What We're Watching & What We're Ignoring
WHAT WE'RE WATCHING
Another shutdown showdown — Unless the US Congress and President Trump reach a deal to fund the federal government by Friday, there will be another partial government shutdown. The issue, once again, is President Trump's request for $5.7 billion to begin building a wall along the US-Mexico border, which the Democrats refuse to grant. Late on Monday night, Democrats and Republicans reached a compromise "in principle" on about $1.3 billion in funding for new border barriers as well as no change to the number of detention spots for undocumented migrants funded by the budget. Democrats had wanted to reduce that number of "detention beds," while the GOP sought to increase it. Congressional leaders seem optimistic, but we are watching to see if this compromise will be acceptable to President Trump himself.
Polar invasion of Russia — Over the weekend more than 50 polar bears stormed a restricted military community on a Russian island in the Arctic, prowling through garbage dumps and apartment blocks in search of food. The local government has declared a state of emergency. Wildlife experts blame the crisis in part on global warming – as Arctic ice floes melt, the polar bears' vast traditional hunting grounds are shrinking, forcing them to look for food in human settlements. As we've written, the Russian government sees a lucrative opportunity to profit from new shipping lanes as the polar ice recedes – but if the polar bears have anything to say about it, things could get ugly fast.
WHAT WE'RE IGNORING
Rome's bid to cook NATO's books — Italy's populist-led government is calling on NATO to change how it calculates members' defense spending. Rome contends that the alliance's requirement that 2 percent of GDP be spent toward defense include non-military investments, like cyber and energy infrastructure. In 2018, Italy spent 1.15 percent of GDP on defense, putting it in 22nd place out of the alliance's 29 members in terms of expenditure. We're ignoring this because it seems like the last-ditch effort of a cash-strapped government, and NATO's not going to buy it.
Middle Eastern peace in Middle Eastern Europe – Coinciding with the 40thanniversary of the Iranian revolution this week, Poland is co-hosting an international conference ostensibly aimed at discussing stability in the Middle East but which has a distinctly anti-Iranian bent. US Vice President Mike Pence and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are set to attend, but most EU foreign ministers are skipping the occasion, as Brussels and Washington still disagree over the wisdom of the Trump administration's decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal last year. We don't expect any groundbreaking announcements to come out of this one, though Poland's right-wing government likely hopes that hosting the event will help it to woo the Trump administration into building a US base – possibly called "Fort Trump" – on Polish soil.