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.

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This weekend, world leaders will open the COP26 climate summit, the UN's annual climate change conference, in Glasgow. Some insist this event is crucial to the multinational fight to limit the effects of climate change; others dismiss it as a circus that will feature politicos, protesters and celebrities competing for attention – one that's long on lofty promises and short on substance.

What's on the agenda?

Political leaders and negotiators from more than 120 countries will gather to talk about two big subjects. First, how to reduce the heat-trapping carbon emissions that scientists warn can inflict catastrophic damage on millions of people. This is where they'll offer their "nationally determined contributions," diplomatic jargon for their updated promises on their climate goals. Second, how to help poorer countries pay for adaptation to the climate damage that's already unavoidable.

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What pandemic result will have the largest and longest-lasting impact on women? Is the world really building back better for half the global population? How can we ensure that the post-pandemic recovery is fair to women? And how does this all play into a wider GZERO world? A group of global experts debated these and other questions during a livestream conversation hosted by GZERO Media in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, moderated by eNCA senior news anchor Tumelo Mothotoane.

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Iran to resume nuclear talks — but it might be too late. Iran's top negotiator says that his country is now ready to rejoin talks on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal. Those negotiations have been on ice since June, when a hardline new Iranian president was "elected." But hopes for a breakthrough are slim. For one thing, Iran and the US still disagree about who should do what first: Tehran wants the toughest US sanctions lifted immediately, while the Americans say no way until Iran stops steaming ahead with its nuclear programs. (For a good primer, check out this Puppet Regime.) The other big obstacle now is that since Donald Trump ditched the deal in 2018, Iran has made immense progress in enriching uranium, breaking through all the limits set by the original agreement. Reviving that pact would now entail forcing the Iranians to give that all up, which Iran's hardline leadership is very unlikely to do, while Washington certainly won't want to write up a new deal that accepts Iran's recent nuclear activity — in fact, the Biden administration is under pressure to impose fresh sanctions. Fresh talks are good, but things don't look promising.

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Less than a year after the world started putting COVID vaccines into people's arms, most regions have immunized at least half their populations, but Africa still lags behind. With industrialized nations hoarding jabs and the COVAX facility faltering, barely five percent of the African population is fully vaccinated.

Some enterprising South African scientists are now making a bold bid to change that, with an experiment that could benefit not only Africa's 54 nations and billion people, but the entire world: Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines, a Cape Town-based startup, has developed a plan to reverse-engineer Moderna's mRNA shot and manufacture it for priority distribution on the continent.

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11: Hit by a massive new COVID wave, Moscow has issued an 11-day lockdown of schools, businesses, and all "non-essential" services. Russia is now one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic, having recorded 400,000 deaths by some estimates. Russia's high rate of vaccine skepticism isn't helping.

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Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

Has Russian behavior in cyber changed after President Biden and President Putin's meeting earlier this year?

Well, unfortunately, we see ongoing assertiveness and aggression from the Russian side, targeting the US government, but also US tech companies. And the fact that there is so little accountability probably keeps motivating. Shortly before the Russian elections, Apple and Google removed an app built by opposition parties, to help voters identify the best candidate to challenge Putin's party. The company sided pressure on their employees in Russia, but of course, the pressure on the Russian population is constant. And after these dramatic events, the silence from Western governments was deafening.

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No government today has the toolbox to tinker with Big Tech – that's why it's time to start thinking of the biggest tech companies as bona fide "digital nation states" with their own foreign relations, Ian Bremmer explains on GZERO World. Never has a small group of companies held such an expansive influence over humanity. And in this vast new digital territory, governments have little idea what to do.

Watch this episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: Big Tech: Global sovereignty, unintended consequences

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