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Fareed Zakaria GPS
Interview With Larry Summers About Inflation; Supply Chain Hits Roadblock With Trucker Shortage; Interview With Fiona Hill, A Top Russia Expert; The Forgotten Continent In The Climate Change Conversation. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired November 14, 2021 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANCHOR: This is GPS, the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria.
ZAKARIA (voice-over): Today on the program, the prices Americans pay at the pump, the car lot and the cash register are up, up, up. Consumer prices spiked more than they have in over 30 years.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Everything from a gallon of gas to loaf of bread costs more.
ZAKARIA: Why is this happening and can we stop it? I will ask Larry Summers.
Then CIA director Bill Burns went to Moscow earlier this month and talked to President Putin about Russia's military buildup close to its border with Ukraine. Just what are Russia's intentions? Is another invasion imminent? Fiona Hill will weigh in.
And the heartbreaking scenes of the Poland-Belarus border. Migrants stuck in a no man's land, locked on both sides. It is all part of a clever and cruel tactic by Belarus to destabilize Europe. I'll tell you what you need to know.
ZAKARIA: But first, here's "My Take." The joint agreement between the U.S. and China on enhancing climate action was rightly seen as a step forward, but for now, a very small step. It did not have the kinds of specific targets that marked the 2014 agreement negotiated by the Obama administration that preceded the Paris accords which today have been signed by 191 countries and the European Union.
But it did suggest the resumption of serious dialogue between the world's two largest economies and largest emitters of greenhouse gases annually. Coming as it did after years of strained relations between Washington and Beijing it highlights the central dilemma for U.S. foreign policy going forward.
Should it be focused on solving the largest and mobile challenging global problems or should it be focused on competing with China?
As Uri Friedman notes in "The Atlantic," President Biden spoke at the U.N. General Assembly in September.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: It's a fundamental truth of the 21st century. Our security, our prosperity and our very freedoms are interconnected in my view as never before, and so I believe we must work together as never before.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: When thinking about the cutting-edge issues of the future such as climate, pandemics, cyber warfare and cybersecurity, it's difficult to see how much can be achieved without some collaboration between the United States and China. And yet Biden has also promised that his administration would pursue a policy of extreme competition with China. He's embraced many of Donald Trump's policies toward Beijing on trade, technology and Taiwan.
The continuation of each of these approaches may have tactical benefits for the U.S., but as Friedman points out, they could be in tension with the strategy focused on repairing and rebuilding the international system. That latter path is the only way to tackle growing common challenges that countries cannot possibly address individually.
Now for the previous administration, there was no tension between these two approaches because it did not believe in the liberal rules based international order. For Trump, the open trading system, America's alliances, the focus on human rights, these are all scams that allowed other countries to take advantage of the United States. He eagerly embraced a very different approach in which Washington would narrowly pursue its own advantage, often itself breaking rules and violating norms.
You see, right-wing populists from Trump to Russia's Putin to Hungary's Orban to Turkey's Erdogan, all recognize that international institutions, rules and values, are constraints on their ability to act as they wish when they wish. They would prefer a world of nationalism and protectionism and if that means the unraveling of globalization, the open trade system, European Union, even NATO, so much the better.
But Joe Biden comes out of the tradition of American foreign policy that built this open rules-based international order. In an interview with me on CNN last week, Jake Sullivan, the National Security adviser, clearly laid out the goal of U.S. policy towards China.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The object of the Biden administration is to shape the international environment so that it is more favorable to the interests and values of the United States and its allies and partners to like-minded democracies.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: He elaborated on what the international environment should look like.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SULLIVAN: An open, fair, free international economic system and where basic values and norms that are enshrined in the universal declaration of human rights are respected in international institutions.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: Now, can both of these objectives be pursued at the same time? In 2019 Sullivan and Kurt Campbell, now his top aide on the Indo-Pacific at the White House, co-authored a "Foreign Affairs" essay that tries to thread the needle intelligently, arguing that the key will be to get right the balance between cooperation and competition with China.
The essay, which might hold the key to Biden's China strategy lays out a careful and measured policy in the military, political, economic realms. But looking at Washington's polarized environment, it's difficult to imagine any White House being able to move in a nuanced and sophisticated way on an issue that has become as politically incendiary as China.
