Ian Bremmer: US response to COVID-19 is mediocre

I continue to see incredible polarization: the United States is a hot mess, a disaster, vs no, best response ever, depending on what side of the political agenda you're on. I think that the US response so far, continues to be mediocre.

The big story: people dying. Trump should not have been a cheerleader. He said less than 100,000 would be great. Now, even the most conservative model the US government is using is now expecting 147,000 deaths by August. Well over 150,000 by election day. Trump will say, if I had done nothing, we would have 2.2 million deaths, framing for advertising. But it's hard to sell that.


On the messaging front, the US is a hot mess. On Twitter, the American president is more divisive than anyone in developed world, though less so than Bolsonaro in Brazil. But actual per capita deaths in the United States compared to all of Europe - slightly better than average. Worse than Germany, which is best of the large economies. But considerably better than Spain, Italy and France. We should be looking at per capita death, not overall. Given the size of your population, how many people are suffering? Especially as you're thinking about opening the economy and how quickly. Spain opening earlier, their numbers are going up. That shows what we can expect in parts of the US with similar caseload. If you look just at New York, we look a lot worse. If you look only at cities that are the worst hit, they look a lot worse than the United States.

I wish we could have Merkel type response; I'm glad we don't have Macron or Boris Johnson response. What's in between? On the economic front, the United States so far has been strong. Why? We have a federal government that functions. The Europeans don't. As a consequence, you've got talk about lawsuits between the German High Court and Europeans. Von der Leyen from the European Union saying this won't stand. The fiscal environment is incredibly contentious in Europe. So far early days, US bipartisan support for the economy has been strong. Same from the Fed. That's one of the reasons the American markets are performing well, right now.

Concern that I have with an election coming up in November is that we're not going to be able to sustain that. Most Senators that I talk to are worried about that, even though the Senate is pretty moderate and there's good connections between Republicans and Democrats. Not everyone is like Rand Paul, disruptive, irresponsible. But they're worried that we're not going to be able to get the trillions necessary to keep the unemployed and underemployed afloat. To keep businesses from going bankrupt. And to keep large companies that don't have a profitability model, like in hospitality, entertainment, airlines, other companies that get hit the worst on the back of this crisis. This is going to get a lot more problematic and the US economic response, which earns an A-minus so far, probably looking like a B, a C or even a D, as we get closer. Bill Gates famously gave Trump a D-minus for his response. I think Bill is focusing mostly on the lack of health care coordination side early, plus the communications.

Short of a vaccine, almost everything on treatments so far doesn't look like it changes how quickly we can reopen economies. It's more about how comfortable you feel about caseload and tracing. And contact tracing, even though we do have apps that are coming online - wonderful to see Google and Apple working together, but if you're going to need 60-70% minimum compliance for populations for that to work effectively - Facebook has 70% penetration. There is no way you get that voluntarily from Americans, major European populations. Even in Singapore, which is a tiny population, very wealthy, and doesn't care as much about democracy, only had 15-20% compliance with their contact tracing app.

Contact tracing works, but you need to have data in one place and share it. People doing the work, making phone calls, contact tracers, millions of people across the developed world. We are nowhere close.

A vaccine needs to not only be developed but proven and manufactured at scale, distributed with education. That process, start to finish, is three years. That's why I continue to think that the economic implications of this are going to be much worse than we've seen.

Beyond simply accumulating too much waste, we also recycle and repurpose so little of it. 3D printers, however, can reverse this pattern. Among the most used tools in the "circular" economy, these printers help reduce production costs, release fewer greenhouse gases, and reduce the use of raw materials by allowing objects to be repaired.

See how they work on the 7th episode of Eni's new Energy Superfacts series.

You've probably heard a lot in the past three days about Senator Kamala Harris, her background, and the ground-breaking nature of her candidacy for US vice president.

But now that the cheering crowds have logged off and the virtual confetti has been swept away, we're left with a basic question: will Kamala Harris make a difference — on the campaign trial and maybe in the White House — for Joe Biden?

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Kevin Sneader, global managing partner for McKinsey & Company, provides perspective on how corporate business leaders think in response to the coronavirus crisis:

What is the role of HR going into the next normal?

Well, this is a time of reset and one big reset that I see is around the role of HR. I think it's time for HR to shift from being a transactional partner around compensation, organization charts, and benefits to being a truly integral architect of change. Now, that's been happening for years in the best performing HR departments. It Involves rethinking talent requirements, capturing what was learned about individuals and organizations during the course of this pandemic, and even learning and growing in a world in which remote working has to be combined with working back in the office or the manufacturing facility. A world where incentives needs to be rethought. And where employee experiences need to reflect a very different reality. So, there's a big reset going on and I think that reset needs to embrace HR both in terms of what HR can do, the role of the CHR role, and indeed the way in which together HR becomes a true architect for change, just as it has done for many years, perhaps unnoticed, and not give enough credit by those who really should know better.

