Omicron variant unlikely to lead to lockdowns by governments

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week with a look at the omicron variant, the Honduras presidential election, and the pros and cons of getting stuck in a UK pub for three days in a snowstorm.

As the omicron variant emerges, is a return to lockdown next?

The answer is, only in a few play places, because people are exhausted from lockdowns. They're angry with their governments from doing it. Governments are going to be very reluctant to have the economic hit as a consequence, especially when they know they can't pay out the relief money that they've been paying over the last couple of years, and they're not yet sure about just how much of a danger omicron is. I think all sorts of travel restrictions, but unless and until you see that the spread starts leading to significant lethality, hospitalizations, and once again, the potential for ICUs to be overwhelmed, I do not expect many significant lockdowns that are countrywide at this point. Not least in Sub-Saharan Africa, where the populations are very young and as a consequence, you can have a lot of spread and they're not paying attention to it, frankly.

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Facebook metaverse launch leads other Big Tech firms to focus on AR/VR

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:

What is Facebook planning with the metaverse?

Well, my sense is that Facebook mostly prefers a virtual reality over the actual situation the company is in, with overwhelming criticism about the many harms to people it is causing all over the world. The metaverse at launch would be added to a number of services and experiences online in a more virtual and augmented reality setting. Think about what the gaming sector has done, but now, also, other big tech firms are jumping on the bandwagon. The thing to remember is that the user experience would be more immersive.

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Biden sticks with Powell as Fed Chair amid rising inflation

Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

Why did President Biden renominate Jay Powell to be the chairman of the Fed, and who's his No.2, Lael Brainard?

Well, Powell by all accounts has done a pretty good job of managing the Fed through the coronavirus pandemic. He dusted off the playbook, first pioneered by Chairman Bernanke during the financial crisis, and he's largely continued the relatively easy monetary policy of his predecessor at the Fed, now Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen. With inflation growing the way it has over the last several months, Biden now owns the policies of the Fed and is essentially endorsing what Powell has been doing and giving Powell the political cover to continue to keep rates low for longer, or as many people expect, raise them slightly over the next 12 months in order to fight inflation.

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Peng Shuai, China's tennis star, appears safe but questions remain

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week with a look at Peng Shuai's public appearance, El Salvador's "Bitcoin City," and Americans' Thanksgiving celebrations.

Why has China silenced its famous tennis player, Peng Shuai?

Well, they haven't completely silenced her in the sense that the head of the IOC, the International Olympic Committee with Beijing Olympics coming up, basically told the Chinese government, "hey, what is the absolute minimum that you can do so that we can get Beijing Olympics back on track?" And they did the absolute minimum, which was a half an hour phone call with her that felt like kind of a hostage phone call. But nonetheless, she says that she is fine and is private and doesn't want to talk about the fact that she had accused the former Vice Premier of sexually assaulting her. That is a fairly heady charge. It was clear, going to get a lot of headlines in the run-up to the Olympics. And she wasn't heard from after that. So big problem for the Chinese in the run-up to the Olympics.

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Concerns increase over Russian military activity near Ukraine

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Europe:

What are the Russians up to with Ukraine?

Well, we don't know. But what we do know is that they are concentrating quite substantial military forces, moving towards the borders with Ukraine at the same time as they are de facto stopping the diplomatic dialogue with them. Very strong message coming from Washington and from the European capitals that they should abstain from early military operation. But you never know. It is a fairly sort of worrying situation.

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Europe can show solidarity with Ukraine despite depending on Russian gas

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Europe:

Can Europe have solidarity with Ukraine while also being dependent on Russian gas?

Yes, it can. There is no question that the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine is of fundamental interest for European security. And you see that both Europeans and America are expressing concerns over what they see as possible moves on the Russian side. And clear signals are being sent in the direction of Moscow irrespective of anything that has to do with gas.

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Episodes

Biden-Xi virtual summit shows breakthroughs in US-China relationship

How was your return to international travel? Were there any breakthroughs at Biden & Xi's virtual summit? What do you think of US Secretary of State Blinken suggesting that Belarus migrant crisis is an attempt to distract from Russia's increased troop presence near Ukraine? Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week.

What's next for infrastructure and Biden's Build Back Better plan?

Now that President Biden has signed the bipartisan infrastructure bill, what's next for infrastructure? Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics.

Biden's vaccine mandates caught in a growing culture war

What is happening with Biden's COVID vaccine mandates? Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, gives perspective.

Belarus president exploiting migrants to pressure EU on sanctions

What's the nature of the migration crisis between Belarus and Poland? What's going to be the effect of Vice President Kamala Harris' visit to Paris? Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Europe.

Hosts

Jon Lieber, Eurasia Group’s Managing Director for the US
Break down the US political landscape with Jon Lieber
Ian Bremmer, Eurasia Group President
Tackle the world’s biggest headlines with Ian Bremmer