In their essay, Sullivan and Campbell reject a simple analogy to the Cold War but argue correctly that one can learn lessons from that long struggle. They stress the crucial importance of rebuilding America's strength at home with the government making large-scale investments in science, technology and infrastructure as it did in the 1950s and 1960s. They talk about the importance of allies.
To my mind, the central lesson of the Cold War is that what allowed the United States ultimately to prevail was not toppling some pro- Moscow government in Africa or Latin America, intervening militarily in Vietnam or siding with right-wing dictatorships in Central America. It was building an open international system that secured peace, prosperity and freedom, and allowed all countries that participated to thrive and prosper.
With that central achievement of American foreign policy to be sacrificed to gain some temporary tactical advantage against Beijing, it would be a mistake and indeed a historical tragedy.
Go to CNN.com/fareed for a link to my "Washington Post" column this week. And let's get started.
President Biden said on Wednesday that reversing inflation is a top priority of his. This came after the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Wednesday announcement that consumer prices were up 6.2 percent over the prior year. That is the biggest increase since November 1990, more than 30 years ago. On this program and elsewhere, my next guest has long been warning
about the inflation risk in America today. Larry Summers was Treasury secretary under President Clinton and president of Harvard.
Larry, you've heard Janet Yellen, the White House, all say that they're still not convinced that they have an inflation problem. It's temporary. How do you respond?
LARRY SUMMERS, FORMER U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: Look, they forecasted inflation would be 2 percent this year in the president's budget. It's three times that. They said in the summertime after they've been initially wrong that inflation would be back to normal by the end of the year. Then they said early in the fall that inflation would subside early next year. Now they're saying that it's going to subside in the second half of next year.
Sooner or later I'm sure it will subside but my judgment is, given the inflation momentum that has built up, that it's going to take some significant policy adjustment or some unfortunate accident that slows the economy before inflation gets back to the 2 percent range.
ZAKARIA: What do you mean when you say a kind of dramatic, significant policy action? Are you thinking of something sort of like what Paul Volcker had to do to break the back of inflation in the early 1980s?
SUMMERS: We're not talking about the kind of interest rates that Paul Volcker engineered, but we are talking about a more aggressive approach to monetary policy than the Fed is now talking about.
You know, there's a lesson, Fareed, from the experience of the 1970s, which is the difference between higher and lower unemployment is 2 percent or 3 percent of the people being unemployed.
The difference between higher and lower inflation is 100 percent of the people feeling they're being robbed of purchasing power by higher prices. Now, I can explain and I do in my economics classes, that higher prices mean higher wages so the two go together so it doesn't have that big an effect on people's standard of living. But that's not how most people think about it. I think inflation had a lot to do with electing Richard Nixon. I think it had a lot to do with electing Ronald Reagan.
I think for many people inflation is a test of whether the country is under control. And I think it's, therefore, very important for an administration like President Biden's, for a Fed like Chairman Powell's, that want to project a sense of competent control to be addressing the inflation issue.
ZAKARIA: So, Larry, explain to us, if you are right, why is it that inflation is rearing its head now? For the last 30 years, everyone who has predicted high inflation has been wrong. And you yourself used to write just about a year or two ago about how the basics, what you call the secular trend in the economy was stagnation, was low growth, not likely to trigger inflation. What changed? What happened to change your mind?
SUMMERS: So I've never projected inflation any time in the last 30 years. What changed my mind was that this year we had a fiscal stimulus program equal to 15 percent, 14 percent to 15 percent of GDP in an economy that was only a couple percent short of its capacity. And so if you inject that much demand with that little a capacity margin, it figures you're going to get inflation. And the only time we did anything like it was during World War II or during the Korean War when we got inflation.
ZAKARIA: Now, your biggest concern was about that massive COVID relief bill that passed. Do you share the same concern about the infrastructure bill and the other bill that might go through Congress?
SUMMERS: I don't, Fareed. I would change those bills but if I had to vote up or down on them, I would vote up. There are two big differences. First, those bills spent less over the next 10 years than the massive 2021 bill spent over one year.
Second, those bills, unlike the 2021 bill, have tax increases that cover the expenditures and in addition include significant public investments that will raise the potential of the economy to produce more which will lead to further tax revenue. So it's a completely different picture.
ZAKARIA: So in a sense you're saying the mistake was made by spending that $2 trillion, that's the mistake that has to be remedied. You're not advocating voting down these two bills?
