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What We're Watching: Yemen’s Fractured Alliances and An Ominous Russian Explosion

What We're Watching: Yemen’s Fractured Alliances and An Ominous Russian Explosion

A coalition cracking in Yemen - On Saturday, UAE-backed southern separatists took over the presidential palace in Aden, the country's second-largest city. On Sunday, they were bombed by a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia. The Saudis and Emiratis entered the Yemen fray together back in March 2015 to push back against the Iran-aligned Houthis and contain Tehran's expanding influence in the region. But the two countries quickly developed different long-term goals and cultivated very different allies on the ground. The Saudis support the internationally-recognized Yemeni government, while the Emiratis backed separatists that would like to see the country split in two. This weekend's fighting, just weeks after the UAE's drawdown from Yemen, is not the first standoff between Saudi-backed and UAE-backed forces in Yemen, but if it continues, it could be the most destructive. Not what you want to hear about a conflict that the UN has already christened the "world's worst humanitarian disaster."

An ominous explosion in Russia - Last week, an explosion at a missile test site off Russia's northern coast caused radiation in a nearby city to spike to 200 times normal levels. Seven people died in the blast, including five Russian nuclear scientists. Russia has changed the official story several times, but Western spooks think something went wrong while Moscow was testing a new nuclear-powered cruise missile. We're watching this for two reasons. First, because it's a glimpse of the dangers inherent in the new arms race that's developing between the US and Russia. Second, because the poor communication is not a great look for a government that's already under pressure from some of the biggest protests in Moscow in years.

What We're Ignoring:

China's new cryptocurrency - China is apparently "close" to launching its own cryptocurrency. Beijing has been looking into launching a digital renminbi for years, but appears to have intensified its efforts following Facebook's recent decision to back a new cryptocurrency project called Libra. Sounds interesting in theory. Beijing is worried that Libra could undermine its control over its financial system and its long-term effort to promote the renminbi as an alternative to the US dollar. But convincing 1.4 billion people to trade their cash for a digital substitute that authorities can easily track may be a tall order, even for China.

The Hindu Kush Himalayan region, stretching for more than 2,000 miles, is home to the world's highest mountains. The mountain range is also home to the world's third-largest concentration of snow and ice, earning it the moniker the third pole; only the North and South Poles contain more. The glaciers of the Hindu Kush Himalayas are the main source of fresh water for around two billion people living in the region. However, by the end of this century, two-thirds of that snow and ice could be lost because of climate change. A network of data scientists and environmentalists around the world, and on the ground in the Hindu Kush Himalayas, are working to understand the extent of glacial melting in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region, its effects and what can be done to minimize its impact. To read more visit Microsoft on the Issues.

When Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resigned Tuesday — plunging the country into chaos as it faces once-in-a-generation public health and economic crises — he became the fourteenth Italian to vacate the prime ministership in three decades. (For contrast, Germany has only had three chancellors since 1982, and France has had five presidents.)

But Conte, who had no previous political experience until he was tapped for the top job in 2018, is not so much throwing in the towel as he is taking a massive gamble that President Sergio Mattarella will again appoint him to head Conte's third coalition government in less than three years.

The recent dysfunction is unique even within the context of instability-prone Italian politics. How did Italy get here, and what might come next?

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Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics on this week's World In (More Than) 60 Seconds:

What did you think of Xi Jinping's speech at the virtual World Economic Forum?

Well, his last speech at the real World Economic Forum in Davos, I remember being there four years ago, and given that Trump had just been elected, Xi Jinping gives this big, "We want to stand up and be leaders while the Americans are doing America first." And generally speaking, was probably the most important speech of the week. People liked it. This is a pretty different environment, not so much because Trump has gone, but rather because support and belief in Xi Jinping is pretty low. I will say one thing that was generally well responded to was the call not to enter into a new Cold War. Anybody in the business community generally supports that. There's so much integration and interdependence between the US and the Chinese economies that when Xi Jinping says, "We need to find ways to continue to work together," I mean, this is the pro-globalization audience he's speaking to. They generally agree. But otherwise, the message fell pretty flat. So, the idea that China is going to be globally useful on issues of leadership, especially when it comes to anything that might threaten Beijing's sovereignty, they check global norms at the door. And a few examples of that, when Xi called for support for the rules-based international order, that's in obvious contrast with China's violation of the one country, two systems framework in Hong Kong. And they said, "Well, that's a domestic issue." Well, actually that's not what your agreement was with the British handover. And just because you're more powerful doesn't mean that norm doesn't matter anymore.

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Over the weekend, some 40,000 people in Moscow and thousands more across Russia braved subzero temperatures to turn out in the streets in support of imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. More than 3,000 protesters were arrested, and Navalny called on his followers to prepare for more action in the coming weeks.

But just who is Alexei Navalny, and how significant is the threat that he may pose to Vladimir Putin's stranglehold on power in Russia?

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Angry farmers take Indian fort: In a major and violent escalation of ongoing protests over new agriculture laws, thousands of Indian farmers broke through police barricades and stormed the historic Red Fort in New Delhi on Tuesday. At least one protester died in the chaos, while the government shut down internet service in parts of the capital. Farmers and the government are still deadlocked over the new laws, which liberalize agriculture markets in ways that farmers fear will undercut their livelihoods. The government has offered to suspend implementation for 18 months, but the farmers unions are pushing for a complete repeal. Given that some 60 percent of India's population works in agriculture, the standoff has become a major political test for the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling BJP party.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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