Most world leaders hope for Biden victory; Amy Coney Barrett sworn in

Ian Bremmer discusses the World In (more than) 60 Seconds:

One week before the US election. What do other world leaders want to happen?

Well, I mean, let's face it. Outside the United States, most of the world's leaders would prefer to see the back of Trump. An America first policy was not exactly made for non-Americans. That was not the intended demographic audience. Trump doesn't really care. In fact, to a degree, it's kind of a selling point that a lot of foreign leaders don't want Trump. It's showing that Trump is strong in negotiations and indeed is doing better for the American people.

That's largely BS, but occasionally it's true. I mean, his willingness to use American power to force the Mexican government to actually tighten up on Mexico's Southern border and stop immigration from coming through. AMLO would have much rather that not have happened, but the fact that it did was an America first policy, that rebounded to the benefits of the United States. And there are other examples of that. But generally speaking, it would be better for the US long-term, and for the world, if we had more harmonious, smoother relations with other countries around the world, certainly pretty much all the Europeans would much rather see Trump lose. The United Kingdom is the significant exception given the nature of Brexit, and the fact that Trump has been in favor of that, like being called Mr. Brexit by five or six Brits or however many did.


The Hungarians certainly prefer Trump. The Polish government prefers Trump. Pretty much, everyone else would rather have Biden in. In the Middle East, the Saudis are worried that they're not going to get the same level of interest support that they've gotten under Biden. I would say most of the other Gulf Arabs are actually more comfortable with a more stable relationship, frankly, speaking with a lot of them, the Emirates, the Omanis, the Qataris, I think they're all kind of fine with Biden, even though Biden clearly would be moving more towards transition on energy. But if that means no more support for fracking in the US, if you're an energy producer outside the United States, you kind of like that. So that's interesting.

The Japanese are more comfortable with Biden. There's no question there. And interestingly, the Russians prefer Trump, the Iranians prefer Biden. The Chinese are conflicted. The economic camp in China thinks that Trump is much more dangerous for them. Short-term they'd rather see normalization. They think Biden will be a little bit softer and easier to deal with, but certainly will be more predictable. The hardliners, the Wolf Warriors, the national security types, they actually would prefer Trump because they think that Trump is more volatile and blows up US multilateral architecture. He leaves the World Health Organization, he leaves Paris Climate Accord, and he left the TPP that Obama couldn't get done.

All of that makes the Chinese look less irresponsible, doesn't make them look maybe more responsible, makes them look less irresponsible, and they generally like that. They see that as longer term providing more opportunity. So, it is truly conflicted in China right now. But on balance, you'll hear a sigh of relief of Biden wins. The first major summitry with the US and other countries will feel like a honeymoon. It won't last that long because structurally there are lots of reasons why the Americans don't want to be the world policeman, or the architect of global trade, or certainly the cheerleader for global values.

And even though Biden may say nicer things that sound more consensus oriented and multilateral, those constraints, which happened before Trump, happened during Trump, will happen after Trump. Let's remember just how many leaders were admonishing Obama for America's leading from behind strategy. That was when Biden was VP. That doesn't go away. In fact, Biden will find himself more constrained given just how much will be required to rebuild the American economy, the American working and middle-class, on the back of a very deep recession and the pandemic.

Amy Coney Barrett has been confirmed. What does that mean for America going forward?

Well, it means a more conservative court. Obviously, it means a more conservative federal judiciary generally after four years of strong additions from the Republican party, especially because a lot of Obama's nominees were blocked when the Republicans controlled the Senate at the end of the Obama administration.

