What We’re Watching: Venezuela Unplugged

Is Moscow Dropping Maduro?
Moscow has removed the bulk of its defense advisers from Venezuela, because the cash-strapped regime of Nicolas Maduro can't pay them, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal yesterday. Adding to the intrigue, later in the day, President Donald Trump cryptically tweeted that he'd received word from Russia that "most of their people" had left the South American nation. The Kremlin's support has been crucial for Maduro – who has so far faced down a challenge from opposition leader Juan Guaido – and until now, Venezuela has spent a lot of money on Russian weapons. But if the cash is running dry and Moscow's support is fraying, will this alter Maduro's calculus? More importantly, will it alter the calculus of the generals whose continued support is keeping him in power?


Weather Report from the new "Arab Spring": Shots fired, elections cancelled
Earlier this spring, popular protests in both Sudan and Algeria ousted strongmen who had ruled for decades, creating hope for change in two countries burdened with notoriously repressive regimes. But in both cases, the military men who propped up those regimes have held on to power, angering street protesters who want systemic change rather than just a change of faces at the very top.

Over the weekend, that difference of aims turned deadly in the Sudanese capital, when soldiers opened fire on protesters who have camped outside the military's HQ for two months demanding a swift transition to civilian rule. Meanwhile, in Algeria, an interim government made up of old regime figures cancelled fresh elections scheduled for next month after hundreds of thousands poured into the streets to denounce them as a regime-controlled sham.

What we're ignoring

Reports about the purge or execution of North Korean officials – Last week, a South Korean paper quoting a single source reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was so annoyed at the failure of his Hanoi summit with Donald Trump that he'd executed several of his nuclear negotiators and sent his top diplomat, Kim Yong-chol, to a re-education camp. Plausible enough for a guy who's reportedly executed dozens of people, including his own family members. But then, over the weekend, North Korean media showed Mr Kim (the diplomat) seated contentedly alongside Dear Leader Kim at a concert. Either his stint in the camp provided him a remarkably quick reeducation or this is a reminder that it's almost impossible to know what is really happening inside a society as grotesquely repressive and secretive as North Korea's

In Italy, stacks of plastic boxes in supermarkets and stores are not garbage - they are collected and reused, thanks to a consortium that specializes in recycling them for food storage. How do these "circular" plastic boxes help reduce energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions?

Learn more in this episode of Eni's Energy SUPERFACTS series.

Over the past few years, we've seen three major emerging powers take bold action to right what they say are historical wrongs.

First came Crimea. When the Kremlin decided in 2014 that Western powers were working against Russian interests in Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops to seize the Crimean Peninsula, which was then part of Ukraine. Moscow claimed that Crimea and its ethnic Russian majority had been part of the Russian Empire for centuries until a shameful deal in 1954 made Crimea part of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic. Americans and Europeans imposed sanctions on Russia. But Ukraine is not part of NATO or the EU, and no further action was taken.

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British economist Jim O'Neill says the global economy can bounce back right to where it was before, in a V-shaped recovery. But his argument is based on a lot of "ifs," plus comparisons to the 2008 recession and conditions in China and South Korea that may not truly apply. Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group's Robert Kahn take issue with O'Neill's op-ed, on this edition of The Red Pen.

Today, we're taking our Red Pen to an article titled "A V-Shaped Recovery Could Still Happen." I'm not buying it. It's published recently by Project Syndicate, authored by British economist named Jim O'Neill. Jim O'Neill is very well known. He was chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management. He's the guy that coined the acronym BRICS, Brazil, Russia, India, China. So, no slouch. But as you know, we don't agree with everything out there. And this is the case. Brought to you by the letter V. We're taking sharp issue with the idea that recovery from all the economic devastation created by the coronavirus pandemic is going to happen quickly. That after the sharp drop that the world has experienced, everything bounces back to where it was before. That's the V. Economists around the world are debating how quickly recovery will happen to be sure. But we're not buying the V. Here's why. W-H-Y.

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The United States and the European Union have comparable population sizes, but their COVID-19 death toll trajectories have recently become very different. Since the beginning of July, the average number of both new fatalities and new deaths per 1 million people is rapidly increasing in the US while it remains mostly flat in the EU. We compare this to the average number of new cases each seven days in both regions, where the US trend continues upward but is not surging like the death toll. EU countries' robust public health systems and citizens' willingness to wear masks and maintain social distance could explain the disparity.

"Neither America first, which is ultimately America alone, nor America the world's policeman," Sen. Chris Coons told Ian Bremmer in describing VP Joe Biden's approach to foreign policy should he win the presidential election in November. In the latest episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer, Sen. Coons provides details of how U.S. relationships with foreign governments and multilateral alliances could change in a Biden presidency. He also defended President Obama's track record, saying "I think it is a mischaracterization of the Obama-Biden foreign policy for President Trump to say that we were picking up the tab and fighting the world's wars and that we were disrespected." Coons stated that Biden would work to restore U.S. involvement in alliances like NATO, and shore up global support to pressure China on labor and environmental standards. The exchange is part of a broad conversation with the Senator about COVID response and economic relief, Russian interference in elections, and the 2020 presidential race. The episode begins airing nationally in the U.S. on Friday, July 10. Check local listings.