Biden and Putin hold virtual meeting as US-Russia tensions increase

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week with a look at Biden and Putin's talk, the US boycott of the Beijing Olympics, and the omicron variant.

As Presidents Biden and Putin meet, how are US-Russia relations at the moment?

They're pretty bad. I mean, I would say compared to China where we have lots of mutual interdependence, in the case of Russia, that is not the case at all. The United States does not need Russia economically. The Russians feel like the present geopolitical order, especially in their backyard really doesn't suit them. And Putin also feels like he has more ability to press the Americans harder because Merkel is leaving; energy prices are high. And also because the Europeans coming into winter need Russian gas much more. So for all those reasons, this is going to be a much stroppier, chippier meeting, if you don't mind me using those terms, than we would've seen last time they met in Geneva back in June.


What's going on with the US boycott of the Beijing Olympics?

Well, there I actually think that the headlines are bigger than the underlying news. Biden really was hoping to punt on a diplomatic boycott, especially once the omicron variant showed up and “zero COVID” policies in China, thinking, “Hey, maybe they just won't allow in foreign dignitaries, in which case we don't have to say anything.” He's been punting on the issue for weeks now. Well, finally, he's getting pressed. It's becoming a bigger issue for the Republicans. They're talking about it publicly. You got people like Mike Pompeo, saying, "You should boycott the whole thing." Nikki Haley, same thing. So Biden said, "Okay, we're going to do diplomatic boycott." Chinese is going to be unhappy about it, but still, it's a better relationship today than it was back during the Anchorage summit, which was kind of shambolic. You had that three-and-a-half-hour meeting between Biden and Xi. You got some cooperation on climate, some on the energy, Petroleum Reserve release, and you'll probably see a little more on trade. So it's a bump. But on balance, it's trending a little bit better than it had been.

Finally, what's the omicron update?

Update is we still don't know really how lethal this disease is. The early news is it's a little milder, but most of those cases overwhelmingly are young people who don't have pre-existing conditions. Still not enough cases to get a really good sense. I really hope, fingers crossed, toes crossed, everything crossed, that's where it ends up going, because we do know it's a lot more transmissible, which means everyone's probably going to get it. It's going to be all over the world. The vaccinated populations will be safe, but most of the world isn't fully vaccinated. And that means this is likely to be a third pandemic. Let's hope it's a really mild one.

We believe in access for everyone.

https://ad.doubleclick.net/ddm/trackimp/N6024.4218512GZEROMEDIA/B26379324.311531246;dc_trk_aid=504469522;dc_trk_cid=156468981;ord=[timestamp];dc_lat=;dc_rdid=;tag_for_child_directed_treatment=;tfua=;gdpr=${GDPR};gdpr_consent=${GDPR_CONSENT_755};ltd=?
Visa: We believe in access for everyone. Image of a small, diverse group of people, smiling

Gaps in economic opportunities have made it hard for all individuals to take part in the global payments ecosystem. To address those gaps, society needs public policies to empower citizens, small businesses, and economies. That’s why, in 2021, the Visa Economic Empowerment Institute (VEEI) started conducting research and publishing reports about fostering digital equity and inclusion, unlocking growth through trade, and imagining an open future for payments. In 2022, we hope you’ll visit the VEEI for insights and data on the future of inclusive economic policies. See our newest stories here.

A year of Biden

Joe Biden’s first year as US president included two major historic accomplishments and a series of (often bitter) disappointments that has his party headed toward likely defeat in November’s midterm elections. Biden’s own political future is increasingly uncertain.

More Show less
The Graphic Truth: How do US presidents do in their first year?

Joe Biden's approval rating has taken a big hit during his first year as US president. Biden is now just slightly more popular than his predecessor Donald Trump at the same point in his presidency. While Biden has made a series of policy and political blunders that might be reflected in polling, this is also a sign of the times: US politics are now so polarized that presidential approval has a low ceiling. We compare the approval ratings of the last five US presidents in their first year.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi in Moscow, Russia January 19, 2022.

Iran and Russia heart each other. The presidents of Iran and Russia have little in common personally, but they share many geopolitical interests, including in Afghanistan and Syria. They also have a common resolve in countering "the West.” These issues are all on the agenda as Vladimir Putin and Ebrahim Raisi held their first in-person meeting in Moscow. Raisi is a hardline cleric who leads a theocracy with nuclear ambitions. Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, is a wily autocrat who enjoys provoking America and Europe, and has ambitions to return to the glory days of the territorially expansive Soviet Union — as seen with the Kremlin's recent provocations on the Ukrainian border. With the Iran nuclear talks on life support and Joe Biden already bracing for Russian troops crossing into Ukraine, Tehran and Moscow now have even more reasons to scheme and cooperate. Indeed, Moscow and Tehran have increasingly been cooperating on energy and security issues (Iran might be buying Russian military technology) as their respective relations with the West deteriorate.

More Show less
Namibian citizen Phillip Luhl holds one of his twin daughters as he speaks to his Mexican husband Guillermo Delgado via Zoom meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa, April 13, 2021

2: Namibia’s High Court ruled against two gay couples seeking legal recognition of their marriages. The judge said she agreed with the couples, who are seeking residency or work authorizations for foreign-born spouses, but is bound by a Supreme Court ruling that deems same-sex relationships illegitimate.

More Show less
President Vladimir Putin

No one knows whether Russian President Vladimir Putin plans on invading Ukraine. But the president of the United States sure seems to think this is a real possibility, saying Wednesday that Putin will likely "move in" in the near term. Biden, prone to political gaffes, was then forced to awkwardly walk back comments that Russia would face milder consequences from the West in the event of a "minor incursion."

The timing of this blunder is... not great. It comes just as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken prepares to meet his Russian counterpart on Friday in hopes of lowering the temperature after recent diplomatic efforts in Geneva were deemed a failure by Moscow.

Indeed, with the Kremlin having amassed at least 100,000 troops surrounding Ukraine on three sides, the growing threat is impossible to ignore. So what would a Russian military offensive into Ukraine actually look like, and how might the West respond?

More Show less

Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, discusses the Democrats voting bill.

What is the status on the Democrats voting bill?

The Democrats are pushing a bill that would largely nationalize voting rules, which today are largely determined at the state level. The bill would make Election Day a national holiday. It would attempt to end partisan gerrymandering. It would create a uniform number of early voting days and make other reforms that are designed to standardize voting rules and increase access to voting across the country. This matters to Democrats because they think they face an existential risk to their party's political prospects. They're very likely to lose at least the House and probably the Senate this year. And they see voting changes that are being pushed by Republicans at the state level that they say are designed to make it harder to vote, particularly for minorities, a key Democratic constituency.

More Show less

Omicron has arrived. It's more contagious, but less severe. Some parts of the world are even looking forward to the pandemic becoming endemic.

Not China. Xi Jinping's zero-COVID strategy has worked wonders until now, but it's unlikely to survive omicron, explains Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

A year of Biden

Signal

China vs COVID in 2022

GZERO World Clips

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal