Ian Bremmer: COVID-19 Is A Global Crisis

The lack of international political response, the politicization of the crisis, leads to less efficiency, to longer shutdowns, and extensive economic impact.

In the US: governors and mayors are doing different things. If decisions on what is or is not an essential good differ from state to state, it's hard to put together a supply chain for goods produced across states. The implications are larger. You can shut down all of California, but if you don't have control over the state borders (and you don't), people can move. What happens when you try to restart, & there are outbreaks in other states?


This is not a national crisis. It affects the entire world. We've not seen a crisis to this extent in our lifetimes. The 2008 financial crisis was a piece of the economy that racked global markets, but didn't impact every sector in the global economy. This is affecting the supply chain and global consumption. It's stopping people from traveling, from engaging in livelihoods.

If you want to respond to a global crisis, you need a global response. If you have cancer and you see an ophthalmologist who says, "I know how I can fix your eyes," - the cancer is still spreading. You've got to focus holistically, and we don't have a holistic response globally.

We have a lot of finger-pointing between the United States and China. President Trump sees that if we blame the Chinese, we can be on a war footing. Fighting an invisible war against the "Chinese virus". That's a way to improve Trump's approval ratings. Being on a war footing domestically usually leads to an improvement in popularity. We see that in South Korea, where they've been pretty effective, but also in France and Italy, where they're experiencing disaster economically. But the popularity of the governments has been going up - patriotic response, "we're at war." You can't win a war against terror, but you can win a war against coronavirus. You can find a vaccine. You can get rid of it, even at vast personal costs. That's why Trump is doing it. But - it needs to be a global war because it is a global pandemic and there is no global leader. We don't have global soldiers. There's no global arsenal to fight a global pandemic. The likelihood that this continues to spread gets higher.

This conversation about extending the curve, makes sense, because you want to ensure that health care systems are not overwhelmed, you need time to build them up so that the people racing to ICUs because they desperately need it, aren't turned away - that would lead to people with critical care needs untreated. But if they're not globally connected, then the likelihood that one country is successful, but cases pop up; we're now seeing that South Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan are seeing larger numbers of cases again. I have no doubt they will respond effectively, but secondary outbreaks are coming in large part because the rest of the world isn't coordinated.

As the weather gets warmer in our part of the world, New York, the northern hemisphere, in sub-Saharan Africa, and South America, it's much more likely that you're going to have new breakouts. Those breakouts will be larger without international coordination. We are a year minimum away from functional vaccines. We're much closer to that to the ability to, at scale, treat people that have coronavirus. But reducing some of the effects of coronavirus is not healing it. If we had something that responded well to flu, we'd be giving it to people with flu. We don't.

And so, the early stage, medicines being talked about, including at press briefings by President Trump, may have some success for people that have already already gotten the virus. But that's very different from saying that this is somehow going to change. So, I do think that we're now looking at a shut down in the United States, not just for a matter of weeks, but for months. You're going to see that in Europe and the potential that hitting the southern hemisphere is growing.

The human spirit is indomitable. I have no doubt we will eventually get a vaccine. But this is going to be a very trying time, made much more trying by the fact that the politics are so inefficient & so misaligned. I wish I could say it was just about the US election. It's not. It's a global and structural issue.

In Italy, stacks of plastic boxes in supermarkets and stores are not garbage - they are collected and reused, thanks to a consortium that specializes in recycling them for food storage. How do these "circular" plastic boxes help reduce energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions?

Learn more in this episode of Eni's Energy SUPERFACTS series.

Over the past few years, we've seen three major emerging powers take bold action to right what they say are historical wrongs.

First came Crimea. When the Kremlin decided in 2014 that Western powers were working against Russian interests in Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops to seize the Crimean Peninsula, which was then part of Ukraine. Moscow claimed that Crimea and its ethnic Russian majority had been part of the Russian Empire for centuries until a shameful deal in 1954 made Crimea part of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic. Americans and Europeans imposed sanctions on Russia. But Ukraine is not part of NATO or the EU, and no further action was taken.

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British economist Jim O'Neill says the global economy can bounce back right to where it was before, in a V-shaped recovery. But his argument is based on a lot of "ifs," plus comparisons to the 2008 recession and conditions in China and South Korea that may not truly apply. Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group's Robert Kahn take issue with O'Neill's op-ed, on this edition of The Red Pen.

Today, we're taking our Red Pen to an article titled "A V-Shaped Recovery Could Still Happen." I'm not buying it. It's published recently by Project Syndicate, authored by British economist named Jim O'Neill. Jim O'Neill is very well known. He was chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management. He's the guy that coined the acronym BRICS, Brazil, Russia, India, China. So, no slouch. But as you know, we don't agree with everything out there. And this is the case. Brought to you by the letter V. We're taking sharp issue with the idea that recovery from all the economic devastation created by the coronavirus pandemic is going to happen quickly. That after the sharp drop that the world has experienced, everything bounces back to where it was before. That's the V. Economists around the world are debating how quickly recovery will happen to be sure. But we're not buying the V. Here's why. W-H-Y.

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The United States and the European Union have comparable population sizes, but their COVID-19 death toll trajectories have recently become very different. Since the beginning of July, the average number of both new fatalities and new deaths per 1 million people is rapidly increasing in the US while it remains mostly flat in the EU. We compare this to the average number of new cases each seven days in both regions, where the US trend continues upward but is not surging like the death toll. EU countries' robust public health systems and citizens' willingness to wear masks and maintain social distance could explain the disparity.

"Neither America first, which is ultimately America alone, nor America the world's policeman," Sen. Chris Coons told Ian Bremmer in describing VP Joe Biden's approach to foreign policy should he win the presidential election in November. In the latest episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer, Sen. Coons provides details of how U.S. relationships with foreign governments and multilateral alliances could change in a Biden presidency. He also defended President Obama's track record, saying "I think it is a mischaracterization of the Obama-Biden foreign policy for President Trump to say that we were picking up the tab and fighting the world's wars and that we were disrespected." Coons stated that Biden would work to restore U.S. involvement in alliances like NATO, and shore up global support to pressure China on labor and environmental standards. The exchange is part of a broad conversation with the Senator about COVID response and economic relief, Russian interference in elections, and the 2020 presidential race. The episode begins airing nationally in the U.S. on Friday, July 10. Check local listings.