Kyrgyzstan unrest; Trump better than ever post-COVID

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

Number one, what is going on in Kyrgyzstan?

Otherwise was known as the Kyrgyz Republic. Well, massive demonstrations, a lot of violence, dozens injured, one dead, on the back of an election, parliamentary elections, where two parties that support the president said they won with a lot of claims of vote buying and corruption and massive outcry. And they've basically now overturned the result of the elections because the country was going to be in complete disarray. Not the first time in the Kyrgyz Republic there've been big demonstrations across the country to remove the outcomes of elections. We've seen presidents removed in the past. In this case, they actually got the former president who had been held in arrest for politicized charges has been removed from power. He's not saying he wants to be president, and the existing president isn't planning on stepping down, but it's clearly going to be messy and some time before we figure out how we redraw power in the Kyrgyz Republic.


It's not a very large country. It's only a few million people. It's in the mountains. It's basically locked up between China and Russia. So geopolitically, it doesn't have a lot of importance. It's mostly aligned with Kazakhstan next door, but still it is one more place there's just an awful lot of tension in the former Soviet Union, Russian country neighbors that the Russians think they should have the most influence over, and turns out it's really hard to maintain that extended presence. They're not happy about that. The Kremlin is not.

What's the update with the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan?

Well, similarly, here's a case where you've got a country, Armenia, that had a revolution. It was peaceful. They kicked out a corrupt kleptocracy. They're now being run by a democratic government. That democratic government still very much supports the Kremlin in terms of their trade deals, in terms of their intelligence sharing, and in terms of their defense relationship, they have a defense pact, to defend each other if one is invaded. Obviously, it's pretty asymmetrical because Armenia is all of five million people and landlocked, but nonetheless, didn't change that.

But the Russians aren't as happy be about the Armenians because the Russians see that Armenia is going its own way. It's more interested in civil society and Russia obviously is not. And so now for over a week, the Russians have been pretty much standing on the sidelines while there's been fairly significant attacks into mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh, an area that's overwhelmingly populated by Armenians, but that was historically part of the Azerbaijan Republic and the Azeris claim it as their territory.

There are ongoing negotiations, it's disputed territory, but it is now a military fight. Everyone's calling for ceasefire, except for Turkey, supporting Azerbaijan. And that's really kind of unfortunate because the Turks have a lot of military capacity, the Azeris have increased their military capacity, and the Armenians right now at least are pretty much all by themselves. So, brings back these historical concerns of genocide, which the Turks committed against the Armenian people some hundred years ago, and which the Turkish government has never admitted to. This has the potential to get a lot worse. And the news is between hundreds and even thousands dead on both sides at this point, and not getting much coverage at all here in the United States.

Okay. Final question. Will Trump change his views on COVID after contracting the virus?

Not at all. If anything, I mean, in Brazil after Bolsonaro contracted the virus, he said, "It's just a little flu. It's not a big deal." He was saying that before. In the United States, if anything, Trump is saying, actually this is, he's doubling down. He's saying, "I feel better than I did 20 years ago. I defeated the virus." I mean, I think it's very clear that within a week, Trump will be back, not only does he want to go to the debates, but he wants to be back on the campaign trail, and he wants to be back on the trail not wearing a mask, back on the trail with large masses, live, indoors. And we'll see. I mean, of course there'll be incredible outcry from people that can't stand Trump, but that's not new. I mean, as long as the two sides are completely in different information and media spheres, I think that this Trump strategy is not going to change.

The problem for Trump is that he's not getting an electoral college majority that way. He's actually dropped a point, two points, in key swing states over the last week. It's still early. We still need a lot of polls to come out to see how his handling of coronavirus is affecting the polls. But in Brazil they only picked up Bolsonaro a month later because the Brazilian population was having less of a hard time from coronavirus. In the United States those numbers still are persisting. They're not softening anywhere near what people would want them to. And it's going to be hard for them because Trump himself is not leaning into policies that would make that so. So what does it mean? It means his attitude is absolutely not changing and we've got four more weeks of everyone pulling their hair out in both sides of the political spectrum.

