All eyes on US election; Vienna terrorist attack & Islamic extremism

Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics on this week's World In (More Than) 60 Seconds:

Number one, all eyes are on the United States today. What countries are watching most closely?

Well everyone's watching pretty closely, because the US election is two years long and costs billions of dollars and feels like a subversion of democracy. But watching the most closely are the countries that feel like they have the most at stake. So, for example, Iran, if Biden comes in, they're going to have a government that's more interested in trying to reopen the Iranian nuclear deal. Their economy is in free fall right now. They really care about the outcome.


Turkey, facing a much more intense US sanctions regime. The United States under Trump has been kind of friendly towards Erdoğan. They'd be much less so. And again, Turkey's in a lot of trouble right now. Their lira has dropped to record lows. There's massive capital flight. I think the first and foremost countries that are paying the most attention are the ones that are under the most significant pressure, and they know that this election has the potential to make that even worse.

So, countries like China, for example, economically doing pretty well right now, and they're going to have a tough time whether it's Biden or Trump. A country like India, that's going to do pretty well whether it's Biden or Trump. They obviously are paying attention, but I wouldn't say they care quite as much. The United Kingdom, definitely, because the ability to get a trade deal done just with the US if it's Biden is going to be a little more challenging. I think they worry about that. Where you've got countries like Germany and France, where the relationship with Trump has been so toxic, personally, at a personal level, they would just like to have Biden and there'll be a honeymoon. How long that lasts and what it really gets you, perhaps not as much. Oh, that's kind of a, just a smattering of a few countries around the world, but truly everyone paying attention to this, the most important election in the United States in modern history, in part because this crisis is so big and the change in trajectory of US politics under these two leaders would be more substantial than we would normally expect.

What happened in Vienna?

Well, a big terrorist attack. We see four people that have actually been killed, going on all night. Initially, we thought that, the Vienna authorities said there might've been six people involved. It now looks like at least two ISIS supporters that were engaged in these attacks against random Austrian civilians.

We do need to remember that terrorist attacks, the Europeans continue to be much more vulnerable overall, and specifically Islamic extremist terror attacks. A lot more Muslim refugees coming over from countries like Iraq, like Syria, into Turkey, into Europe. They've not integrated well; they've not been integrated well. A lot of them aren't all that welcome and there's been extremism. And some of that extremism has led to serious violence.

In the United States, the threat from terrorism is a lot lower, and to the extent that we see violent terrorism in the US, it is overwhelmingly from white nationalist extremists, not from Islamic violence. You wouldn't necessarily know that from watching the media, and depends on who you're watching, and all of this has become so politicized, but that's the reality in terms of the numbers, and certainly hope that we're able to see a quick response, and anyone else involved is able to be apprehended quickly.

Okay. Finally, is Boris Johnson against the ropes because of his COVID response?

Well, the guy is enjoying an 80-seat majority in Parliament right now. That's a pretty big deal. So even though the British economy is in big trouble, I would not argue that he is facing imminent political crisis, but he has very badly mishandled this. Certainly, the UK is in as bad shape, if not worse, from a healthcare perspective, as the United States. Right now, the per capita cases and hospitalizations in the UK are worse than they are in the United States, they're worse than they are in the EU as a whole, and they've locked down. They said there were not going to be locked downs nationwide. They've now come, and he's had to do a complete about face on that. He's going to say, because the virus got epidemiologically a lot worse than they expected. That may well be the case, but they're in charge. They're responsible for this stuff. So, they haven't handled it well.

And indeed the Labor Opposition Party has been well ahead of Boris Johnson in arguing for these policies. Let's keep in mind also that labor is not being run by Jeremy Corbyn, who was really God awful in terms of leadership. Instead you've had Keir Starmer who's much better. So long-term, a much more competitive landscape politically in the UK, but for now Boris Johnson going nowhere. Unless it turns out that his health is in much worse shape, and there have been some rumors that I've heard that Johnson is indeed suffering from the quote unquote long COVID.

And let's keep in mind that some five, 10% of people that get coronavirus are experiencing much longer serious symptoms, even beyond when they're supposedly better, and whether or not Boris Johnson faces that, it was touch and go as to whether he'd even survive his bout with coronavirus. Much, much worse than what we saw for Trump or from Bolsonaro in Brazil. That's a real question.

