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.
"So ... how was breakfast?" Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
President Trump and Chairman Kim are returning to their respective capitals empty-handed, with conflicting explanations for how talks broke down and where we go from here.
Why it matters: In Hanoi, Vietnam, Trump showed both flexibility — he backed off the long-standing U.S. demand that any deal requires complete and verifiable denuclearization — and a willingness to walk away. The summit also laid bare the limits to his charisma-based negotiating style and revealed just how far the two sides are from agreeing to anything of substance.
Catch up quick: In a press conference this morning, Trump looked dejected but still called Kim “quite a guy,” said progress had been made, and he insisted the U.S. was on track to become “very good friends with Chairman Kim and with North Korea.”
Between the lines: North Korea’s demands on sanctions relief still went far beyond what was likely to be accepted in exchange for limited steps toward denuclearization.
While the abrupt ending of the summit was a surprise, the absence of a major breakthrough was not.
The question now is whether this was a bump in the road or if we’ve now veered entirely off course.
Behind the scenes: For the South Koreans and anyone banking on positive momentum, this was a bad outcome. As Axios’ Jonathan Swan points out, hawks like John Bolton won’t share that disappointment.
The bottom line: “Now that many of the critics ... have got what they wanted — a tougher approach to North Korea — they have to accept the consequences, whatever they may be,” write Joel Wit and Jenny Town of 38 North.
Modi at Tuesday's Gandhi Peace Prize ceremony. Photo: Sanjeev Verma/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Pakistan and India came closer to the precipice of war this week than they have in decades, Madiha Afzal of Brookings writes for Axios Expert Voices, and they may have further yet to go.
Background: The crisis began with a Feb. 14 attack by Jaish-e-Muhammad, a Pakistan-based militant group, that killed 40 Indian paramilitary soldiers in Pulwama, Kashmir.
Between the lines: As the world largely leaves it up to these two countries to resolve this crisis, Modi faces pressure to act muscularly in the lead-up to India’s May elections. But it’s hard to see how another round of escalation would benefit his endgame, given Pakistan’s willingness to retaliate.
What’s next: If Khan and Modi meet, Modi might ask for Pakistan to take concrete, permanent steps against Jaish-e-Muhammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Netanyahu. Photo: Getty
Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit today announced his decision to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in one case of bribery and two cases of fraud and breach of trust, Axios contributor Barak Ravid reports. All indictments are pending a hearing.
Why it matters: The announcement comes after more than two years of investigations and less than two months before Israel's highly anticipated April 9 elections. It's also the first time in Israel's history that a sitting prime minister will face criminal charges.
In the past 8 days, Netanyahu boosted a racist, extreme-right party in a bid to form an unbeatable right-wing bloc. Then his chief rivals joined forces, united only by their desire to topple him. Now come the indictments.
Juan Guaidó (R) with Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro today in Brasilia. Photo: Andressa Anholete/Getty Images
Five days on from what some hoped would be a decisive moment in Venezuela’s power struggle, Nicolás Maduro remains in power and National Assembly President Juan Guaidó remains outside Venezuela’s borders.
What to watch: Guaidó says he will return to Caracas this weekend despite fears he might be arrested for orchestrating the showdown at the border last Saturday. Jailing Guaidó would cross a U.S. red line and raise the risk of military confrontation.
Rob Malley, president of the International Crisis Group, recently met with allies of both Maduro and Guaidó in Venezuela. He says there’s a sense among more pragmatic actors that Trump’s forceful demands could make it harder to enter negotiations.
What’s next: Malley says that “walking around Caracas, you don’t get the feeling this is a government walking on eggshells, believing a military intervention is imminent.” The regime may actually become emboldened, sensing that risk is fading. That presents another risk: miscalculation.
Right-wing firebrand Jair Bolsonaro is now two months into his presidency, and he is expected to visit Washington in mid-March.
What to watch: Murillo de Aragão, CEO of political analysis firm Arko Advice, says the key to that visit will be to show Brazil's economy is open to the world and ripe for foreign investment.
The big picture: Martin Aguirre, editor-in-chief of Uruguay's El Pais newspaper, emails that if Bolsonaro pulls off pension reform, "it could boost both the trust in the new government and the economic situation in the country. It's definitely a key issue for the near future of the whole region. Brazil is the most powerful economy in the region, and if it starts to really pull, we might all benefit in a big way."
The World Health Organization said Thursday it was deeply concerned over 2 violent attacks on Ebola treatment centers in 2 cities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo this past week, Axios' Eileen Drage O'Reilly reports.
Why it matters: Doctors without Borders (MSF), one of the lead international organizations helping fight the second-worst outbreak on record of the deadly virus, is now suspending its medical activities in the heart of the outbreak.
What's happening: A "toxic environment" has been created by a combination of people who don't believe Ebola exists and don't trust the government or international relief workers efforts, in addition to local politicians "promoting lies about Ebola," DRC spokesperson Jessica Ilunga told Eileen.
Nobel Peace laureate Kailash Satyarthi (R), fashion designer Rachel Roy and some guy in a blue suit.
Thanks to all the Axios World readers who came out on Tuesday evening for our screening of "The Price of Free."
A boy waits for his family inside a polling place in Nigeria. Incumbent Muhammadu Buhari was declared the winner. Photo: Luis Tato/AFP/Getty Images
"Americans know the cruelty that was placed on Otto Warmbier by the North Korean regime. Our hearts are with the Warmbier family for their strength and courage. We will never forget Otto."— Nikki Haley, indirectly criticizing Trump's comments on Warmbier
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