Welcome to Axios World, where two evenings a week we break down what you need to know about the big stories from around the globe. I'm filing this week from Tbilisi, Georgia — more on that in Monday's edition.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Barring a political miracle, far-right provocateur Jair Bolsonaro will win Brazil's presidency in Sunday's runoff election and bring an end to 15 years of leftist rule.
Why it matters: The political situation in Brazil is a particularly extreme offshoot of the populist wave that continues to upend establishment parties all over the world, Axios' Zach Basu writes. Brazil's economic recession combined with high crime rates and corruption scandals at top levels of government have generated a perfect storm of anger and financial distress ahead the election.
The backdrop: The elephant not on the ballot is Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Brazil's president from 2003 to 2011. A once-beloved and now polarizing former union leader, he raised his country's living standards through generous social programs and took part in corruption schemes that resulted in his imprisonment. He was attempting a political comeback before being barred from running in August.
Between 2011 and 2018, per Gallup ...
The big picture: Conditions are bleak, Brazil's government is suffering from a crisis of confidence and Bolsonaro is capitalizing on it.
Joshua Kurlantzick of the Council on Foreign Relations writes for Axios Expert Voices that while Bolsonaro has drawn comparisons to a wide range of populist figures, including President Trump, he may have the most in common with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Ed Luce of the Financial Times began a panel on Brexit this week at Brookings by noting that it now seems “as plausible” that the U.K. will finalize an exit deal with the EU by the March deadline or ...
All of that uncertainty is particularly destabilizing in Northern Ireland and Scotland, both of which voted to remain in the EU, said Brookings’ Amanda Sloat: “It’s raised questions about identity, it’s raised questions of the constitution.”
The prospect of a “hard border” going up between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland that would undermine the 1998 Good Friday Agreement has led to “a huge degree of concern in Dublin and in Belfast,” said Lucinda Creighton, former Irish minister for European affairs.
In Scotland, which voted to remain in the U.K. in 2014 and then voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, there has been speculation about a second independence referendum, or even a separate referendum on EU membership.
Alexander did raise the alarm over “no deal,” though: “It seems the assumption in Downing Street is the Labour Party will step in and save Theresa May. ... I don’t see a parliamentary majority for any of the deals under discussion.”
Counterpoint: Sir Kim Darroch, the U.K. ambassador in Washington and a veteran of numerous European negotiations, said the incentives for a deal that resolves the Irish border issue are so strong on both sides that one will probably be reached in December. Even he admits, though, that the arithmetic is daunting in the House of Commons, which will vote on the deal May delivers.
Saudi Arabia's public prosecutor today said evidence shared by Turkish authorities has led the kingdom to conclude the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was premeditated.
Why it matters: Trump's approval rating on foreign policy has actually jumped, from 41% in August to 45% now, just shy of his 46% overall approval rating. But when it comes to the Khashoggi case, 37% of Republicans believe he has been too soft on the Saudis, along with 55% of independents and 78% of Democrats.
Trump's repeated statements that Saudi Arabia is a "strong ally" of the U.S. are also out of step with public opinion. Asked whether Saudi Arabia is an "ally" of the U.S., "friendly but not an ally," "unfriendly" or an "enemy," more Americans chose "unfriendly" (the top choice) or "enemy" than the first two options.
By the numbers:
The bottom line: The Khashoggi case has been a top news story for three weeks now leading up to the midterms, and Americans generally disapprove of how Trump is handling it. Still, they have bigger concerns. Just 4% consider foreign policy their top issue.
Photo: Vincent Isore/IP3/Getty Images
A fight over a $13 billion project to expand Mexico City’s airport offers an early test for President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador (known as AMLO), who has pledged to totally upend his country’s politics, GZERO Media's Gabe Lipton writes in the latest Signal newsletter.
Why it matters: Although he won’t take office until December, AMLO has already waded into national politics in a controversial way — organizing a nationwide referendum on an ongoing project to transform the airport into the largest in the world.
The vote, which begins today and continues through Sunday, isn’t legally binding, but López Obrador has pledged to honor the result when he becomes president.
Opponents of the vote see a more sinister power play that skirts usual checks and balances. This non-binding referendum will be overseen by a nongovernmental organization rather than the government. Ballots will be set up in just 500 of the country’s 2,448 municipalities, and fewer than 2% of citizens will likely cast ballots.
Indian journalists at a protest against sexual harassment in the media industry. Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images
India is experiencing a #MeToo reckoning, which was a long time coming, writes Axios' Haley Britzky.
Ethiopia now has its first female president and the only female head of state in Africa.
Trump and Putin in Helsinki. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
With the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty on the verge of collapse there could soon be only one remaining treaty — the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) — regulating U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles, Greg Thielmann of the Arms Control Association writes for Axios Expert Voices.
Why it matters: The U.S. and its allies now risk losing another, more vital arms control agreement that provides predictability and transparency regarding Russia’s nuclear arsenal. If Trump and Putin fail to extend New START, an even more dangerous phase in U.S.-Russia relations will be on the horizon.
The bottom line: Unconstrained U.S.-Russian nuclear competition — in both numbers and technology — could spark an arms race as dangerous as that of the early 1980s and add billions in additional costs to an already unrealistic U.S. nuclear upgrade plan.
The world's longest sea bridge, linking Hong Kong, Macau and Zhuhai, opens this week. Photo: Billy H.C. Kwok/Getty Images)
“If they are worrying about iPhones being tapped, they can use Huawei."— Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman responds to NYT report that Chinese spies are listening in to Trump's calls
Thanks for reading — see you Monday evening!