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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"The people are stronger," pro-democracy demonstrators chanted as news broke that the Sudanese military had staged a coup Monday, overthrowing the joint civilian-military government and dashing hopes of democracy in the war-torn country.

The backstory. In 2019, Omar al-Bashir – a despot who ruled Sudan with an iron fist for 30 years – was deposed after a months-long popular uprising.

Al-Bashir was a bad guy: he cozied up to terrorists like Osama bin Laden and dropped barrel bombs on his own people. He also embezzled truck loads of money from oil production while millions of Sudanese went hungry, and oversaw a genocide in the Darfur region that left 300,000 people dead and displaced 1.6 million.

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Watch "Climate Crisis: Is net zero really possible?" a one-hour virtual livestream, hosted by GZERO Media and Microsoft as part of the Global Stage series, to hear scientists, corporate leaders and policymakers debate this question and offer critical perspectives on the way forward. Live on Tuesday, November 2nd at 11am ET, we'll break down what "net zero" means, take stock of where the world is on the path to carbon neutrality, and discuss critical steps needed to make real progress.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hey everybody and happy Monday. Back in the office, getting a little cool. So I've got my sweater going on. It's the first time I've had a sweater on. What do you do with that? Discussing fashion, as I talk to you about what is on my mind this week?

And what's on my mind this week, Facebook. Facebook is on my mind. It's a tough week for Facebook. There are all sorts of whistleblowers out there. There's testimony going on. There's calls for regulation. Everybody seems unhappy with them. Indeed, you even got the government relations types, Nick Clegg, who I've known for a long time back when he was a policymaker in the UK saying that the headlines are going to be rough, but we're are going to get through it. But I will say, first of all, I'm kind of skeptical that any of this goes anywhere in terms of impact on how Facebook actually operates.

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Turkey's Erdogan ups the ante with the West: Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared diplomats from 10 Western countries "persona non-grata" after the group — which includes the US, France, and Germany — called on Ankara to release Osman Kavala, a Parisian-born Turkish businessman who's been held in jail since 2017 but hasn't been charged with a crime. Erdogan says that Kavala was involved in an attempted coup against the government in 2016. This latest move is a sign of Turkey's authoritarian drift in recent years, which has seen Erdogan's government increasingly crack down on opposition members as well as journalists. It also reflects Turkey's increasingly fraught relations with the West: things got particularly bad between Washington and Ankara after Turkey purchased missile defense systems from the Russians in 2019. The Council of Europe (the EU's leading human rights organization) had previously warned that Ankara has until November to release Kavala or it would impose "infringements," though it's unclear what those would be.

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ASEAN gets tough(ish) with Myanmar: The leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations meet Tuesday for their annual summit with one notable absence: the head of Myanmar's military junta. It's a rare snub from ASEAN, a regional bloc that's gotten a lot of heat in the past for giving tyrants a free pass. The junta says ASEAN violated its traditional principles of deciding by consensus by disinviting its leader, and non-interference in domestic affairs for demanding the bloc's special envoy meet detained former leader Aung San Suu Kyi. For their part, the other ASEAN members have grown visibly alarmed at Myanmar's rapidly deteriorating political and economic situation since the February coup, and they're worried about the spillover effects of Myanmar becoming a failed state. More importantly, Myanmar is a big thorn in ASEAN's side as it walks a fine line between keeping warm ties with the US — which most members want cash and security from — and getting along with China, one of Myanmar's few remaining friends and viewed with suspicion by most ASEAN members over its South China Sea shenanigans.

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

Why should all eyes be on the Virginia suburbs?

I'm here in the Washington, D.C. suburb of Arlington, Virginia, where the state will be having a gubernatorial election on November 2nd. The Virginia governor election is held in the year after the US presidential election typically, and is generally seen as a bellwether for how popular the incumbent president of the United States is. In 2009, the Republican candidate won by a commanding 16 points despite the fact that Virginia has been trending more and more Democratic in recent years due to the population growth here in the suburbs, which tend to be more blue than rural areas of the state.

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