What We're Watching: Putin's invisible red lines

What We're Watching: Putin's invisible red lines

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.

A Green Party-led government for the world's fourth largest economy? That's no longer far-fetched. As Signal's Gabrielle Debinski wrote last month, most current polls now show Germany's Greens in first place in federal elections set for September 26. And for the first time, the Greens have a candidate for chancellor. Annalena Baerbock is vying to replace Angela Merkel, who has led Germany for the past 16 years.

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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:

How big of a blow is Apple's new privacy feature to companies like Facebook, who depend on tracking users?

The long-awaited update, including enhanced privacy features, actually empowers those users to decide not to be tracked. So that's great news for people who are sick of how the data trail they leave behind on the web is used. But it has to be said, that simple feature settings changed by Apple cannot solve the problem of misuse of data and microtargeting alone. Still, Apple's move was met with predictable outrage and anti-trust accusations from ad giant Facebook. I would anticipate more standard setting by companies in the absence of a federal data protection law in the United States. That's just to mention one vacuum that big tech thrives on.

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Is America's real problem a "narcissism pandemic"? According to Tom Nichols, an Atlantic contributor and author of "Our Own Worst Enemy: The Assault From Within On Modern Democracy,," the coronavirus pandemic has revealed the degree to which Americans expect things to come easily to them. "There is a real selfishness and self-absorption and narcissism that has come with living in a country that is peaceful, prosperous, affluent, super high standards of living—technological innovations that we now just take for granted that things just work." Ian Bremmer asks Nichols to suggest some solutions to the problem in an interview on GZERO World, airing on US public television.

Watch the episode: Make politics "boring" again: Joe Biden's first 100 Days

Immigration has been a major challenge for the nascent Biden administration, testing the new US president's ability to placate moderates on both sides of the aisle, as well as the progressive wing of his own party. Biden initially pledged to keep the US' annual refugee cap at 15,000 — a "ceiling" set by the Trump administration, the lowest in US history. But after that move sparked swift backlash, Biden this week reversed course: 62,500 refugees will now be allowed to enter the US over the next six months. How does this compare to policies set by previous US administrations? We take a look at refugee admittance numbers since 1980.

India's COVID crisis hurts Africa: As COVID started to ravage India in March, New Delhi announced a ban on all vaccine exports to prioritize the domestic crisis. This development was a massive blow for the COVAX facility, which is relying on India's Serum Institute manufacturing the AstraZeneca shot for low-income countries. The impact of this export ban is now being felt acutely across Africa, where many countries have received a scarce number of doses. The World Health Organization says that at least seven African countries including Rwanda, Ghana, and Senegal have already exhausted all their vaccine supplies — and because of delays from India, will now need to wait several weeks for more to arrive. COVAX, which has received 90 million fewer doses to date than it was initially promised, says it needs an extra 20 million doses by the end of June to offset shortfalls caused by the worsening crisis in India. It's a worrying trend: while inoculation drives in places like the US, the UK and Israel are allowing their economies to reopen and life to slowly return to normal, many low-income countries will not return to normalcy for years, experts warn. To date, only 2 percent of all doses administered globally have been in Africa, despite the continent accounting for 17 percent of the global population.

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Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics this week:

No more Netanyahu? Is Israel on the verge of new leadership?

Oh, we've seen this story before. I saw one commenter from the Israeli press saying, "Even a magician eventually runs out of rabbits to pull out of hats," but I'm not sure. Assuming that Netanyahu can't get this government together and it'd be knife-edge if he can and it won't last very long, the idea that the opposition could pull it together is also pretty low. It would be like seven parties together in a coalition, incredibly hard to do, which means Israel may be heading for a fifth election, which would be a problem except for the fact that their economy is doing pretty well right now and their vaccinations are fantastic. So, no, he might still be there for a bit.

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Scots go to the polls this week to vote in their first parliamentary election since Brexit. We already know that the incumbent Scottish National Party will win most seats. Will its majority be big enough to demand another independence referendum?

Almost seven years ago, Scotland turned down independence in a plebiscite by a 10-point margin. But that was before the entire United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union in 2016 — against the wishes of most people in Scotland.

Many Scots felt cheated in the 2014 referendum because a lot of them voted to remain in the UK precisely to also stay in the EU. As post-Brexit political chaos that followed has further boosted nationalist sentiment in Scotland, the outcome of Thursday's vote will be closely watched in four capitals.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal