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With Boris Johnson you never know who you’re going to get.
He can be the joker whose gaffes and flippant asides can deceive someone into not taking him seriously. But he’s also the man who, on becoming British prime minister, coldly dispatched enemies in the biggest cabinet purge in decades and who seems dead set on executing Brexit whatever the cost.
The question of “which Johnson” matters: He debuts at the Group of Seven summit this weekend in France, where, as Alex Morales reports, he could tip the geopolitical scales on key issues from keeping alive Iran’s nuclear deal to containing China’s influence. He also stops off in Berlin and Paris en route to Biarritz.
U.S. President Donald Trump has cut an isolated figure at G-7s to date, but that could be about to change. Johnson is his kind of guy, and persuading the U.K. to break ranks with Germany and France (with the promise of a great free-trade deal after Brexit) on things like Iran seems part of the Trumpian plan.
It remains to be seen how Johnson will play this round, but the fact he is considering pushing a U.K. candidate to lead the International Monetary Fund despite a European contender already being put forward shows a willingness to defy allies close to home and cast aside convention.
Protesting too much? | For a president who rebuffs forecasts that his trade war and slowing global growth risk a U.S. recession, Trump — with an eye on his re-election bid — is spending a lot of time outlining policies to avert a downturn. He said yesterday he’s open to a payroll tax cut or bypassing Congress by indexing levies on capital gains, an idea that Democratic front-runner Joe Biden quickly dismissed.
Trump said Jews who vote for Democrats are either ignorant or disloyal after two congresswomen were blocked from entering Israel for supporting a boycott of the country over its treatment of Palestinians.
Republican Susan Collins is caught in the cross-fire that’s defining U.S. politics, turning her from a shoo-in to one of the most vulnerable senators seeking re-election in 2020.
Another detention | China confirmed it’s holding an employee of the U.K. consulate in Hong Kong, a move that’s fueling concerns about foreign diplomatic staff operating on the mainland. Simon Cheng was reported missing after he didn’t return from a meeting this month in the border city of Shenzhen. Tensions have risen between the U.K. and China after the British government defended the rights of protesters in its former colony.
Read how the Hong Kong protests are entering a crucial phase before a key anniversary for China.
About face | Qatar withdrew its signature from a letter supporting China’s human-rights record following international condemnation of Beijing over its detention of as many as two million ethnic Muslim Uighurs. Thirty-seven countries, including Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, signed the missive defending President Xi Jinping’s government in the face of a crackdown in the western province of Xinjiang.
Continuing threat | Islamic State has been battered in Iraq and Syria and declared defeated by Trump. But as Glen Carey writes, its affiliates have proven they can still carry out deadly strikes, gain support and establish footholds from Sri Lanka to Nigeria.
Catch-22 | Zimbabwe’s rulers are finding they can’t escape the trap they themselves set with two decades of economic mismanagement and repression. As Antony Sguazzin, Godfrey Marawanyika and Ray Ndlovu report, pursuing a democratic path to win international financial support for the southern African nation's economy could see voters oust them from power, while worsening hardship may spark a popular uprising.
What to Watch
Italian President Sergio Mattarella begins consultations with leaders of various parties to see if he can carve out a new majority, after the coalition government crumbled yesterday. Trump has agreed to drastically scale back plans to slash billions in foreign aid at Secretary of State Michael Pompeo’s urging, Nick Wadhams and Jordan Fabian report. A rule that would let U.S. immigration agencies detain families longer while they await court proceedings is set to be unveiled today.
And finally...Trump called off a state visit to Denmark (he’d been invited by the Queen), blaming Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen’s unwillingness to discuss the purchase of Greenland after he recently floated the idea of a “large real estate deal” to acquire the island from the Danes. He’d been due to visit Denmark — a NATO ally which supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq — in two weeks. “Deeply insulting,” thundered former premier Helle Thorning-Schmidt. Morten Ostergaard, leader of a party within the government bloc, tweeted that “reality has surpassed fantasy.”
--With assistance from Kathleen Hunter, Karen Leigh, Karl Maier and Alan Crawford.
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