Lula’s comeback upends Brazilian politics; Senegal's dicey situation

Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics this week:

We'll start in Brazil. Will Lula run for president and seriously challenge Bolsonaro?

And the answer is, it increasingly looks that way. The Supreme Court threw out former President Lula's former conviction, saying they didn't have jurisdiction. And the court that he was actually charged, court members were surprised by this. Lula's own PT party surprised by this. It means a couple of things. One, he's much more likely to run. He's extremely popular on the left. His PT party has about 20% approval in the country. And that means that between Bolsonaro, the president, and Lula on the left, there's very little room in the center. This is going to be an incredibly contentious and polarized election, much more so than in the United States, even this past November.


What is happening in Senegal?

Well, it's one of the more democratic countries in Africa and in West Africa. And you have a former presidential candidate who didn't do very well, but nonetheless, young guy, quite popular, particularly on anti-corruption issues. This guy, Ousmane Sonko, he's all of in his 40s right now and he has been arrested for and charged with rape. I have literally no idea the merit of the charges, but what we know is that previously around presidential elections and opposition candidates, they've often found trumped up charges to get rid of them in contestation of the sitting president. That together with the fact there is a lot of corruption in Senegal right now and the economy's not doing so well, led to big demonstrations and a number of people, it looks like eight so far, that have been killed and that has the potential. He's been released. But this is a dicey situation. Senegal could be in a lot of trouble going forward.

And did I watch the Harry and Meghan interview?

No, no, I did not. Why? Because it's the Royals and because I don't care about the Royals. The Royals are basically a tourist mechanism in the United Kingdom and that's fine. There's nothing wrong with having something that attracts some money and some eyeballs. But we have that in the United States. It's called Disneyland. And I don't watch interviews with Mickey Mouse, either. So, it's okay. Some people will be annoyed that this is my position, but it is my position. I don't care about the Royals, I don't really want to talk about them and we'll move on to other geopolitical issues that matter next week.

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Iran’s nuclear program runs hotter

Talks between Iran’s government and world powers over the future of Iran’s nuclear program continue. The US and Iran are still not communicating directly; Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia are shuttling between them.

The good news is that they’re all still talking. The bad news is that, after eight rounds of negotiations, the main players haven’t agreed on anything that would constitute a breakthrough.

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January 6 laid bare "the deep divisions, the partisan infighting, the polarization within our society," says Fiona Hill, the former US senior director of the National Security Council. In a GZERO World interview, she spoke with Ian Bremmer about her concerns about the state of democracy in the United States.

Hill famously testified against her impeached boss, Donald Trump, who stayed in power after being acquitted by the Senate of abuse of power and obstructing Congress. She also notes that divisions actually make America look weaker on the global stage — particularly to someone like Russia’s president Vladimir Putin.

Watch this episode of GZERO World: American strife: Will US democracy survive? Fiona Hill explains post-Jan 6 stakes

Kevin Allison, director of geotech at Eurasia Group, is concerned about the rise of very powerful tech companies disrupting centuries of geopolitics led by the nation-state.

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The problem with China’s Zero COVID strategy: GZERO World with Ian Bremmer - the podcast

Listen: Xi Jinping's zero-COVID approach faces its toughest test to date with omicron. Why? Because China lacks mRNA jabs, and so few Chinese people have gotten COVID that overall protection is very low. A wave of lockdowns could disrupt the world's second-largest economy — just a month out from the Beijing Winter Olympics.

That could spell disaster for Beijing, Yanzhong Huang, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, tells Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast. If things get really bad, though, Huang believes China will pivot to living with the virus, especially as the cost of keeping zero COVID in the age of omicron becomes too high.

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Kiev, Ukraine

First question, how is the crisis in this part of Europe developing?

Not good. There's been a week of intense diplomacy with talks in Geneva, and Brussels, and Vienna that produced virtually nothing. The Russian, sort of key demands are outrageously unrealistic. They know that is the case. The US is trying to engage them on somewhat different issues. We'll see if there's any prospect there, but it doesn't look too good. I think the likelihood is that we gradually will move into the phase of what the Russians call military technical measures, whatever that is.

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For Angela Hofmann, practice head for Industrial & Consumer at Eurasia Group, the world's most visible brands are in for a very rocky year.

Navigating culture wars will be very tricky, as well as fighting with competing demands from consumers, employees, and regulators on issues like China, diversity, and voting rights.

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Political polarization in the US isn’t just a problem within the country, points out former US national security official Fiona Hill. Deep divisions, she says, actually make America look weaker on the global stage — particularly to someone like Russia’s president Vladimir Putin.

“Putin loves our disunity," Russian expert Hill tells Ian Bremmer. "It's incredibly useful as a tool to exploit in that toolkit that he has.”

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An emboldened Putin thrives on American disunity

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