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It's been 365 days since twin blasts at a Beirut port decimated Lebanon's capital. More than 200 people were killed and some 7,000 were injured, yet accountability has been scarce. There is ample evidence that multiple Lebanese officials knew that ammonium nitrate was being improperly stored at the port. Four high-ranking politicians, including former PM Hassan Diab, have been charged by a Lebanese judge, but they all refuse to cooperate with the ongoing investigation.

Since then, Lebanon's already-dire economic and financial crises have only intensified. The Lebanese pound, the national currency, has plummeted, losing 90 percent of its value since 2019, when the country's economic crisis erupted. And more than 50 percent of the population is now living below the poverty line.

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University of British Colombia professor Edward Slingerland says drinking makes us feel good and has historically encouraged socializing. But there are negative implications, as well. We now have the problem of "distillation and isolation": getting as much booze as you want and drinking alone, especially during the pandemic. There's a gender issue too: the "bro culture" associated with alcohol can exclude and even be dangerous for women. Not all regions have the same problems, though, as drinking habits vary widely. Watch Slingerland's interview with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.

Watch the episode: The (political) power of alcohol

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week with a look at the deteriorating human rights situation in Belarus, Delta variant woes, and Lebanon one year after the Beirut blast.

An Olympian refuses to return home to Belarus and an anti-Lukashenko activist has been found dead in Ukraine. What's going on?

Yeah. That anti-Lukashenko activist was found hanged in a park in Kiev. Once again, not exactly likely a suicide. These anti-Lukashenko activists have a way of turning up injured or dead. It's a horrible regime. Their friends are limited largely to the Russians. That's about it. The economic pressure is growing from Europe, from the United States, very coordinated. But the problem is a very hard to do much to Lukashenko when he has not only support of his military, but also the support of most of the workers in the country who aren't prepared to strike because they want to ensure they still have jobs. I expect this is going to continue, but human rights abuses are stacking up. It is nice to see that the Americans and the Europeans are coordinating policy as well as they have been.

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Raisi won't have it easy: The newly "elected" president of Iran, Ibrahim Raisi, was officially endorsed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on Tuesday. In his inaugural address, the 60-year-old hardliner pledged to get US sanctions removed and to respond to rising socioeconomic grievances within Iran, but he warned that he wouldn't lash Iran's prosperity or survival to "the will of foreigners." In Iran, the president's role focuses mainly on domestic policy, but with the economy reeling one of Raisi's big early challenges will be to continue complicated talks with the Biden administration to renegotiate the 2015 nuclear deal, which would lead to the US lifting some of the harshest sanctions. Both sides say they want a new deal, and have gone through half a dozen rounds of negotiations already, but they remain at odds over who should make what concessions first. Raisi also pledged to restore Iranians' flagging trust in their government and to improve the economic situation, but in ways that are in line with "revolutionary principles." He'll have his hands full with that. And don't forget that the likely imminent (re)takeover of neighboring Afghanistan by the Taliban — whom Tehran don't like at all — will also occur on Raisi's watch. Good luck, Mr. President, you'll need it.

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The Biden administration is finally devoting more attention to Southeast Asia. Last week US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin traveled to Singapore, Vietnam, and the Philippines, marking the first regional visit by a Biden cabinet official. A trip by Vice President Kamala Harris is already in the works as well, and this week Secretary of State Tony Blinken will meet (virtually) with ASEAN counterparts.

The flurry of activity comes after earlier concerns that President Joe Biden was neglecting Southeast Asia, the region where US-China rivalry is the most intense. To understand better what Austin's visit meant, and what comes next, Eurasia Group's lead Southeast Asia analyst Peter Mumford spoke to us from Singapore.

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158: To boost vaccination rates, New York City will soon require proof of COVID vaccination or a negative test to enter gyms and restaurants, as daily new infections in the Big Apple have jumped 158 percent over the past two weeks due to the more contagious delta variant. New York is the first major US city to take this step, following similar schemes already in place in France and Italy.

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