk rock farewell, Iran nuclear talks resume

Angela Merkel's punk rock farewell. Although she doesn't officially step down as German Chancellor until next week, Angela Merkel's sendoff took place on Thursday night in Berlin, with the traditional Grosser Zapfenstreich — a musical aufweidersehen, replete with torches and a military band. By custom, the honoree gets to choose three songs for the band to play. Among Merkel's otherwise staid choices was a total curveball: You Forgot the Colour Film, a 1974 rock hit by fellow East German Nina Hagen, a renowned punk rocker. The song, a parody bit about a man who takes the singer on vacation but has only black-and-white film in his camera, was understood as a dig at the drabness of life in the East. We're listening to the tune, and... digging it, kind of — but we still prefer Merkel's own Kraftwerk-inspired farewell song from Puppet Regime. Eins, zwei, drei, it's time to say goodbye...

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World leaders at the G20 Summit in Rome, October 2021

This week, the World Health Organization’s governing body agreed to begin multinational negotiations on an agreement that would boost global preparedness to deal with future pandemics. The WHO hopes that its 194 member countries will sign a treaty that helps ensure that the global response to the next pandemic is better coordinated and fairer.

The specifics remain to be negotiated over the coming months – and maybe longer – but the stated goal of those who back this plan is a treaty that will commit member countries to share information, virus samples, and new technologies, and to ensure that poorer countries have much better access than they do now to vaccines and related technologies.

Crucially, backers of the treaty insist it must be “legally binding.”

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Abortion rights and anti-abortion demonstrators hold signs outside the U.S. Supreme Court while the court holds a hearing on a Mississippi abortion ban, in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, December 1, 2021.

On Wednesday the Supreme Court began hearing arguments on an issue that has had Americans fighting — and in some cases killing — each other for 50 years: abortion.

The court must decide whether a recent Mississippi state law that prohibits abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy is legal and, more broadly, whether it runs counter to the Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision of 1973.

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Coronavirus in Deutschland - Covid-19-Dashboard des Robert Koch-Institut 01.12.2021:

67,186: Germany announced Thursday that people who remain unvaccinated against COVID-19 will be subject to new restrictions, including being unable to enter stores and gather in large groups. This comes as Germany recorded 67,186 new cases Thursday, hundreds more than the previous day, according to the Robert Koch Institute. Hospitals are filling up and Chancellor-designate Olaf Scholz, who comes into office next week, says he would support broad vaccine mandates.

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