Ian Bremmer: Global leadership power shift

The old US led order is gone. It relied on alignment around the world.

The UK has left the European Union. The EU faces existential questions on whether the Union will be in place in 3 years, given extraordinary need for redistribution - how that can function in the worst economic crisis in our lifetimes? Euro skeptic; anti-establishment sentiment across Europe - feel more like individual states, less like a coordinated union, weakens the trans-Atlantic relationship.


Russia in decline, even before oil prices went negative. Russia's badly managed economy is smaller than Canada. Putin's popularity diminishing, handling coronavirus badly. He blames the United States. Some was mismanagement and kleptocracy in Russia. Some is the US not helping the Russians after the Soviet Union collapse; expanding NATO up to their borders and the Europeans expanding the EU.

Energy, pipeline diplomacy from the US, to get the Caspian and the Caucasus away from Russia, benefit American companies. What about Russia? They're angry, working to undermine the transatlantic relationship, democracy in the US. Their interventions playing on American divisions, Europe. That continues, with weaker institutions, more people angry believing institutions are rigged.

China: Mistaken assumption by the West that, as China becomes wealthier, they integrate into Western institutions, "responsible stakeholdership". From China's perspective, that was American exceptionalism. "You want us to act like a rich country, even though we're not, want us to play by the rules of the institutions that you created, even though we're authoritarian and state capitalist, why would we do that?" Instead, you see Xi Jinping consolidating power. Feeling more vulnerable internationally and domestically; strengthening state capitalism, strategic control, alignment of key industries with the Chinese government. Building international architecture that competes with the West. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the Chinese Development Bank, One Belt One Road.

Alignment with a US led global order has structurally changed, has been incrementally over decades; it's speeding up. Trump presidency exacerbated it; it was coming anyway. The economic hit exacerbates divisions, undermines belief in the authority and example that the American exceptionalism had historically benefited from - even less likely that the United States could return to it.

Biden is an internationalist, would want the US to return to the Paris climate accord, supports a consolidated Europe, even though Europe is falling apart and there's more anti-European sentiment. United States support is eroding.

One, domestic opposition to being the world's policeman or architect of global trade - policies have not benefited many Americans. After wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq on the back of poor, disenfranchised Americans. Why support more policies like that? Why support more free trade? The top 10% has done well, the top 0.1% has done incredibly well? The average American since '76 got squat. 15% unemployment, could be 20% in the next month. Support for US internationalism, I don't think you see it.

NATO is not aligned towards dealing with China, but China is the principal concern. Would the US support NATO as much as 10, 20, 30 years ago? Not really. The Middle East? When Americans needed oil from the Middle East, real issue. How much support for Saudis and Gulf states when the US is the largest producer in the world? Do Americans want to be more cooperative, spend more money, send more troops?

Technology firms are big winners. That's how the economy's working right now. Those companies are overwhelmingly American.

I love what the Statue of Liberty stands for. But if we increasingly don't need labor in the United States, automating, have 15% unemployment, don't support immigration as much. American interest in leading a multilateral global order is down, irrespective of who we vote for.

A different global order where the Americans remain most powerful, but the nature of the institutions, participation, values, standards have to be more collaborative, cooperative. We have to build them quickly, because the challenges - also climate change and others, are deeply global. So, the response has to be more than just American, too.

Demography is destiny. That ominous-sounding pronouncement, credited to French philosopher Auguste Comte, is today taken to mean that a nation's fate depends on the youthfulness of its population. For a poor country to become rich, it needs lots of young people ready to work, to support those too old or too young to work, and to pay taxes. This is called the "demographic dividend."

That's an important part of China's success story. Over the past 40 years, more than one billion people have emerged from poverty in China. Waves of young people surged from the countryside into cities to work in factories. The state invested in education, and wages helped young workers, and then their children, go to school. The state also began a drive to develop the technologies of the future, by any means necessary. In China, once dirt-poor, hundreds of millions have created a middle class.