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A year and a half after millions poured into the streets of Santiago to protest inequality and the vestiges of the Pinochet dictatorship, Chileans voted this weekend to elect the 155 people who will rewrite the country's constitution.

The question now is not whether the people want change — clearly they do — but rather how much change their representatives can agree on. Overall, the new text is widely expected to beef up the role of the state in a country where a strong private sector made Chile one of Latin America's wealthiest yet also most unequal nations.

Here are a few things to bear in mind as the constitutional rewrite process kicks off.

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Morocco punishes Spain with... migrants: Spain has sent in the army to help defend the border in Ceuta, a tiny Spanish enclave on the Moroccan coast, after more than 8,000 migrants crossed over in just two days. Spanish border guards say that Morocco facilitated the migrants' departure, most of whom are Moroccan nationals, to punish Madrid for meddling in Morocco's internal affairs over Western Sahara. Last month, Madrid allowed the leader of the pro-independence Polisario Front to seek treatment for COVID in a Spanish hospital, infuriating Rabat, which claims the former Spanish colony of Western Sahara as part of its territory. The Moroccans, for their part, deny involvement in the mass exodus. However, that seems questionable given that Morocco has traditionally overreacted to any hint of Spanish support for Western Saharan independence. But Spain won't want to rock the boat too much because it needs Morocco's help to stop African migrants from flooding Ceuta and Melilla, the other Spanish enclave in Morocco. If the spat is not resolved soon, the European Union may have to step in to mediate because once the migrants are on EU soil, they are free to travel to other EU countries.

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20 million: The US will donate 20 million doses of federally authorized COVID vaccines to countries in need. This is the first time the Biden administration has agreed to send shots approved for use in America. Washington previously pledged to send by the end of June 60 million shots of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which the US has stockpiled but lacks FDA approval.

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Cyber is a tool, and sometimes a weapon. Whether espionage for commercial gain or indiscriminate attacks on critical infrastructure, actions taken in cyber space affect you directly, potentially upending even the most mundane realities of everyday life.

Watch GZERO Media and Microsoft's live conversation on cyber challenges facing governments, companies, and citizens in a Munich Security Conference "Road to Munich" event recorded today, May 18.

Event link: gzeromedia.com/globalstage

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A big reason the Chinese leader is pushing harder than ever to annex Taiwan is actually quite small. The self-governing island has an outsize manufacturing capacity for semiconductors – the little chips that bind the electrical circuits we use in our daily lives. Cell phones, laptops, modern cars, and even airplanes all rely on these tiny computer wafers. Taiwanese chip manufacturer TSMC alone makes more than half of the chips outsourced by all foreign companies, which means your iPhone likely runs on Taiwanese-made semiconductors. What would happen to the world's semiconductor chips if China were to take control of Taiwan?

Watch the episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: What could spark a US-China war?

Will there be a ceasefire in Gaza? Fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas/Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants in the Gaza Strip has now entered its second week. Over the weekend, Israel intensified its bombing of the Gaza Strip, which included targeting a building that houses Al-Jazeera and AP, two foreign media outlets, causing their reporters to hastily flee the premises (Israel has so far not substantiated its claim that Hamas intelligence operatives were working in the building.) At least 42 Gazans were killed in a single Israeli strike Sunday, bringing the Palestinian death toll above 200. Meanwhile, Hamas continued to fire rockets at southern and central Israel, resulting in several casualties. On Monday, for the first time since the violent outbreak, US President Joe Biden voiced support for a ceasefire driven by the Egyptians and others. However, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, has said that the operation will "take time," and a truce is off the table until Hamas' military capabilities are significantly degraded. Civilians on both sides continue to suffer.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here. Happy week to you. I thought we would do a quick take as we often do talk a little bit today about the latest in the fighting between the Israelis and the Palestinians, still going on. Thousands now of Hamas' rockets raining down on Israel, hundreds of Israeli air sorties, also tanks and artillery hitting Gaza, as well as some violence locally in the West Bank and a fair amount across Israel Proper between Arabs and Israeli Jews living in the country.

I'm pretty optimistic at this point, if you can even use that word, that this is not going to escalate further in the near term. In other words, this doesn't become a ground war. A couple of reasons. First, the Israeli defense forces over the weekend put out a statement showing how much they had already done to degrade Hamas' military capabilities. And historically, they don't do that until they're ready to show success and wrap up their military operations in relatively short order. So that implies a quick pivot, at least to opening negotiations with the Palestinians as to a ceasefire.

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