SUMMERS: No, I think it would compound the error we made last spring when we supported much too much money giving away. If now we rejected investments in expanding the economy's capacity would compound the error we've already made if we were to vote down this bill.
Much better to fight inflation by supporting a strong and independent Fed doing what it needs to do, much better working towards tariff reduction, working towards making sure that we procure efficiently, making sure that we support widely available energy, doing what the White House is doing and focusing on congestion, the ports, and reducing shipping costs.
Those are the right steps to contain inflation. We will sacrifice our country's future. We will grow the most important deficits we have, the education deficit, the infrastructure deficit, if we don't pass this bill, and we won't make any meaningful contribution to reducing inflation if we vote down this bill.
ZAKARIA: Larry Summers, sobering words. Thank you, sir.
Next on GPS, countless country songs have been written about the freedom of being a trucker on the open road. But apparently, the job isn't as mythic as it once was. America has a huge trucker shortage and it is a major part of the supply chain crisis. That story in a moment. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
ZAKARIA: If you want to make sure your holiday presents arrive on time, I have two suggestions for you. The first is order everything right now. The other is to sign up to be a trucker. You see the American trucking industry's largest trade association says the industry is short 80,000 drivers. This is creating the biggest kink in the supply chain, according to an article this week in the "New York Times" co-written by my guest Ana Swanson.
Ana, welcome. So everyone is trying to figure out why truckers, why is this the big shortage, even when apparently they're trying to raise wages?
ANA SWANSON, TRADE AND INTERNATIONAL ECONOMICS CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK TIMES: Yes, that's right. So in my reporting about the supply chain, it just kept coming back to this one bottleneck, which is the trucking industry, whether you're talking about congestion at ports and warehouses or shortages in stores. And, you know, speaking with some truckers and people in the industry, you know, the problem really seems to be that it's the working conditions in this industry, it's really fallen out of favor.
For a job that doesn't require a college education, trucking is decently well paid. The median salary is about $47,000 and wages have increased 20 percent since the beginning of 2019. But still truckers talk a lot about the conditions on the road, whether it's long working hours, discomfort of sitting in a truck or sleeping in a truck, a lot of time spent away from family. So, you know, workers have a lot of choice in the economy right now about what kinds of jobs that they're willing to take and that's a great thing for workers.
Unfortunately, it does have consequences for the supply chain and for the broader economy, both in terms of lowering economic growth and leading to inflation as well.
ZAKARIA: Yes, I don't think we completely understand just how grueling the hours are and the conditions. You know, I've read I think maybe it was in your piece it often you used to find husband-and-wife pairs who were willing to kind of do it together because it was so complicated?
SWANSON: Yes, so there's a practice in the industry called teaming, where they'll put multiple people in the cab of a truck together to drive longer hours, and you can imagine if this is with a complete stranger, it can be really uncomfortable. If it's a husband-and-wife team, you know, that could be kind of a nice situation, maybe, but, you know, it is long hours on the road. You know, issues that dirty and potentially dangerous facilities that people are having to stop over.
So the industry is trying to tap into other pools of labor like younger people, women, people of color, but they're really having trouble attracting people at a time when workers have so much choice and the preference is to go to college and get a four-year degree. ZAKARIA: So Paul Krugman, the "New York Times" columnist, tweeted out
a chart in which he sort of tried to explain what the basic reason was, and it's a chart looking at truckers' wages over 40 or 50 years. And it's essentially a straight down line. In other words, while recently wages may have gone up a little over the last 30 or 40 years like many of these blue-collar, non-college jobs, wages have really gone down a lot.
SWANSON: Yes, that's right. So this is a chart of wages index to inflation. So it's a measure of how much real spending power these people have and the answer is not very much. It's really declined since the 1970s and 1980s. And, you know, there are a lot of reasons for this. A lot of people trace it back to the deregulation of the trucking industry in the early 1980s which made truckers more independent contractors.
But, yes, the broader point really is that, you know, there are a lot of lower wage workers in our economy that we found in the pandemic that we really depend on, whether it's home health aides or nurses or truckers or waiters, and these people are both really burned out and really finding in the current economy that they have choices in terms of their jobs, and the question is, you know, are we willing to pay for that?
Are we willing to pay for their wage increases? Because people are often very positive when they talk about wage increases but they're very negative when they talk about inflation, and in economic terms, those are the same thing, they're two sides of the same coin, right.