An open letter in Politico by a group of foreign policy experts says the US should take a much tougher approach on Russia. In this edition of The Red Pen, Ian Bremmer is joined by Eurasia Group analysts Alex Brideau and Zach Witlin to point out some reasons why diplomacy and realism are critical in the US approach to Russia.

And today, we're taking our Red Pen to an open letter titled "No, Now Is Not the Time for Another Russia Reset." It was published in Politico and signed by 33 foreign policy experts, including diplomats Bill Taylor and Kurt Volker, who both testified at the impeachment hearings, as well as a bunch of military intelligence and diplomatic figures. And as it turned out, actually, we were Red Penned here, because it's a response to this piece, also in Politico recently, that I cosigned with a different group of Russia experts, including Fiona Hill and Jon Huntsman.

Both letters talk about the road ahead for US relations with Russia. The one I signed argued that the US needs to know when there will be opportunities to work with Russia and when Washington has to push back. The central argument in this article is that there's no point in talking to Russia until Putin changes his mind. So, what we have here is an open debate about the issue. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty we agree on and plenty of places where no red ink is required.

We agree that Russia bears plenty of responsibility for the current state of affairs. It occupies territory that belongs to Georgia and Ukraine, two sovereign states. And it interfered in the 2016 US election and continues to do so as we speak. Moscow has also killed dissidents in Europe, assassinated them. So, I mean, you know, no one is trying to justify any of that belligerent behavior. And we also agree that while the United States can fine tune its policy all we want, it actually takes two to tango. Recent talks with the Russians have not been too successful, but since the red pen is here, it is time to highlight some areas of disagreement. So, here they are.

Point one, the authors argue that there's no point in talking to Russia about much of anything until Putin changes his act. They write that "by arguing that it is the United States and not Russia that needs a 'current change of course' the authors of the open letter (that's us) get it exactly backward."

If the US takes an all or nothing approach with Russia, it will end up with nothing. Look, I mean, I certainly expect and understand that we should have a more hawkish line on a bunch of things with the Chinese as well, but that doesn't mean you can't work with these countries on climate change, on space, on a bunch of areas where it's actually really important. These are still large economies. In the case of the Russians, the largest nuclear arsenal in the world along with the United States, and I would argue that leaving the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Agreement was a mistake, leaving the Blue Skies Agreement, the Open Skies Agreement was a mistake. That you have to work even with your antagonists, and that's important. That means that we should be pursuing diplomacy and cooperation where we can while also vigorously defending our own interests where we can't. This strikes me as a fairly obvious baseline understanding of international diplomacy, and I'm always surprised when people push back against it.

Point two, the authors write that the US should "maintain, even enhance sanctions" on Russia unless a long list of demands are met, like withdrawing troops from Ukraine, including Crimea, and ending cyberattacks and election interference.

Nobody is saying we should give in to Russia on any of those issues. The bottom line is that the above list of demands is already US policy. How more sanctions would change Russian behavior? Doesn't make a lot of sense. You need your allies on board for sanctions to work. And sanctions work best when they're calibrated and targeted. When they have clear benchmarks that when met, lead to easing of those sanctions. And when they're paired with diplomacy. Russia's a big nuclear armed country, unlike, say, South Africa. Russia's not going to simply be sanctioned into surrender. Maintain the sanctions but expanding them at this point strikes me as having very little likelihood of return and only marginal increase of sanctions that we could do.

Point three, the authors say that the US should not resign itself to accepting "Russia's repression, kleptocracy and aggression" as that provides no incentive for Putin to change.

Now, we agree. The US cannot accept Russian misbehavior, but we need to be realistic about what we can actually change, like stopping Russian election meddling, and what we can't, like Russia's kleptocracy. We can and should do our part to stop dirty money from coming into the US and Europe but changing Russia's domestic system is another story.

So, in conclusion, the Russians are an antagonist of the United States. Their revisionist power, they're in decline. They are trying to undermine the Americans, the Europeans, and the transatlantic relationship. All true. But I actually think that there are areas where we still need to be working with lots of states that we really don't like and don't trust, and yes, Russia is one of them. By the way, New START, the nuclear arms reduction treaty signed in 2010 by the US and Russia expires in February 2021. Open dialog right now could save it and I think it's worth saving. Let's work on that.

"We now have for the first time, pre-COVID, a very good sense of where the gaps are" says former CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden on pandemic preparedness. But in order to prevent another pandemic from bringing the world to its knees, he argues, the United States must play a more proactive role on the global stage. First step: work much more closely with the CDC (and don't, for starters, pull funding during a pandemic).