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Ian Bremmer: The World's Geopolitical Recession

Ian Bremmer, in the midst of a serious global crisis, explains what a geopolitical recession is - because we're in one. And it makes the ability to respond to coronavirus a lot more difficult than it normally would be.

We have economic recessions, boom and bust cycles, every seven years on average since World War II. We have tools to respond in terms of stimulus and fiscal expansion and monetary easing. And we even can identify and define a technical recession as when you have two consecutive quarters of negative growth.


Geopolitics have boom and bust cycles, too. We've been in a geopolitical boom cycle for a long time. We're now in a bust cycle. The end of the US led global order - a GZERO World, not a G7 or a G20. This geopolitical recession makes it a lot harder to respond to a crisis. The political institutions are less resilient. There are three different ways that that plays out, three different components of the geopolitical recession:

First is inside the United States, inside our democracies. We have a lot more feeling of illegitimacy, feeling that the system is rigged against the citizens. And therefore, less willingness to support leaders who need to lead. There's no willingness to work together. And it's not just in the United States. We see this playing out in Brazil today with President Bolsonaro and forces against him. We see it playing out in other countries across Europe with real challenges internally for those governments. So a geopolitical recession, first and foremost, weakening and de-legitimizing democracies around the world.

Secondly, a geopolitical recession in the alliances around the world and the ability of international politics to be run in a stable and consistent way. Not only do you have a lack of coordination in responding globally to a global crisis, but you also have global leaders actively blaming each other.

Then you have the institutional side, which is the institutions themselves are increasingly not aligned to the geopolitical order, so they can't respond very effectively. This is geopolitical recession, a bust cycle in the geopolitical order: the institutions are not aligned with the geopolitical balance. Because the alliances and the relations between countries are increasingly focusing not on coordination, but instead on what they need for their own national interests. Every nation for itself. And also, inside democracies around the world, both advanced industrial democracies and emerging market democracies, you increasingly have political polarization, blames-man-ship and a sense that the system and its establishment is rigged against the average citizen. If you have all three of those things, there should be no surprise that the ability to respond the coronavirus, effectively to the biggest global crisis we've had since 2008, and maybe larger than that, is going to be very, very severely lacking.

Khant Thaw Htoo is a young engineer who works in Eni's Sakura Tower office in the heart of Yangon. As an HSE engineer, he monitors the safety and environmental impact of onshore and offshore operations. He also looks out for his parents' well-being, in keeping with Myanmar's traditions.

Learn more about Khant in the final episode of the Faces of Eni series, which focuses on Eni's employees around the world.

Over the weekend, some 40,000 Russians braved subzero temperatures to turn out in the streets in support of imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. More than 3,000 protesters were arrested, and Navalny called on his followers to prepare for more action in the coming weeks.

But just who is Alexei Navalny, and how significant is the threat that he may pose to Vladimir Putin's stranglehold on power in Russia?

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take (part 1):

Ian Bremmer here, happy Monday. And have your Quick Take to start off the week.

Maybe start off with Biden because now President Biden has had a week, almost a week, right? How was it? How's he doing? Well, for the first week, I would say pretty good. Not exceptional, but not bad, not bad. Normal. I know everyone's excited that there's normalcy. We will not be excited there's normalcy when crises start hitting and when life gets harder and we are still in the middle of a horrible pandemic and he has to respond to it. But for the first week, it was okay.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Russian opposition leader Navalny in jail. Hundreds of thousands demonstrating across the country in Russia over well over 100 cities, well over 3000 arrested. And Putin responding by saying that this video that was put out that showed what Navalny said was Putin's palace that costs well over a billion dollars to create and Putin, I got to say, usually he doesn't respond to this stuff very quickly. Looked a little defensive, said didn't really watch it, saw some of it, but it definitely wasn't owned by him or owned by his relatives.

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Even as vaccines roll out around the world, COVID-19 is continuing to spread like wildfire in many places, dashing hopes of a return to normal life any time soon. Some countries, like Israel and the UK for instance, have been praised for their inoculation drives, while still recording a high number of new cases. It's clear that while inoculations are cause for hope, the pace of rollouts cannot keep up with the fast-moving virus. Here's a look at the countries that have vaccinated the largest percentages of their populations so far – and a snapshot of their daily COVID caseloads (7-day rolling average) in recent weeks.

The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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