ZAKARIA: And is there any technological solution? Are we going to see autonomous driving trucks any time soon?
SWANSON: People have been talking about autonomous driving trucks for a long time. They're still not right on the horizon but I do think in the longer run that could be a deterrent to younger people who are thinking about getting into this industry, you know, maybe in five or 10 years, they'll be automated out. I do think if you continue to see this kind of shortage, trucking companies will put more investment into automation.
So it could be something on the horizon. I mean, a lot of people also point out that we have something that is quite similar to self-driving trucks, which is freight trains and the new infrastructure legislation that the White House and that Congress had passed does invest more in freight trains. So, you know, perhaps over the longer run, that will help to ease some of these bottlenecks. Unfortunately, it's not a short-term solution in the coming months.
ZAKARIA: Ana Swanson, pleasure to have you on.
SWANSON: Thank you.
ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, Secretary of State Blinken issued a stark warning to Russia this week. He told Moscow not to make the serious mistake of rehashing its 2014 invasion of Ukraine.
When we come back, Russia's military buildup that inspired that warning.
ZAKARIA: The director of the CIA traveled to Moscow recently and spoke to President Putin about Russia's military buildup close to Ukraine. This week the secretary of state publicly warned Russia against making a serious mistake there.
The concern is that Russia might invade again. The Kremlin called such concerns an "empty, groundless escalation of tensions."
Fiona Hill is a top Russia expert who worked in the senior posts in the Bush, Obama and Trump administrations. She is now a senior fellow at Brookings and the author of "There Is Nothing For You Here."
Fiona, first explain to us, what is the nature of this buildup, and why is it worrying the -- the administration so much?
FIONA HILL, FORMER SR. DIRECTOR FOR EUROPE AND RUSSIA, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: Well, there's a lot of concerns about the scale; there's the size of the buildup and the fact that we've actually seen some of these maneuvers before, usually at times of tension where we've had similar concerns that, you know, Russia might move in.
If we think back to 2008, when the Russians actually invaded Georgia after a similar period of tensions, you know, we saw a lot of military maneuvers. There had been a major exercise on the borders of Georgia and the Caucasus regions, for example.
And at each time where there has been a Russia incursion into Ukraine, or at least in terms of encouraging conflict within Ukraine, we've seen these military maneuvers.
So there is, again, a great deal of concern, for all of the obvious reasons, when you see troop buildup and certain indicators.
But the other thing is it's the timing. There is a lot going on right now. We've also got a crisis on Belarus, on the borders with Byelorussia and Poland, of a deliberately manufactured migration crisis by Alexander Lukashenko, the besieged president of Belarus. And that's just happening to the north of Ukraine.
But Ukraine itself has been, let's just say, under siege from Russia since the annexation of Crimea and the outbreak of war in Donbas going back to 2014. So this has got a long tail to it now.
And Ukraine is in the middle of trying to stabilize its economy with discussions to -- with the IMF about getting a new tranche of loans to Ukraine. So that's happening right now.
Ukraine's also just hosted General Austin, the U.S. defense secretary, and has talked again about a closer relationship with NATO and reviving a lot of the military ties and exchanges with the United States. That's got Russia's attention.
We have a major gas crisis with Europe right now. Putin has been trying to put pressure on Europe to open up the Nord Stream 2 Pipeline, which, of course, has created quite a lot of scandal and -- and tensions with the United States as well.
As you can see here, there's an awful lot going on. There's a lot of complexity here. And there's all the divisions between not just the Europeans and the United States but within Europe itself. There's a -- a fight with Poland. Germany is in the midst of a changeover from Chancellor Merkel to a new coalition government. This seems to be the -- exactly the prime time for Russia to stir up trouble with Ukraine or to put Ukraine on the back foot.
ZAKARIA: In your book you describe the kind of chaos of Trump policy toward Russia. Do you think that there is a smarter way to go in terms of deterring Russia?
What should the West; what should Washington do?
HILL: Well, we have to be in lockstep with all of Europe. And we have to also speak with one voice ourselves in the United States, which seems to be a bit of a tall order right now. Because, I mean, this is also a perfect time for Putin because we're fighting among ourselves in the United States about every conceivable issue. And Russia remains a kind of a domestic political football in the United States after 2016.
So, you know, it's very difficult for all of us to speak with one voice about these issues. But the only way to push back is for the United States to be in lockstep with the European Union.
