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.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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28: The UK and the EU have again failed to agree on post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. In a 28-page document, the British government had suggested further changes to trade rules that were already negotiated as part of the Brexit settlement, but Brussels was not having any of it.

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