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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.

Meet Ian Martin, an English Professor from Glasgow who is now head of Communications for Eni's International Resources. Approaching his work in the same way he used to hold his lectures, Ian is dedicated to listening and making people around him comfortable. Having working in both Milan and London, Ian utilizes his ability to communicate in different languages and cultures to prepare Eni's global messaging strategy. "Communication is a transfer of humanity," he says, and his job is as much centered around people as it as around language.

Watch Ian's human approach to communications on the most recent episode of Faces of Eni.

Today at 12 noon EST, join GZERO Media for a virtual Town Hall, "Reasons for Hope: COVID and the Coming Year," presented in partnership with Eurasia Group and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Our panel will discuss the road ahead in the global response to the COVID crisis. Will there be more multilateral cooperation on issues like gender equality moving forward from the pandemic?

Watch the event here: https://www.gzeromedia.com/townhall

Our moderator, CNBC health care correspondent Bertha Coombs, along with Ian Bremmer, president of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media, and Mark Suzman, CEO of the Gates Foundation, will speak with distinguished experts on three key issues:

Heidi Larson, Director, The Vaccine Confidence Project

  • How will COVID vaccines be distributed safely?

Minouche Shafik, Director of London School of Economics & Political Science

  • How has the pandemic disproportionately impacted women?

Madeleine Albright, Chair, Albright Stonebridge Group and Albright Capital Management; former US Secretary of State

  • What is the opportunity for global cooperation emerging from this crisis, and what are the greatest political risks?
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How to capture the essence of this incredible, terrible year in a few short words and without using profanity? It's not easy.

Thankfully, the dictionary website Merriam-Webster.com has released its list of most heavily searched words of 2020, and they tell the story of an historic year in US politics and the life of our planet. Here's a sample.

The top word, unsurprisingly, was "Pandemic," a disease outbreak that covers a wide area and afflicts lots of people. In 2020, the coronavirus crisis hit every region of the world, triggering a public health, economic, and political emergency on a geographic scale our planet has never experienced. Differing responses to that problem defined the politics (and geopolitics) of 2020.

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While recent news from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca on the efficacy of their respective COVID vaccines is encouraging, it has also given rise to bidding wars between wealthy countries trying to secure the largest supply of the new drugs for their citizens. Meanwhile, many governments in emerging market economies, where healthcare infrastructure is generally weaker, are worried they'll be kicked to the back of the line in the global distribution process. Indeed, history bears out their concerns: while a lifesaving HIV treatment hit shelves in the West in the mid-1990s, for example, it took years to become widely available in Africa, which saw some of the worst HIV outbreaks in the world. But here's the catch: even if wealthy countries manage to obtain large supplies of vaccines to immunize their populations, the interconnected nature of the global economy means that no one will really be out of the woods until we all are. Here's a snapshot of how many COVID vaccines select countries have already purchased.

Afghanistan's small breakthrough: For months, disagreements over a range of political issues have hamstrung the intra-Afghan peace talks brokered by the Trump administration that aim to bridge the years-long conflict between the Afghan government and the Taliban. But this week, a significant breakthrough was made on the principles and procedures governing the talks, that, experts say, will help push negotiations to the next phase. One key advance is agreement on the official name of the Afghan government, an issue that stalled talks earlier this year. Still, progress is fragile. Taliban violence and efforts to seize territory have only increased since the militants and the US reached a deal in February on a blueprint for an American troop withdrawal. And the Trump administration says it aims to pull out all but 2,500 US troops by mid-January, whether the Taliban have kept their end of the deal or not. What's more, while this week's development puts the parties one step closer to an eventual power-sharing agreement, it's unclear whether the incoming Biden administration will even honor the Trump administration's deal with the Taliban.

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Reasons for Hope: COVID and the Coming Year. Watch on Friday. Dec 4 2020 12 noon - 1 pm ET

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