And within the European Union itself, of course, Poland, which is now being targeted by Belarus and Alexander Lukashenko with this flow of migrants, and also these threats to cut off gas, because the gas pipelines also go through Poland, is in a dispute with the European Union over the extent of European Union laws. Poland has been exerting its own sovereignty. So Poland has become quite vulnerable, too.
So whatever we do, we have to have Poland, all of the European Union, the United States, on the same page, and try to push back against these efforts which are so obvious now -- I mean, they're completely blatant and brazen -- to divide us. We have to push back against that and have a collective response.
ZAKARIA: Putin wants to make sure that this new pro-Western democracy in Ukraine is not going to work, is going to be crippled. Is he succeeding? It seems very tough for Ukraine.
HILL: Yeah, I mean, this is, you know, for him, actually, fairly easy, to, you know, sow discontent, you know, fuel discord and, you know, really rev up tensions. So you're absolutely right. He doesn't want it to succeed and he wants to, kind of, make it very clear to everyone else that he thinks of Ukraine just as a satellite state, a proxy state.
He's talked about Ukraine as being the -- you know, the subservient state, the vassal of Germany and France right now, because they are in charge of trying to do the peace negotiations. He constantly refers to Ukraine as being a proxy of the United States.
And, of course, our domestic mess about Ukraine in -- during the Trump administration didn't help, either, when Ukraine became part of our domestic politics.
So it's incredibly easy for Putin to basically frame Ukraine as a failed state. And everything that he's doing is trying to demonstrate that at this particular juncture.
ZAKARIA: Fiona Hill, thank you for that. Sobering words.
HILL: Thank you so much, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: Next on "GPS," the forgotten continent in the climate change conversation. It may be the one most at risk from it. Where in the world? Find out, when we come back.
ZAKARIA: I want you to meet a crucial new voice in the fight to tackle climate change.
VANESSA NAKATE, CLIMATE ACTIVIST: What do we want?
(UNKNOWN): Climate justice!
ZAKARIA (voice over): Vanessa Nakate is a Ugandan climate activist who says that Africa is too often left out of discussions on climate change. She found herself literally cropped out of a picture by the Associated Press when she posed with four Western climate activists at Davos last year.
Yet, Vanessa says, Africa emits the least amount of carbon but is the most affected by the climate crisis.
Vanessa's first book is just out. It is titled, "A Bigger Picture: My Fight to Bring a New African Voice to the Climate Crisis." And she joins me now.
Explain to us what got you interested in climate and climate activism. You come from Uganda, a country in Africa that is very largely dependent on agriculture, right? NAKATE: Yeah. In 2018 I started to carry out research about the
challenges that people are facing in my country, and at that moment I realized that the climate crisis was one of those challenges and the greatest threat that was facing the lives of so many people.
Because I remembered the news would talk about some of the floods and the landslides. And when I understood how much it was a threat to the livest of the people in my country, I decided I would start speaking up.
And through that, I was inspired by Greta to start the Fridays For Future climate strikes in my country to demand for climate justice and also create awareness of what was happening.
Many people are losing their lives. Many people are losing their businesses. Many people are losing their homes. And countless more are losing their farms as the global temperatures continue to rise.
ZAKARIA: Now, as you know, Vanessa, while all that you say is true and vivid and real, when the leaders of poor countries talk about these issues, what they often say is, "Look, we have to have the ability to provide cheap energy for our people, and cheap energy right now means coal. It often means oil. And large parts of Africa and India and China continue to build coal-fired power plants, continue to burn oil, burn wood.
And the argument made -- the president of Uganda, your -- your -- your own country, said something to the effect, "Look, if you don't allow us to do this, you are not allowing us to move people out of poverty."
What do you say to that argument?
NAKATE: Developing countries are facing very strong pressure to transition to renewable energy or to have more sustainable cities or sustainable communities or sustainable countries.
And many people feel like they have to use coal or oil and gas to develop their economies. That is why it is important for the developed nations to provide climate finance, climate finance that will help and assist developing nations to easily transition to a sustainable world without having to bury their own people.
And I want to talk about the $100 billion climate finance that was promised for vulnerable countries. And it was to arrive in 2020, but it is -- it has been delayed. We are still waiting.
The countries that didn't cause the climate crisis have to face these disasters. They have to face a challenge of transitioning, the pressure of transitioning, with the fear of leaving their people poor or people homeless. And yet the developed world is not ready to give climate finance for communities that are on the front lines, climate finance that will help all of us transition to a more sustainable world.
