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Ian Bremmer on global security; coronavirus developments; Afghanistan

What surprised you most about the Munich Security Conference?

The fact that the United States and Europe are in fundamental disagreement about the most important security issue out there. From the US perspective, it's China. From the European perspective, it's not. We've talked about a pivot to Asia for a long time. Obama did. Didn't really happen. Now the Americans on security are really pivoting to Asia. The Republicans and the Democrats. The Europeans aren't. Is that going to have a massive impact on the stability of the transatlantic relationship? You bet your ass it is. That's what concerns - that's what surprised me.


Is the coronavirus outbreak stabilizing as Chinese authorities say?

Not clear. I talked to the head of W.H.O. when I was at Munich. I talked to some of the epidemiologists that are world renowned on these issues. They're not sure at all. They don't understand yet exactly how the transmission works. And they're certainly not saying that the end of flu season means the end of this coronavirus. That's something the Chinese have been saying. Basic expectations, I've heard, if all goes as planned, is you get about eight hundred thousand cases of coronavirus in China in total and you don't get major breakouts outside of China. They hope that's where we're heading. If that's true, it's not a lot of deaths in terms of this kind of pandemic. It's less than twenty thousand, but it's major economic dislocations for the Chinese and the rest of the world. Those economic impacts are going to be the ones that we're going to feel for a very long time, and we'll feel them politically, too.

Are we "turning a corner" in Afghanistan?

Well, we are in terms of America's role in the longest standing war that America's ever fought in since its founding. We're closer to a deal between the Taliban and the United States that will allow for the Americans to start withdrawing significant levels of troops and lead to peace negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government. The Taliban likes this because if American troops leave, they're certainly not going back. The Afghan government is very worried because they know the American troops aren't coming back. And the likelihood the Taliban actually then follows through on engaged deals against a very weak Afghan government with very little support from the US or anyone else is a real problem for them. So, it's turning the corner, but probably not for the Afghan people.

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.

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 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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Two weeks ago, Russia secured a deal to build a naval base in Sudan, its first new military facility in Africa since the end of the Cold War. The accord is a major milestone in Moscow's wider push to regain influence, and income, on a continent where the Kremlin was once a major player.

But with the ideological and military contests of the Cold War long over, what is Moscow doing in Africa today?

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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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