Historic EU COVID recovery fund deal; Turkey and Greece Aegean dispute

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on this week's World In (More Than) 60 Seconds:

How will the EU coronavirus recovery fund work and are there winners and losers?

How it's going to work? Hundreds of billions of euros being distributed between, its collective redistribution from wealthy countries to poor countries. And that money has been now unanimous agreement between all 27 members of the European Union. Not 28, the Brits are no longer a part of the table. And it's historic. It's by far the biggest political success that we've seen anywhere around the world in providing real multilateral leadership to help make it easier for those countries that are suffering the most. In the case of Europe, that means the poorer countries that don't have the ability to bail out their devastated economies. Again, you are seeing double digit contractions across Europe economically this year. Now you're seeing hundreds of billions of euros, half of that will be grants, don't need to pay back, half will be loans. That was a big part of the of the debate, of the controversy.


And who's it going to go to? It's going to go to the southern Europeans, like Italy, like Spain. It's going to go to the Eastern Europeans. And part of that, that's where you have some of the problems that some of those East Europeans do not actually support. All of the mandated rule of law, independent judiciary that you're supposed to, to be a part of the EU, the EU has not been able to sanction them. Countries like Hungary and Poland precisely because you need unanimity to do so and it's hard to get unanimity. Some of the wealthier countries are saying, "well, we're not going to give that money unless we can ensure that everybody that gets it actually is aligned politically." Well, that didn't work. So, countries like Poland and Hungary will continue to have their political systems diverge from those of the west and the north. That's bad for Europe long term, but for the short term, Euroscepticism is actually on the decline, not on the rise, because even if you're a Eurosceptic in a country like Italy or Greece or Hungary, if they're saying they're going to give you money to help bail you out, mutualized debt, something that no one thought could have happened before the pandemic, you're reasonably happy with that. I mean, you know, you're not going to give up free money. That's how I like Ayn Rand Institute accepting cash from the US government. You know, I mean, you read "Atlas Shrugged." I mean, I suppose, though, it was horrible, but that doesn't mean you won't take free money from the government. That's just your ideology. Who cares about that?

What is going on with Turkey and Greece in the Aegean Sea?

Well, the Turkish government is now sending a bunch of military vessels, looks like towards this Greek economic exclusion zone, which is where the Greeks are saying they have the right to exploit resources in the Aegean Sea. The Turks are contesting that. It's kind of like the dispute you've seen in the South China Sea, where the international community clearly supports one set of norms in the fishing and mineral rights that are off of countries borders. But the more powerful country militarily in the region, China, is trying to subvert that. That is what we are potentially now seeing with Turkey and the Greeks. With the Turks saying they have the right to exploit and providing licenses for doing so and suddenly a bunch of military ships showing up. Very interesting because Greece and Turkey are both NATO allies. The Americans are supporting the Greeks, as the international community broadly does here, in terms of their definition of what their territoriality actually implies, where it expands to. But that doesn't mean the Turks are going to listen. And the fact there's been a bit of a bromance between President Trump and Turkish President Erdogan complicates this. So, we should watch this very closely. Big win for the Greeks in terms of the EU deal, potentially big problems in terms of the fight with Turkey.

Finally, is Russian influence in UK politics really the "new normal?"

I'm going to say no. I think people continue to exaggerate what the Russians are actually able to accomplish. It is true that they provided lots of disinformation and certainly weren't saying, they weren't open about it, they weren't saying "this is coming from Russia." It wasn't state propaganda. It was pretending to be local actors with the Brexit referendum, with the Scottish independence referendum, and of course, in the United States with the US elections. But the amount of money is relatively limited. And the outcomes, I would argue, are much more divisive because of problems in these countries themselves. The Russians tried to have that same kind of impact on the German elections and it failed. Why did it fail? Because the German people were generally happier with their social contract, generally weren't prepared to listen to crazy extremist conspiracy theories. In the US, in the UK, where lots of people increasingly feel like their own systems are delegitimized and rigged, they're more willing to listen to wackos. And so, they're more susceptible to delegitimization efforts, whether they're domestic or international. So, if you really want to fix this, I mean, yes, the US needs to respond and show that if the Russians hit us on cyber, we're going to hit them on cyber. That tit for tat is completely understandable and appropriate. But you're not going to fix the problem until you actually build your own resilience at home and that's what we need to be doing. Certainly true for the UK.