ZAKARIA: What you describe is necessary, but it feels like it's going to be very hard to get the developed world to provide the kind of funds that will really make a difference.
India has asked for $1 trillion. The technologies that would allow for the wide-scale deployment of renewables in large parts of the developing world, which means, again, cheaper than coal, again, will take time.
It feels like we don't have the time that it's going to take to get all this in place. Does that -- does that get you worried? Does that get you dispirited?
I guess, in a sense, what I'm asking is, given this time pressure, are you still hopeful?
NAKATE: Yes, I -- I am still hopeful. I come from a country that has one of the fastest-changing climates in the world. And, honestly, I just cannot give up. It can be depressing to see climate disasters escalate, to see leaders not doing anything, and to continue to organize.
But I think hope is one of the things that keeps me going, to believe that another world is possible, and we can be able to do that if we continue to mobilize and organize.
ZAKARIA: Vanessa, thank you for that message of hope, and thank you for your work.
NAKATE: You're welcome.
ZAKARIA: Next on "GPS," there are masses of migrants piling up on the border between Poland and Belarus. It turns out this is all part of a clever anti-Europe strategy. We'll explain, when we come back.
ZAKARIA: And now for "The Last Look."
These are familiar, sad scenes, migrants stranded at the edge of Europe, barred from entering by razor wire and border guards with guns.
The current crisis is at the E.U.'s eastern border with Belarus, where an an unexpected surge of thousands of migrants has recently arrived. What is going on, and why are the migrants there?
In this case, there appears to be a specific culprit for the chaos, Belarus itself.
Poland and the E.U. have accused President Alexander Lukashenko's government of luring mostly Middle Eastern migrants into Belarus with the false promise of access to the E.U. -- in other words, baiting them into Belarus and then pushing them to cross into Poland illegally. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen described the
situation at the border as a trap set by the Belorussian authorities, and said the E.U. was considering "sanctioning those airlines who facilitate human trafficking."
Belarus denies the allegations, but observers say the Belorussian government has good reasons to do it. It wants to stoke unrest in Europe as payback for E.U. economic sanctions which were imposed in the aftermath of Lukashenko's crackdown on political opposition.
The sanctions came in response to increasingly bold and violent moves by the Belarusian president. Last year he brutally put down huge protests against his rigging of national elections that August.
In May of this year a Belorussian fighter jet forced a commercial flight to land in Minsk just so authorities could arrest a single journalist critical of his regime.
But in spite of the European sanctions, Lukashenko has continued to brazenly defy, even provoke, the European Union. And he has been able to do so for a simple reason. He has the full support of President Vladimir Putin of Russia.
As the New York Times reported in September, the two countries have come closer and closer to a full-blown merger since Putin backed Lukashenko's re-election.
Lukashenko himself has described the Russian and Belorussian militaries as effectively a single army. To Bloomberg columnist Andreas Kluth, who says the situation at the Belarus-Poland border amounts to "the weaponization of migration and hybrid warfare," there can be no doubt that Lukashenko and Putin are colluding to make it happen.
The Kremlin denies any involvement in the current migrant crisis, but there's no denying that the leaders are close. They met virtually last week and reportedly discussed the matter. The pair have also met in person half a dozen times in the past year alone.
Putin has already demonstrated his appetite for causing havoc in the West through interference in elections, assassinations of exiled dissidents and the spread of misinformation. His alliance with Lukashenko now offers him his closest access yet to the heart of Europe.
Poland, the country these migrants are being pushed towards, has borders with three German states. And authorities there have warned they have counted at least 5,000 crossings with a connection to Belarus.
The perceived threat of out-of-control migration played a key role in the destabilizing rise of populism across Europe in 2015. It isn't hard to imagine Putin seizing new opportunities to stoke the panic in which such populism thrives -- or, taking a page out of the book of Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has repeatedly threatened to unleash mass migration in order to extract concessions from the E.U.
As I've said on this show before, as long as no coherent long-term plan to deal with migration exists, authoritarian governments who control the flow of migration to Europe will use that weakness to their advantage.
What's happening at Poland's eastern border seems to indicate that Lukashenko and Putin are colluding to exert that kind of leverage over European politics. Those who will suffer the most from such cynicism are, as always, the migrants themselves.
Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.