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.
Freeland (R) welcomes al-Qunun to Canada. Photo: Lars Hagberg/AFP/Getty Images
Canada is embroiled in escalating disputes with two authoritarian powers, without the U.S. to lean on for support.
In the past three days:
1. A Chinese court sentenced Canadian Robert Schellenberg to death today for drug trafficking, a move almost certainly tied to Canada’s arrest last month of Meng Wanzhou, CFO of Chinese tech giant Huawei.
2. Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland greeted Rahaf al-Qunun — an 18-year-old Saudi who made international headlines last week after barricading herself in a hotel room in Thailand — Saturday night at an airport in Toronto.
The big picture: Ferry de Kerckhove, a longtime Canadian diplomat now at the University of Ottawa, says the disputes put Canada in a "profoundly unusual" position. "We live in an entirely different world,” he says, where the likes of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman are emboldened and know the U.S. won’t stand behind Canada.
“The rest of the world that loves to have Canada doesn't like to come to our defense. If the U.S. drops Canada the way Trump has, you don’t expect them to rush in,” de Kerckhove says.
Since Trump took office, de Kerckhove says, 90% of Canada's foreign policy has been focused on managing relations with the U.S.
The bottom line: "Canada can do very little to protect the liberal international order unless we have strong leaders in Europe pulling in that direction," he says, noting the diminished political statures of Emmanuel Macron in France, Theresa May in the U.K. and Angela Merkel in Germany. "We don't have much clout and there's very little Trudeau can do."
Go deeper: The new age of hostage diplomacy
"Woaaaah, we're halfway there." Photo: Thomas Peter Pool/Getty
We're halfway through the 90-day truce with China that President Trump called in Buenos Aires to seek a wide-ranging solution to the trade war.
Recent economic wobbles give both sides extra incentive to make a deal — and underline the stakes of failing to get one.
Where things stand, from Axios contributor Bill Bishop:
Meanwhile, John MacLeod of Oxford Analytica points out that trade between China and Russia passed $100 billion for the first time in 2018, a year-on-year increase of 27%:
Go deeper: More on that deepening relationship.
May addresses the nation on the need to stockpile tea-drinking supplies in the event of "no deal." Or something like that. Photo: Ben Birchall WPA Pool/Getty
Five weeks ago, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May postponed a vote on her Brexit deal to seek a lifeline from the EU over the so-called "Irish backstop" and run the clock down closer to Brexit Day on March 29. She hoped the time crunch and the specter of a disastrous "no deal" exit would focus minds in Westminster.
How'd that work out?
"Defeat on Tuesday for [May's] Brexit plan has been so thoroughly priced in that MPs are almost blasé about what would be the most shattering rejection of any prime minister in modern times."— Robert Shrimsley in the FT
Assuming May loses tomorrow, she might resign, but probably won't. Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn says he'll table a no-confidence motion, but she'll likely survive that too. If she's still in the job, she'll have three days to present a new plan.
Both "no deal" and "no Brexit" are now distinct possibilities.
What's next: I have no idea, but whatever it is, we'll be covering it closely in the Axios stream.
President Trump has attempted to redefine his Syria policy in a volley of tweets that included a threat to "devastate Turkey economically" if it attacks Kurdish forces in Syria.
Why it matters: Marc Pierini, a former EU ambassador to Turkey and Syria now at Carnegie Europe, writes for Axios Expert Voices that "rump's rhetoric may "further fuel anti-American sentiments in Turkey."
What to watch: "Consequently, Syrian Kurds will get even closer to the [Bashar al-] Assad regime than they already were, hoping to ensure their own survival by earning Moscow’s support. ... Meanwhile, Russia and Iran ... will have an easier job helping Damascus retake control of all borders to the north, probably at Turkey’s expense."
Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios
If you don't subscribe to Jonathan Swan's weekly Sneak Peek newsletter, you really should. Two items from last night's edition for your radar:
1. Of all the disagreements that drove President Trump and then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis apart, one of the most perilous had to do with blowing up Iranian boats.
2. Mattis had "deep concerns" about a request late last year from national security adviser John Bolton for options to attack inside Iran, according to a source close to Mattis.
Poles gather under the banner "Stop Hatred" to honor Adamowicz. Photo: Janek Skarzynski AFP/Getty
1. Pawel Adamowicz, mayor of Gdansk in Poland, has died after being stabbed last night at a charity event. Per AP:
2. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras faces a no-confidence vote this week after a dispute over the name of neighboring Macedonia led to the collapse of his coalition government.
3. File away this line from this week's Economist:
"Putin reckons Belarus could help him retain power after his current and supposedly final presidential term ends in 2024. A full-blown union of Belarus and Russia, created with or without Mr Lukashenko’s agreement, could let Mr Putin dodge term limits in Russia by becoming the first president of a new entity, Russia-and-Belarus."
Battisti (c) lands in Rome, where Salvini was waiting on the tarmac. Photo: Antonio Masiello/Getty Images
Cesare Battisti has been many things: communist militant, convicted murderer, crime novelist, refugee, fugitive. Now, nearly four decades after he escaped from a prison in Italy, he is back in Italian custody.
What to watch: "'This is not the finish line but the starting point,' Salvini said, citing the presence of 'dozens' of other former militants still on the run in countries from Latin America to France,'" per The Local.
An icy crossing in Austria. Photo: Helmut Fohringer/AFP/Getty Images
"[O]ne of the reasons that Britain’s democracy has been such a success for so many years is that the strength of our identity as one nation ... means that when a vote has been held we all respect the result. The victors have the responsibility to act magnanimously. The losers have the responsibility to respect the legitimacy of the outcome. And the country comes together."— Theresa May two years ago this week, in a speech announcing her Brexit strategy
Thanks for stopping by — see you Thursday evening!