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Get insights on the latest news about emerging trends in cyberspace from Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford University's Cyber Policy Center and former European Parliamentarian:

This week we talk about one of my favorite topics, regulation. Laws are often framed as a barrier to innovation and not always recognized as a key enabler of freedoms and the protection of rights. But what's more is that regulation is a process, and one that can have tons of different outcomes. So, being in favor or against regulation doesn't mean anything. Except that those who oppose any changes are apparently benefiting from the status quo.

Is the world at a tipping point when it comes to regulating big tech?

And I would say absolutely. The outsized power of big tech is recognized more broadly because the harms are so blatantly clear. Harms to democracy, public health, but also to fairness in the economy are all related to the outsized power of unaccountable and under-regulated big tech. Now, what's significant is that this debate has finally hit home in the United States after it was already recognized as a problem in many other parts of the world.

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Do we spend too much time thinking about our own carbon footprints and not enough time thinking about bigger factors? Climate journalist Elizabeth Kolbert acknowledges it's necessary for individuals to make changes in the way they live, but that isn't the number one priority.

"What would you do to try to move this battleship in a new direction? It requires public policy levers. And it requires … some pretty serious legislation." Ian Bremmer spoke with Kolbert, an award-winning journalist and author and staff writer at The New Yorker, on a new episode of GZERO World, airing on US public television.

Watch the episode: Can We Fix the Planet the Same Way We Broke It?

Not everyone thinks that President Biden's decision to pull all US troops out of Afghanistan by 9/11/21 is a good idea. Conservative Congressman Mike Waltz (R-FL), a combat-decorated Green Beret with multiple tours in Afghanistan, thinks that the US still needs to maintain a small presence in the country to avoid incurring "massive risks." In a spirited discussion with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World, Waltz, who served as counterterrorism advisor in the George W. Bush administration, argues, "The next 9/11, the next Pulse Night Club, which is right on the edge of my congressional district, the next San Bernardino, that's now on Biden's watch. He owns it with this decision." Their conversation is featured in the upcoming episode of GZERO World, which airs on US public television starting Friday, April 23. Check local listings.

Vaccines are the best hope to end the COVID-19 pandemic. But rich countries are hogging most of the doses, with more than 83 percent of shots administered to date having gone to residents in high- and upper-middle-income countries. Most poor countries will have to wait years to achieve widespread vaccination, according to one study.

To address this inequity some stakeholders are pushing hard for waivers to intellectual-property (IP) rights through World Trade Organization trade rules so that manufacturers in poorer countries can make their own vaccines locally. India and South Africa have been leading the charge, which would essentially mean that deep-pocketed pharma companies like New York-based Pfizer, for instance, would have to hand over the keys to the kingdom, allowing local companies in New Delhi and Johannesberg to make generic versions of their vaccines.

Unsurprisingly, the debate has gotten fiery, with passionate arguments emerging both for and against.

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Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective on Europe In 60 Seconds:

What are the Russians up to against Ukraine?

We simply don't know, except the fact that they're concentrating a huge amount of military forces. And you don't do that for nothing or for fun. They are there for a purpose, to have pressure or to undertake limited to larger operations. We simply don't know. And when Putin delivered his State of the Union speech the other day, he didn't say a thing about this. They are now talking about withdrawing the forces. But let's wait and see. They have talked about withdrawing forces from Syria for a long time, but we haven't seen that as of yet.

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Australia rips up Belt & Road deal: Australia cancelled two 2018 deals signed between Victoria, Australia's wealthiest state, and the Chinese government, that committed the two sides to working together on initiatives under China's Belt and Road infrastructure development program. Foreign Minister Marise Payne said that the agreements "were adverse to our foreign relations." Similar deals between Victoria and institutions in Iran and Syria were also abandoned by the Australian government this week, under a 2020 law that allows Canberra to nullify international agreements struck at local and state level. (Australian universities say the "foreign veto bill" amounts to "significant overreach.") Meanwhile, Beijing hit back, calling the move "unreasonable and provocative," and accusing Canberra of further stoking divisions after a series of escalatory moves by both sides that have seen China-Australia relations deteriorate to their worst point in decades. Chinese investment in Australia dropped by 62 percent last year, a massive blow for Australia's export-reliant economy.

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