Alexei Navalny's jail sentence; EU slow on vaccine distribution

Ian Bremmer discusses the World In (more than) 60 Seconds:

First, what's the update with Alexei Navalny?

The, well-liked around the world, very popular among the West, less so in Russia, but still the closest thing you have to real opposition to Putin in the country, just got a three-and-a-half-year jail sentence. Some of that is house arrest, but most of it is actually in prison, and this is a much harder line than we've seen before with suspended sentences and house arrest, and clearly, it's because Navalny has become more of a household name and has caused more of a problem for President Putin at a time when President Putin's approval ratings are lower than they were. They're in their low 60s, which in Russia is not so great for Putin, and the economy is doing worse, and people are angrier about their pensions that aren't worth as much and wages that don't go as far, and Navalny has done everything he can, including flying back to Russia after not dying from the poisoning attempt at the hands of what almost certainly was the Russian Special Service.


So, you put all of that together, and now Navalny is a significant thorn in Putin's side and is a reason for the Americans and many Europeans to want to increase sanctions against Russia, which we will now see. They'll be primarily not against Russian sectors of the economy or key businesses. They'll be mostly against individuals, Russian elites, close to Putin, any of those seen as involved in the Navalny case, and probably some ministers and maybe some oligarchs. Which the intention would be to embarrass Putin and to undermine some of his elite level support, because that's the only way you put pressure on Putin. The mass level opposition isn't there. Let's also keep in mind the demonstrations we're seeing in Russia in support of Navalny, as dramatic as they've been, and we've had 5,000 arrests across Russia in the last week, but they're tiny compared to Belarus. They're tiny compared to the arrests for the demonstrations you saw on Khabarovsk just a year ago in Russia. So, it's not as if... as big of an issue as this is for Western headlines, the fact is that Putin is still pretty solidly entrenched in Russia itself, and his willingness to take a hard line and crack down to ensure that remains the case is pretty much complete.

Okay next. Why is the EU struggling with vaccine distribution?

Well, in part, because the EU is working together. It is coordinated, all countries are handling vaccine appropriations and distribution as one European union. In principle, that gives them a lot more market influence, but it also means it's big it's bureaucratic, and it took them a while to get behind making big orders, which meant they were behind the United States and the United Kingdom. And so now, you have the U.S. moving towards 10% of the population vaccinated, while Europe is more like two or three, and there's no question that Europeans are frustrated about that. It does mean a couple of months of greater spread in Europe, as these South African and other variants that are much more transmissible come out, while the United States in the coming months should look a lot better. Vaccine distribution you already see in Israel with over 50% of the population having been jabbed, the percentage of case spread is already going down meaningfully. That's really, really good news, and for the EU, it's going to lead to some backlash. There's no question, but overall, I think they'll get through this. The European leadership will get through this, and by the middle of the year, as they get vaccines also rolled out across the population, they will see the same level of restriction in terms of mortality and hospitalizations. The vaccines, the level of capacity of these vaccines, just a fantastic story for everyone as they get rolled out.

Is the Republican Party fracturing?

I don't think so. I mean, I see now Senate Minority leader McConnell going after Marjorie Greene, the crazy QAnon member of Congress, but remember McConnell also did that initially in terms of Trump and impeachment, and then backed away when he realized that the party wasn't with him. So, I think it's pretty clear that some of the leadership of the Republican party would prefer if they could dump the crazier, Trumpist pieces of the party, but if it turns out that the party is not there, and that the population that supports the Republican party isn't there, then they're going to back down to ensure unity of the party. And so, let's remember that whatever they ended up doing, the leadership of the Republican party is not going to risk political power. They're not going to risk their party fragmenting. They took a hit in Georgia. They lost two seats and lost control of the Senate, largely because the Trumpist wing of the party was too large, they couldn't prevent Trump from making many voters in Georgia feel like this election was rigged, so why should they turn out, and certainly Marjorie Taylor Greene has the potential to cause problems at the margins, but not to fragment the party, because the leadership won't allow that. So, the answer to is the Republican Party fracturing, in my view, is a very, very strong no.

Finally, it's Groundhog Day, six more weeks of winter, and what else?

Oh, it's got to be lockdown, six more weeks of lockdown. Why? Because it's a horrible pandemic year. And so, I think of Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow, that means, he's stuck underground for another six months, nevermind snow.

While residents of wealthy countries are getting ready for hot vaxxed summer — COVID is still ravaging many low- and middle-income countries. The horrifying scenes coming out of India in recent weeks have gripped the world, causing governments and civil society to quickly mobilize and pledge support.

But on the other side of the globe, Brazil is also being pummeled by the pandemic — and has been for a year now. Yet thus far, the outpouring of aid and (solidarity) hasn't been as large.

What explains the global alarm at India's situation, and seeming passivity towards Brazil's plight? What are the politics of compassion?

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Delhi-based reporter Barkha Dutt's decades of journalism couldn't prepare her for the horrific experience of covering the death of one specific COVID-19 victim: her own father. In a conversation with Ian Bremmer, Dutt recounts her desperate struggle to find an ambulance to take her father through Delhi traffic to reach the hospital, only for him to die in the ICU. Their in-depth discussion looks at India's struggle with the world's worst COVID crisis in the upcoming episode of GZERO World begins airing on US public television Friday, May 7. Check local listings.

A Green Party-led government for the world's fourth largest economy? That's no longer far-fetched. As Signal's Gabrielle Debinski wrote last month, most current polls now show Germany's Greens in first place in federal elections set for September 26. And for the first time, the Greens have a candidate for chancellor. Annalena Baerbock is vying to replace Angela Merkel, who has led Germany for the past 16 years.

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India and Brazil are currently the world's top two COVID hotspots. But while India's crisis is — at least according to official statistics — a relatively recent one, Brazil's COVID disaster has been an ongoing train wreck. Where India seemed to have kept the pandemic under control until some bad missteps about two months ago, COVID has been wreaking havoc in Brazil almost constantly for over a year now. And President Jair Bolsonaro's macho-posturing and COVID denialism has clearly not helped. We take a look at average daily new cases and deaths in both countries since the pandemic began.

US reverses course on vaccine patents: In a surprise move, the Biden administration will now support waiving international property rights for COVID vaccines at the World Trade Organization. Until now the US had firmly opposed waiving those patents, despite demands from developing countries led by India and South Africa to do so. Biden's about face comes just a week after he moved to free up 60 million of American-bought AstraZeneca jabs — still not approved by US regulators — for nations in need. It's not clear how fast an IP waiver would really help other countries, as the major impediments to ramping up vaccine manufacturing have more to do with logistics and supply chains than with patent protections alone. But if patent waivers do accelerate production over time, then that could accelerate a global return to normal — potentially winning the US a ton of goodwill.

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28: Yair Lapid, leader of Israel's opposition Yesh Atid (There is a Future) party, has 28 days to form a new government. President Reuven Rivlin tapped Lapid after incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to cobble together a governing coalition by Tuesday's midnight deadline, further prolonging Israel's political stalemate.

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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:

How big of a blow is Apple's new privacy feature to companies like Facebook, who depend on tracking users?

The long-awaited update, including enhanced privacy features, actually empowers those users to decide not to be tracked. So that's great news for people who are sick of how the data trail they leave behind on the web is used. But it has to be said, that simple feature settings changed by Apple cannot solve the problem of misuse of data and microtargeting alone. Still, Apple's move was met with predictable outrage and anti-trust accusations from ad giant Facebook. I would anticipate more standard setting by companies in the absence of a federal data protection law in the United States. That's just to mention one vacuum that big tech thrives on.

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India’s COVID crisis hits home

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