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Ukraine is once again in a tough spot.

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Listen: Soumya Swaminathan calls for a massive increase in the global vaccine supply in order to prevent the rise of more dangerous and vaccine-evading super-variants, in a wide-ranging interview with Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast. Dr. Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at the World Health Organization, argues that vaccine nationalism, where countries prioritize their own citizens ahead of the rest of the world, will only prolong the pandemic because a virus does not stop at any national border. She also weighs in on a controversial new WHO report investigating the origins of COVID-19 and discusses when she thinks the world's children should get vaccinated. In addition, she suggests we may see alternative vaccine forms, like nasal sprays, sooner than we think.

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.

India, the world's third largest emitter of carbon dioxide, is one of the countries worst affected by climate change. But it takes issue with those now asking it to clean up its act. Why, the Indians ask, should we give up our right to get rich by burning fossil fuels like you developed economies have done for generations?

That's precisely the message that India's energy minister had for the US and other wealthy nations at a recent Zoom summit after they pressured Delhi to set a future deadline for net zero emissions. For India, he explained, such targets are "pie in the sky" aspirations that do little to address the climate crisis the country faces right now.

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The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics are nearly a year away, but discussion of a potential boycott is already stoking tensions on both sides of the US-China relationship. Officials in Washington and other Western capitals are coming under mounting pressure from activists to respond to human rights abuses in China. An increasingly assertive Beijing, meanwhile, vigorously rejects any foreign criticism of what it regards as internal issues.

The last time the US boycotted an Olympics was in 1980, when it withdrew from the Summer Olympics in Moscow to protest the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan. Four years later, the Soviet Union repaid in kind by skipping the Games in Los Angeles. Would the US and its allies do something like that again? And how might China respond? Eurasia Group analysts Neil Thomas and Allison Sherlock explain the drivers of the boycott movement and its possible fallout.

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In two weeks, US President Joe Biden will be hosting an online "climate summit" to mark Earth Day. He'll ask China and India to sign up to America's ambitious new plan to slow down climate change. Will they go for it? China is the world's largest polluter, but Beijing is rolling out solar and wind power as fast as it's burning coal. India, meanwhile, is loathe to pick up the slack for rich countries that polluted their way to wealth and now want everyone else to agree to emissions cuts. No matter what happens, any successful plan to reduce global emissions will require buy-in from these three nations which, along with the European Union, account for almost 60 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions nowadays. Here's a look at emissions by the world's top polluters compared to everyone else over the last two decades.

Two big Andean elections: This Sunday, Ecuadorians go to the polls for the second time this year in a close presidential runoff, while Peruvians will vote in the first round of their own presidential election. In Ecuador, the matchup is between the leftwing-populist frontrunner Andrés Arauz, who has pledged to blow up the country's IMF agreements and boost national oil production, and Guillermo Lasso, a pro-business candidate who is seen as the choice of continuity with the current market-friendly government. Voter abstention is likely to be high, and the final result could very well be close and contested in a polarized country that was struggling with massive social unrest even before the pandemic struck. Meanwhile in Peru — which recently went through three presidents in the space of a week — the candidate field is hugely fragmented. Those with a decent shot to make it to the second round include "change" candidates like the leftist former lawmakers Yohny Lescano and Verónica Mendoza, as well as the prominent neoliberal economist Hernando De Soto, who has recently risen in the polls. Former soccer star George Forsyth is also in the mix, as is Keiko Fujimori, daughter of authoritarian former president Alberto Fujimori. Both of this Sunday's elections will serve as a kind of bellwether for the political mood in a region that has been devastated by the public health and economic impact of the pandemic.

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Nasal sprays, oral vaccines, and other new types of COVID-19 vaccines may be ready soon, according to Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at the World Health Organization. She previews some of these needle-less vaccines and notes that the possibility of being able to store vaccines at room temperature could be a game-changer for vaccinating poorer nations. The advantage of nasal sprays, she explains, is that they "would generate local mucosal immunity in addition to systemic immunity." Dr. Swaminathan's conversation with Ian Bremmer is featured on the latest episode of GZERO World, airing on US public television stations starting this Friday, April 9. Check local listings.

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