Coronavirus: impacts on global politics

Ian Bremmer's perspective on the impacts of COVID-19 on big issues in geopolitics:

Does a global pandemic like coronavirus bolster the argument for leaders like Xi and Putin to remain in power forever?

Well, you'd certainly think so. I mean, Putin is now moving a constitutional referendum forward so that he can be president for two more additional terms. We'll never get rid of the guy. But is that justified by coronavirus because they can actually crack down and get the population to do whatever they want? I don't think that justifies it, especially because the reason why this pandemic expanded as explosively as it did is because the Chinese lied about it, covered it up, didn't have data, didn't have local officials that were able to have the legitimacy or the trust to understand what they were dealing with early. In an advanced developed economy with transparency and more legitimacy, you wouldn't have had that problem despite all of the ability of the Chinese to then crackdown once they realized at a national level just how dangerous this was.


What lessons can other countries take from Italy's response to coronavirus?

Well, number one, get testing done at scale early, so you know what you're dealing with. I mean, 5 percent mortality in Italy right now is nowhere close to what it really is. It should be about one tenth that. That's because they haven't been doing the testing. And given that it's been explosive, and they didn't contain it, they're now doing everything they can to try to keep people from interacting, the social distancing, which can have a bigger impact on their economy. So, if you can't contain early, you're going to have to take tougher measures that will impact your economy. South Korea's gotten this much better. Singapore, too, but the small than the Italians have.

If coronavirus transmission continues through the year, what will that mean for the US election and Trump?

It's going to change our views on whether or not Trump can be reelected. If it keeps going and it has a meaningful impact on the economy, then obviously the likelihood that he wins reelection against, looks like Joe Biden, is a hell of a lot lower. Also, the likelihood that Trump will earlier interfere with the election to try to ensure that he can secure reelection, that goes up. Questions of the legitimacy of election, is it rigged? Don't wait till November. They probably happen over the next few months.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Listen: Stanford historian Niall Ferguson joins Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast to talk about the geopolitics of disaster. Throughout human history we seem to be unable to adequately prepare for catastrophes (natural or human-caused) before they strike. Why is that? And as we emerge from the greatest calamity of our lifetimes in the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the plethora of crises that climate change has and will cause, what can we do to lessen the blow?

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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