So, everyone's saying, "How come Obama left all of those positions open?" Well, because he couldn't get them through. So, it's been a fair swing across the judiciary towards the conservative. And it would take a long time, even if the Democrats were to take the Senate, which is certainly plausible, even likely right now. McConnell, the Senate majority leader, is correct in saying that that is going to be a win that will take years to unwind. That does reflect a threat to Joe Biden's policy agenda. It gives private businesses new avenues for challenging regulations, reversing legal precedents that form the basis of the regulatory state that we have, or have had, in the United States. There's also greater potential for democratic initiatives on things like climate change, on voting rights, on healthcare, that could potentially be overturned by the courts, more conservative courts across the board, not least of which of course is potential confrontation around the voting of this election.

One reason you wanted this done as soon as possible was not just because the conservatives now control the Senate, but also even now, as opposed to lame duck, because if it's close, this is going to get contested. And a lot of these are going to go through the courts. So ACB is significant indeed, and no surprise, the Republicans did everything they could to get her through on a party line vote with the exception of Susan Collins from Maine, but no Democrats voting in her favor. First time in 150 years that you've had a Supreme court nominee with not a single member of support from the minority party. Goes to show just how divided the United States has become. This is pretty unprecedented in modern times in terms of the level of polarization in the United States right now.

Is there a bigger story at play with all that is going on in the former Soviet republics?

Kyrgyz Republic, the president is ousted. In Belarus, we've got massive demonstrations all the time. In Armenia and Azerbaijan, and we have this fighting. Really, I think you want to focus on the fact that you had 15 new countries in 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed that, with the exception of the Baltic States, really had very limited experience with governance before. They had been nominally autonomous and had their Republican ministerial attributes in the Soviet Union, but they didn't govern, they didn't have autonomy, and they certainly didn't have rule of law. So, creating those from broadcloth is hard, and it's particularly hard when you have all of these ethnographic time bombs that were set up back when Stalin was Commissar of Nationalities specifically to make it harder to unwind the Soviet Union.

Moving people and drawing border boundaries that make it clear that, "Oh, here's an enclave of Tatars, and here's an enclave of Bashkirs, and here's an enclave of Russians and Crimean Tatars, and others that are inside the territory of other nationalities." What I used to call matryoshka nationalism, after the Russian nesting dolls. And as soon as you open one up, the one underneath is pushing and trying to pop up. That's exactly what's happening in the [foreign language 00:08:56]. I mean, historically there've been periods of time when Armenians controlled that territory, when Azeris controlled that territory, under Soviet times it was given to Azerbaijan, but it was autonomous for the Armenians, and there was major fighting. As the Soviet Union was starting to collapse, then the Armenians took it over, but the hundred thousand plus Azeris were left homeless and very unhappy, displaced, and obviously this isn't going to get fixed until we have negotiated settlements. Crimea, a very similar situation. Southeast Ukraine.

In the case of Belarus, it's just a really bad government that's been in place for decades now. It's kleptocratic, they don't care about their people, and coronavirus made it even worse. So I think it's a combination of people getting angry, of the economics being more challenging in this global time of a serious downturn, it's bad and weak governance, it's poor individuals at the top of the system that don't really care and aren't legitimate in the eyes of their people, and it's very serious, deeply entrenched ethnographic governance problems that were set up to be problems, and now they are emerging as problems.

So, it's complicated. It's not one size fits all, and it's still going to take a long time before this stuff gets fixed. But in the Baltic States, where there are large numbers of Russians in those populations, in Lithuania, and particularly in Latvia and Estonia, but those governments work pretty well because they had had a reasonable time of self-governance before World War II, and they were able to align much more quickly with the European Union and with NATO. They have the institutional connections and they have the political legitimacy that the other post-Soviet republics, now independent states, largely do not have. And that makes them a lot more brittle, makes them a lot more susceptible to domestic instability and international conflict.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

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Listen: Stanford historian Niall Ferguson joins Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast to talk about the geopolitics of disaster. Throughout human history we seem to be unable to adequately prepare for catastrophes (natural or human-caused) before they strike. Why is that? And as we emerge from the greatest calamity of our lifetimes in the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the plethora of crises that climate change has and will cause, what can we do to lessen the blow?

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