Trump's choices depend on money & leverage; COVID vaccine news is a big deal

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

Number one, Trump will not concede the election. What happens now?

Well, it's very different from impeachment. When impeachment happened, all the Republicans opposed it. Mitt Romney get one conviction, but otherwise, it was party line. And the social media, Fox news, OANN, all these guys, everyone said "innocent." This is a different story. Here's one where Trump isn't conceding, but actually, the Republicans are all over the map. We've got several Republican senators already that have called to congratulate Biden on his win. I know four have done so as of this morning.


We see that a lot of Trump's supporters are saying, "We definitely should go through all of every legal means to contest, but ultimately, if they fail, and by the way, they're going to fail, then that means that Biden will be the victor." And I've even seen Lindsey Graham say that. Ted Cruz almost said that. And then, you have some hardcore GOP and Trump supporters that are saying, "No, this was stolen." And so far, Trump has been saying that publicly. I saw Secretary of State Pompeo just came out with a statement, and it was, "There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration."

Now, what's Pompeo doing? Is this a coup? No, no. Pompeo understands that Trump is still going to be powerful. And you've got other people that want to run for president in 2024 that are being much more cautious, aren't supporting Trump as much like Nikki Haley, for example. And then, you've got Pompeo who's Secretary of State, and he's saying, "I'm right there with you, Mr. Trump." And so, when Mr. Trump becomes a king-maker for the party in 2024, who do you think he's going to be closer to? It's a very cynical move, but if you're Mike Pompeo, it's the move you've got. That's what you're doing. That does not mean that you actually have a whole phalanx of the Republican party that's planning to burn it all in flames.

Now, the real question is, what's Trump going to do? Will Trump ultimately offer a week late concession and won't show up at the inauguration of Biden, but nonetheless will do it? Or does he try to just burn as much down as he can personally? I don't know the answer to that. Some of this is about the money. Like, how much money does he owe? And doesn't he need to try to raise as much money possible to actually get out of that financial jeopardy? Some of it is how much leverage he does or does not think he can have with those that could push for a pardon both before the transition, as well as, potentially, after with Biden for the good of the country. Right? There are a lot of reasons why Trump would or would not want to offer some kind of concession. I understand that from a personal and narcissistic perspective, you'd say, "Well, he'd never admit that he lost anything," but he's made admissions before.

NATO, he said it was obsolete. Then, he said, "I was wrong." And he moved on. His ego allows him to be right about everything even when he admits he's wrong about something. That's one of the helpful things from the Trump mental and emotional perspective. Even on Obama birtherism, he gave that big press conference at the Trump International Hotel. The big reveal was an infomercial, but he gave one sentence saying, "Oh, and by the way, Obama was really born in the US." He didn't say he was wrong, just, "Well, the facts came out." He could do that with the presidency if he wants to. He'll still drive the libs nuts, right? That's not an issue for Trump. They all still hate him. He's still going to have that fight. It's not like he's going to give up on anything. So, I think that would be interesting if that's the way it goes.

With Pfizer and BioNTech announcing a 90% effective COVID vaccine, what happens next?

Well, look, first of all, it's a press release. I'd be more comfortable if we had the data as well. So, let's be clear that we've had other press releases too, still a lot to understand. But certainly, at this stage in the game, 90% effectiveness is vastly better than any epidemiologist I've been talking to at this... Looking at the vaccines going forward. So, if that's what we have, and by spring, summer, we end up with a significant piece of the American population taking this, and by the way, 90% effectiveness, a lot more people are going to be comfortable taking it than at 40% or 50%. I think that's a seriously big deal.

Now, again, it's two shots. So, it is, you got a booster. So, that means double the amount of time to produce, double the amount of time distribution. It's challenging. You need infrastructure around that, and I'm not sure that Trump's going to do a lot to help before inauguration of Biden on January 20th, but this is a big deal. This is going to improve GDP. It's going to improve the ability of people to get back to work, prove the ability people to socialize, stop the quarantines, all of that.

And that, plus the fact that mortality rates are going down means that the balance between listening to the scientist and listening to the economist is shifting towards the economist, and that's important. Like, I wouldn't feel pretty bad if Biden only listens to the scientists and the COVID task force and doesn't recognize that mortality is coming down. We've got better treatment. We're going to continue to have that. And we also have vaccines coming. You still want to wear masks, but you definitely want to be opening the economy more. I don't think this reflects needing to lock down economies. And that's a really, really good thing.

Will the peace deal between Armenia and Azerbaijan last?

Yeah. Yeah, I think it will because the Armenians have gotten pasted. They have really very little support internationally. Militarily, the Azeris supported by the Turks are a lot stronger, and the Armenians lost some territory in this contested mountain, this Nagorno-Karabakh. They were, potentially, going to lose the capital, so they gave up the territory that the Azeris occupied. They gave up the territory around Nagorno-Karabakh that had been occupied by the Armenians as a buffer zone. This makes the democratic elected government in Armenia a lot weaker. It's potential that they could be overthrown. There's going to be a lot of anger when you lose a war. There's a lot of anger, but in terms of, is there going to be a ceasefire or not? Yeah.

When one side wins, there's not much that the Armenians can do right now. And this is what happens in a GZERO world where you've got a political vacuum, you've got a military vacuum, the aggressor gets to do a lot. And the Turks and the Azeris decided that the status quo, which had worked very well for decades for an Armenia that had a lot of political friends, but not many military advantages, they don't like that status quo. So, holding onto the status quo was not a viable strategy. And again, they just got pasted.

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?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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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?

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.

Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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