Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin space flight & the new space race

Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics this week with a look to outer space, in a special edition of (Out of The) World In 60 Seconds:

Was today's Blue Origin space flight a big deal for humankind, or just a big deal for Jeff Bezos?

I'm not sure the space flight itself was such a big deal for humankind, but I do think the advances in space technology, which are increasingly stepping up, they're much quicker. I mean, reusable rockets that land exactly where they took off. That's very different from the space shuttle a couple of decades ago, and very exciting in terms of the ability to not just engage in space tourism, but explore both what's outside of our Earth and beyond. So yeah, I think the fact that's being driven by the private sector is a big deal for the United States, a big deal for the planet. I, having said that, the planet that we're right now all on, is the one that matters, I think, the most to everybody for the foreseeable future.


Did Richard Branson steal Jeff Bezos' thunder?

No, I don't think he did. I think more relevantly, Richard Branson saved his company, Virgin Galactic. They had a problem. One of their planes or rockets, if you will, had malfunctioned. There were huge delays, and now suddenly they showed right before Bezos. They got an enormous amount of media attention. Branson's always been a genius at that. I'm much happier that he decided to apply himself to outer-space travel or near-space travel and tourism rather than trying to run for political office, frankly. It's better aligned towards that, and I think it will get more attention to space. Frankly, as someone who always loved space stuff and dinosaurs, when I was a kid, I think that's a good thing.

Will this flight have geopolitical implications like the 20th-century Space Race?

Sort of in the sense that in the United States, NASA has long been seriously underfunded. A lot of scuttled missions, not a lot of grand vision and ambition like we used to in the days of the Apollo missions. The Chinese, the Indians, the Emiratis are doing a lot more of that than NASA is, but the United States is still, in many ways, way out in front of the space race because of Jeff Bezos, because of Elon Musk. In fact, I'd argue that it's the guy that's not in the headlines this week or last week that matters most for space. That's Elon. He's kind of dominating near-Earth orbit. The truly interesting thing about Elon Musk though, and this is geopolitical, is that SpaceX is really an arm of the American military. It's like over 90% of all of their contracts are with NASA and the Pentagon, while Tesla is doing enormous business with high tech in China, with Chinese partners. And the ability for Elon to engage in that geopolitical balancing act. It is probably the most problematic business model out there of all of the advanced tech players. I'm not sure it's sustainable and I'm not sure which one he's going to choose. So we'll see where that goes.

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The German people have spoken. For the first time in over 70 years, the country's next government is all but assured to be a three-way coalition.

That coalition will probably be led by the center-left SPD, the most voted party, with the Greens and the pro-business FDP as junior partners. Less likely but still possible is a similar combination headed by the conservative CDU/CSU, which got its worst result ever. A grand coalition of the SPD and the CDU/CSU — the two parties that have dominated German federal politics since World War II — has been rejected by half the electorate.

Both the Greens and especially the FDP have been in coalition governments before. But this time it's different because together they have the upper hand in negotiations with the big parties wooing them.

The problem is that the two minority parties don't agree on anything much beyond legalizing weed. So, where does each stand on the policies that divide them?

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China and Canada's hostage diplomacy: In 2018, Canada arrested a Huawei top executive Meng Wanzhou because US authorities wanted to prosecute her for violating Iran sanctions. China responded by arresting two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, in what looked like a tit-for-tat. Over the weekend, Meng and the "Two Michaels" were all freed to return to their home countries as part of a deal evidently brokered by Washington. The exchange removes a major sore spot in US-China and Canada-China relations, though we're wondering if establishing the precedent of "hostage diplomacy" with China, especially in such a prominent case, is a good one for anyone involved.

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40: Samyukta Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body representing 40 Indian farmer groups, took to the streets Monday to mark a year since the start of mass protests against new farming laws that they say help big agro-businesses at the expense of small farmers. The group has called for an industry-wide strike until the laws are withdrawn.

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Germany's conservative CDU/ CSU party and the center-left SPD have dominated German politics since the 1950s. For decades, they have vied for dominance and often served in a coalition together, and have been known as the "people's parties" – a reference to their perceived middle-of-the-road pragmatism and combined broad appeal to the majority of Germans. But that's all changing, as evidenced by the fact that both performed poorly in this week's election, shedding votes to the minority Greens and pro-business Free Democrats. We take a look at the CDU/CSU and SPD's respective electoral performance over the past 60 years.

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here. Happy week to all of you and thought I'd talk a little bit about Germany and Europe. Because of course, we just had elections in Germany, 16 years of Angela Merkel's rule coming to an end - by far the strongest leader that Germany has seen post-war, Europe has seen since the collapse of the Soviet Union. And indeed in many ways, the world has seen in the 21st century. Xi Jinping, of course, runs a much bigger country and has consolidated much more power, but in terms of the free world, it's been Angela Merkel.

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Germany's historic moment of choice is finally here, and voters will stream to the polls on Sunday for the country's first post-World War II vote without a national leader seeking re-election. They will elect new members of the Bundestag, Germany's lower house of parliament. The leader of the party that wins the most seats will then try to secure a majority of seats by drawing other parties into a governing partnership. He or she will then replace Angela Merkel as Germany's chancellor.

If the latest opinion polls are right, the center-left Social Democrats will finish first. In coming weeks, they look likely to form a (potentially unwieldy) governing coalition with the Green Party and the pro-business Free Democrats, which would be Germany's first-ever governing alliance of more than two parties.

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As the US economy powers ahead to recover from COVID, many developing economies are getting further left behind — especially those in Latin America. Economic historian Adam Tooze says the region, which did relatively well during the global recession, is now "looking at a lost decade." Watch his interview with Ian Bremmer on the latest episode of GZERO World.

Watch the episode: How the COVID-damaged economy surprised Adam Tooze

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