COVID-19 in US, Emerging Markets; US-China Blame Game; Venezuela Coup?

What is the coronavirus update? Have emerging markets been spared so far?

The biggest news is that the US might have a lot more mortality from coronavirus than previously expected in the models. Particularly as we start seeing opening of economies. The US is a federal system and states don't necessarily listen to each other. They don't follow the federal government, and people don't necessarily pay attention to what state governments say. Put all that together, expect to see a lot more people get sick. Whether that is 3,000 or 800 deaths a day, two wildly different models, for the next month. What I've seen so far makes me feel a bit more optimistic, because opening up economies isn't people in full engagement. Big difference in what government says and what people do.


Have emerging markets been spared so far?

Not at all. But, it is hitting emerging markets a little later. Also, numbers of cases are suppressed by the fact that they're not doing as much testing. In some cases, also suppressed by the fact that maybe there is reduced transmission with much warmer weather. I hope that's the case, but the doctors aren't agreed. Either way, the developing world is focusing more on keeping economies open than at extended lockdowns. For some of the poorest countries, like in sub-Saharan Africa, where average age can be under 20, and economies aren't as globalized, in many cases, focused more on agriculture, the fact that they are as underdeveloped as they are is ironically buffering and protecting them from the worst of the coronavirus crisis.

What are the consequences of US-China blame game over coronavirus origins?

The most important consequence is that we'll see more confrontation and less interdependence between the two economies. The Americans will be investing less in China, reducing supply chain footprint, allowing Chinese to invest less in the United States, much more scrutiny. Some key American allies will be doing the same. In the wealthier European states. In Japan, for example. But the Americans are not getting coordination from allies. In part, that's about Trump. In part, that's about the way they've decided to engage in blame. Particularly the last couple days, saying this came from a lab in China and the secretary of state and President Trump saying there is conclusive evidence, strong, very strong evidence that that is the case. The Americans have shared that intelligence with key allies and the allies are saying this is all open source. There's nothing conclusive and we don't buy it. Even Australia, which can't stand the Chinese right now, getting into a big fight, not supporting the Americans. Really overplaying their hand. There's no reason why the Americans can't focus on, there was a cover up, it came from China, we're blaming the Chinese for that. But by going too far, it's like the weapons of mass destruction moment that Colin Powell, Dick Cheney, had in the Bush administration on Iraq. The Americans lose more credibility hitting the Chinese on this.

Finally, what's going on in Venezuela?

According to the Venezuelan government, there was an effort to invade and stage a coup against Mr. Maduro, that included two Americans, former Green Berets, they are saying. The Venezuelan opposition are denying. The American government is denying. We have no idea what the truth is. You can't imagine the American government saying, that was us, if that was indeed the case. But the Venezuelan government has even less credibility than the US and the opposition. It would not surprise me at all if there were a couple of Americans involved in a military incident. That doesn't mean that it was supported directly or indirectly by the US government. They could be mercenaries for hire. They could be ideologically aligned. They could be dual nationals, Venezuelans or Colombians. There's been a lot of talk, but no one in the Trump administration, now that Bolton is gone, actively interested in a military solution for Venezuela. In fact, Trump was resistant for Bolton's hard line. He was undermining Bolton both privately and publicly. So, I'm deeply skeptical of that, as I'm deeply skeptical of most things that come out of the Venezuelan government these days.

Beyond simply accumulating too much waste, we also recycle and repurpose so little of it. 3D printers, however, can reverse this pattern. Among the most used tools in the "circular" economy, these printers help reduce production costs, release fewer greenhouse gases, and reduce the use of raw materials by allowing objects to be repaired.

See how they work on the 7th episode of Eni's new Energy Superfacts series.

You've probably heard a lot in the past three days about Senator Kamala Harris, her background, and the ground-breaking nature of her candidacy for US vice president.

But now that the cheering crowds have logged off and the virtual confetti has been swept away, we're left with a basic question: will Kamala Harris make a difference — on the campaign trial and maybe in the White House — for Joe Biden?

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Kevin Sneader, global managing partner for McKinsey & Company, provides perspective on how corporate business leaders think in response to the coronavirus crisis:

What is the role of HR going into the next normal?

Well, this is a time of reset and one big reset that I see is around the role of HR. I think it's time for HR to shift from being a transactional partner around compensation, organization charts, and benefits to being a truly integral architect of change. Now, that's been happening for years in the best performing HR departments. It Involves rethinking talent requirements, capturing what was learned about individuals and organizations during the course of this pandemic, and even learning and growing in a world in which remote working has to be combined with working back in the office or the manufacturing facility. A world where incentives needs to be rethought. And where employee experiences need to reflect a very different reality. So, there's a big reset going on and I think that reset needs to embrace HR both in terms of what HR can do, the role of the CHR role, and indeed the way in which together HR becomes a true architect for change, just as it has done for many years, perhaps unnoticed, and not give enough credit by those who really should know better.

An open letter in Politico by a group of foreign policy experts says the US should take a much tougher approach on Russia. In this edition of The Red Pen, Ian Bremmer is joined by Eurasia Group analysts Alex Brideau and Zach Witlin to point out some reasons why diplomacy and realism are critical in the US approach to Russia.

And today, we're taking our Red Pen to an open letter titled "No, Now Is Not the Time for Another Russia Reset." It was published in Politico and signed by 33 foreign policy experts, including diplomats Bill Taylor and Kurt Volker, who both testified at the impeachment hearings, as well as a bunch of military intelligence and diplomatic figures. And as it turned out, actually, we were Red Penned here, because it's a response to this piece, also in Politico recently, that I cosigned with a different group of Russia experts, including Fiona Hill and Jon Huntsman.

Both letters talk about the road ahead for US relations with Russia. The one I signed argued that the US needs to know when there will be opportunities to work with Russia and when Washington has to push back. The central argument in this article is that there's no point in talking to Russia until Putin changes his mind. So, what we have here is an open debate about the issue. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty we agree on and plenty of places where no red ink is required.

We agree that Russia bears plenty of responsibility for the current state of affairs. It occupies territory that belongs to Georgia and Ukraine, two sovereign states. And it interfered in the 2016 US election and continues to do so as we speak. Moscow has also killed dissidents in Europe, assassinated them. So, I mean, you know, no one is trying to justify any of that belligerent behavior. And we also agree that while the United States can fine tune its policy all we want, it actually takes two to tango. Recent talks with the Russians have not been too successful, but since the red pen is here, it is time to highlight some areas of disagreement. So, here they are.

Point one, the authors argue that there's no point in talking to Russia about much of anything until Putin changes his act. They write that "by arguing that it is the United States and not Russia that needs a 'current change of course' the authors of the open letter (that's us) get it exactly backward."

If the US takes an all or nothing approach with Russia, it will end up with nothing. Look, I mean, I certainly expect and understand that we should have a more hawkish line on a bunch of things with the Chinese as well, but that doesn't mean you can't work with these countries on climate change, on space, on a bunch of areas where it's actually really important. These are still large economies. In the case of the Russians, the largest nuclear arsenal in the world along with the United States, and I would argue that leaving the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Agreement was a mistake, leaving the Blue Skies Agreement, the Open Skies Agreement was a mistake. That you have to work even with your antagonists, and that's important. That means that we should be pursuing diplomacy and cooperation where we can while also vigorously defending our own interests where we can't. This strikes me as a fairly obvious baseline understanding of international diplomacy, and I'm always surprised when people push back against it.

Point two, the authors write that the US should "maintain, even enhance sanctions" on Russia unless a long list of demands are met, like withdrawing troops from Ukraine, including Crimea, and ending cyberattacks and election interference.

Nobody is saying we should give in to Russia on any of those issues. The bottom line is that the above list of demands is already US policy. How more sanctions would change Russian behavior? Doesn't make a lot of sense. You need your allies on board for sanctions to work. And sanctions work best when they're calibrated and targeted. When they have clear benchmarks that when met, lead to easing of those sanctions. And when they're paired with diplomacy. Russia's a big nuclear armed country, unlike, say, South Africa. Russia's not going to simply be sanctioned into surrender. Maintain the sanctions but expanding them at this point strikes me as having very little likelihood of return and only marginal increase of sanctions that we could do.

Point three, the authors say that the US should not resign itself to accepting "Russia's repression, kleptocracy and aggression" as that provides no incentive for Putin to change.

Now, we agree. The US cannot accept Russian misbehavior, but we need to be realistic about what we can actually change, like stopping Russian election meddling, and what we can't, like Russia's kleptocracy. We can and should do our part to stop dirty money from coming into the US and Europe but changing Russia's domestic system is another story.

So, in conclusion, the Russians are an antagonist of the United States. Their revisionist power, they're in decline. They are trying to undermine the Americans, the Europeans, and the transatlantic relationship. All true. But I actually think that there are areas where we still need to be working with lots of states that we really don't like and don't trust, and yes, Russia is one of them. By the way, New START, the nuclear arms reduction treaty signed in 2010 by the US and Russia expires in February 2021. Open dialog right now could save it and I think it's worth saving. Let's work on that.

"We now have for the first time, pre-COVID, a very good sense of where the gaps are" says former CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden on pandemic preparedness. But in order to prevent another pandemic from bringing the world to its knees, he argues, the United States must play a more proactive role on the global stage. First step: work much more closely with the CDC (and don't, for starters, pull funding during a pandemic).