What We’re Watching: Mexico’s Border Patrols, Ukrainian Outrage

What We’re Watching: Mexico’s Border Patrols, Ukrainian Outrage

Mexico's Army Stretched Thin — Mexico has deployed 15,000 troops to its border with the United States to reduce the flow of migrants seeking undocumented entry into El Norte. It's an unprecedented deployment, but the country is scrambling to reduce the flow of northbound migrants as part of a deal reached with the Trump administration earlier this month to avoid US import tariffs on Mexican goods. The move comes atop 9,000 troops already deployed to Mexico's southern border to prevent Central Americans from entering Mexico. We are watching to see how a cash-strapped Mexican government will balance the twin tasks of keeping Trump happy with border security, while addressing huge domestic security problems at the same time. There are only so many troops available.

The Defense of Human Rights in Europe — The Council of Europe, a 47-member human rights institution, has reinstated Russia's voting rights several years after revoking them over the Kremlin's annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in Eastern Ukraine. Not surprisingly, Ukraine is incensed and other Western European governments see the scot-free readmission as a blot on the integrity of an institution that defends civil liberties for more than 800 million people. But supporters of the move say it's better to give human rights activists struggling within Russia some recourse to the Council's legal protections than to risk stranding them if Russia leaves the body all together. Most Russians polled agree. And from a purely pecuniary perspective, a reinstated Russia will start paying its 10 percent share of the Council's annual budget again.

What We're Ignoring:

Word Bans in Pakistan — The deputy speaker of Pakistan's National Assembly on Sunday banned lawmakers from using the phrase "selected Prime Minister," a favorite of opposition politicians keen to suggest that Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is close to the military, was chosen by the country's generals rather than by the people in last year's election. As you might expect in Pakistan's spirited legislature, the move backfired: lawmakers are just using synonyms like "handpicked" and now the legally questionable ban itself is a focus of opposition ire, drawing far more attention to the original phrase. We are ignoring this unless they try to ban the term "Streisand Effect" next.

People working at computers in a room labeled Malware Lab

Microsoft observed destructive malware in systems belonging to several Ukrainian government agencies and organizations that work closely with the Ukrainian government. The Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC) published a technical blog post detailing Microsoft’s ongoing investigation and how the security community can detect and defend against this malware. Microsoft shared this information over the weekend to help others in the cybersecurity community look out for and defend against these attacks. To read more visit Microsoft On the Issues.

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hi everybody. Happy Tuesday after the long weekend for those of us that had a long weekend. I thought I would kick us off with the first major foreign policy crisis of the Biden administration. And that is of course, Russia-Ukraine. Afghanistan, of course, was a debacle, but not exactly a global crisis. This of course has the potential to really change the way we think about European security and about US relations with the other major nuclear power in the world. So, I would say that the level of concern is even higher and there are a lot of things we can say.
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The looming pandemic debt cliff

Right on the buzzer, Sri Lanka on Tuesday narrowly avoided its first-ever default on its sovereign debt. But the cash-strapped country is still on the hook for a lot more cash this year, which is shaping up to be a very painful one for low-income countries deep in the red due to COVID.

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The Graphic Truth: Deep in the red with China

The pandemic has thrown many already-indebted countries further into the red. The problem is two-pronged for many Asian, African, and Latin American countries. They have taken on huge amounts of debt from the IMF to weather pandemic-related economic uncertainty, while also being caught up in a debt trap set by China, which funds large infrastructure projects in developing states but often with complex or misleading fine print. We take a look at which countries out of a group of 24 surveyed states owe China the most compared to their respective IMF debts.

Ukrainian former President Petro Poroshenko gestures as he walks to address supporters upon arrival at Zhulyany airport in Kyiv, Ukraine January 17, 2022.

Ukraine’s political woes. While Russia maintains tens of thousands of troops on the Ukrainian border, domestic politics in Kyiv are becoming increasingly contentious. This week, former President Petro Poroshenko – who was elected in 2014 after the Maidan Revolution ousted a longtime Putin ally and then defeated for re-election in 2019 – has now returned to Ukraine after a month abroad to face a host of criminal charges. Those charges include treason, an alleged crime related to his decision to sign government contracts to buy coal from mines held by Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine in 2014. Poronshenko, a businessman worth $1.6 billion, says the deal was necessary to keep Ukraine from economic collapse and that the charges are an attempt by current President Volodomyr Zelensky to distract from unfavorable perceptions of the country’s (currently lousy) economic outlook. He also calls it a manufactured crisis and a “gift” to the Kremlin, because it distracts from Russia’s ongoing aggression.

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The Taliban’s never-ending crisis

Afghanistan has now become what the UN is labeling the planet’s worst humanitarian disaster. Indeed, last week the world body issued its largest-ever donor appeal for a single country to battle the worsening crisis there, caused by freezing temperatures, frozen assets, and the cold reception the Taliban have received from the international community since they took over last summer.

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A newborn baby is seen being cared for in the ward of the hospital neonatal care center. The results of the seventh national census of China will be released soon, and some institutions predict that the birth rate will be lower than the death rate for the first time.

7.52: Birth rates in China dropped to a record low 7.52 per 1,000 people in 2021, down from 10.41 in 2019. This comes as the Chinese Communist Party is trying very hard to boost birth rates to revive a slowing economy.

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China’s homegrown COVID vaccines were once crucial — but they're not as effective against omicron as mRNA jabs.

What's more, with with local cases near zero for the better part of the pandemic, most Chinese have no natural immunity. That could spell disaster for Beijing as omicron surges.

Yanzhong Huang, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, warns that the highly transmissible new variant will make zero COVID harder and harder to sustain.

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