GZERO Media logo

What We're Watching: North Korea's massive weapon, a broken truce in Nagorno-Karabakh, UK's COVID fiasco

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reacts as he attends a parade to mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea

North Korea's massive missile: "We will continue to strengthen the war deterrent," North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said at a military parade Saturday as his armed forces paraded a new intercontinental ballistic missile, the largest-ever rolled out by Pyongyang. Observers were quick to weigh in, saying that though the missile had not been tested yet, it was likely more powerful than the North's previous weapons, and could potentially travel further and inflict more damage. As is always the case with the opaque North Korean regime, it's unclear whether this display — set to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the North's ruling Workers' Party — was a blusterous show of strength by Kim amid failed negotiations with the US and a faltering economy, or whether there's something more sinister at play. Either way, analysts agree, the unveiling of the large weapon is a threat to the US' nuclear deterrence capability.


A tenuous truce in Nagorno-Karabakh: A temporary truce that raised hopes of an end to a weeks-long bloodbath between Armenians and Azeris in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region has already been breached, with both sides blaming the other for violating the humanitarian ceasefire. The truce, brokered by Moscow, was supposed to involve the exchange of prisoners with the hope of paving the way for more dialogue. It comes after the recent round of fighting expanded beyond the rugged highland region to civilian enclaves near the border, resulting in scores of civilian deaths on both sides. Meanwhile, around 70,000 people have already been displaced in the latest escalation — the most intense confrontation in the South Caucasus (where Armenia and Azerbaijan are located) since the two sides fought a years-long war in the 1990s that killed 30,000 people. Now, the temperature only seems to be rising despite the nascent truce: Turkey — which backs Azerbaijan — came in hot on Monday, threatening that the Russian-brokered ceasefire was Armenia's "last chance" to withdraw its forces.

UK's COVID mess: As coronavirus cases continue to surge in the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson implemented a new tiered system of lockdown measures, which aims to target coronavirus hotspots with stricter rules while avoiding the uniform lockdowns seen over the spring. Britain, which has one of the highest COVID-19 death rates per capita in the world, has thus far implemented a byzantine lockdown system and inconsistent social distancing guidelines that many Britons have been accused of flouting (including government officials). In recent days, people have rallied against the new measures, suggesting that the country is suffering from what some experts have called "pandemic fatigue." Indeed, part of this can be attributed to Britons' lack of trust in the government's ability to manage the crisis: confidence in the government's handling of the pandemic currently stands at 31 percent, down from 72 earlier in the year (that's the lowest approval of any government polled by YouGov.) Additionally, critics also say that there are no adequate measures now in place to protect laid-off workers. As a result, the country's hospitality industry has threatened legal action against the British government over the latest restrictions.

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.

More Show less

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.

More Show less

Kevin Sneader, Global Managing Partner at McKinsey & Company, provides perspective on what corporate business leaders are thinking during the global coronavirus crisis:

Should businesses be pessimistic or optimistic about 2021?

It's easy to be gloomy about the year ahead when faced with the realities of a cold, bleak winter in much of the world. Add to that lockdowns across Europe, surging case numbers and hospitalizations, and dreadful events in the Capitol in the US to name a few reasons for pessimism. But I think there is a case for optimism when it comes to this year. After all, it's true to say that it's always darkest before the dawn, and my conversations with business leaders suggest there are reasons to be positive by 2021.

More Show less

Renowned tech journalist Kara Swisher has no qualms about saying that many of the country's social media companies need to be held accountable for their negative role in our current national discourse. Swisher calls for "a less friendly relationship with tech" by the Biden administration, an "internet bill of rights" around privacy, and an investigation into antitrust issues.

Swisher, who hosts the New York Times podcast Sway, joins Ian Bremmer for the latest episode of GZERO World, airing on public television nationwide beginning this Friday, January 22th. Check local listings.

The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's Newsletter: Signal