Uncertainties of COVID vaccine rollout timing; US-Russia under Biden

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

Number one, what will COVID vaccine distribution look like in the United States and elsewhere?

Very politicized, right? I mean, the fact is that there's an effort to have a distribution to medium and low-income countries. $38 billion requested, one fourth funded at this point. It is so obvious we desperately need it. The money is not yet there. It's clear that the emerging markets are going to take a lot longer and the poorest countries are going to take a lot longer to get vaccines. Now, at least that's less of a disaster in some countries with very, very young people because it's all asymptomatic spread, very few people are actually dying or getting sick from coronavirus if you're in, let's say, a Sub-Saharan African country where the average age is 17 or 18.


But still, your ability to get travel back up and going and get supply chains back up and going in many emerging markets around the world means you want those vaccines. And they don't have the ability to pay for the shutdowns that they do in other places. So, Mexico right now, I mean, their explosion of cases looks a lot like what's happening in the United States. They should be locking Mexico City down according to their equivalent of the CDC and their guidelines. But they don't have the money for it. And so, as a consequence, they're just betting everything on the vaccine. So, we hope that they get out real fast.

The vaccines themselves, of course, look fantastic. And it's great to see people getting that shot in the arm, quite literally shot in the arm, for them, for their families, for their economies starting off in the UK, the United States, and very quickly Europe and the rest. I think that we need to recognize the uncertainties around exact timing. We know this is going to bring us back to normal. We know it's for the wealthy countries, it will be this year. But there's a huge difference between April and fall, especially in terms of how many businesses go out of business. And so, I think, because we're talking about massive amounts of production that needs to go right with only a couple of companies that are involved in it for the contracts that need to be fulfilled, with distribution that happens across many states with different political capacity and orientation, different rule sets, I mean, I think that the initial rollout for the people that are most vulnerable will go well. And that is really important because they are the ones that are most likely to get really sick and die.

And so, by February, by March, mortality rates, even with limited distribution, are going to be a fraction of what they are right now. Probably about, I could see one 10th by the end of first quarter. But then going from there to do we all have vaccines and are we able to go back out and travel and socialize and get entertainment? I think there's a pretty big gap of three, nine months, depending on how effective the rollout is, the infrastructure is, as well as how many people believe that they should actually take the vaccine. The numbers have gone up recently, but mostly, actually, among Democrats. Republicans still very skeptical.

We need both parties to come together in terms of the vaccine and hopefully not have blamesmanship. The worse the rollout is, the more you're also going to see political fragmentation that makes it worse. There'll be less of that in Europe, in my view. But still there. Anti-vax sentiment in France is even higher than the United States. Russia is even higher than in both places. And by the way, given the nature of the Sputnik V vaccine, that's probably reasonable. But that's where we are. So, a lot to watch. Absolutely critical for 2021.

Vladimir Putin, speaking of Russia, Vladimir Putin finally congratulated Joe Biden. What will the United States-Russia relationship look like under a Biden presidency?

By the way, so did Mitch McConnell. I don't know if he congratulated him, but he did refer to Biden as the president-elect. So now that we've actually had the electoral college vote, and yes, it's the same 306 electoral votes as we knew sort of right after the election. It's been a month; it took a long time. The US Russia relationship looks more problematic under a Biden presidency, in part because of these major cyber attacks that we've just seen. Those cyber attacks against, first, we knew commerce and treasury, but now also defense and homeland security. This is a major, major effort by the Russian government and ordered by the Russian government that reflects massive espionage success in the United States and will undermine the ability of the United States to conduct its own intelligence capabilities inside Russia. How broad that goes, it will take us a long time to find out.

But certainly, it will lead to more sanctions from the United States against Russia. The mutual recrimination, the lack of trust, the willingness of the Russians to try to undermine US interests, legitimacy, domestic institutions, you name it, the transatlantic relationship, that's just going to persist under Putin, who has no real threats to his leadership in his country and who blames the United States for the decline that Russia is in. So, I do think it's going to get worse. And given the willingness of the Russians to engage in these kinds of attacks that are obviously represent a level of risk, it's pretty significant, it's pretty dangerous. Having said all of that, the US engages in cyber attacks against Russia too all the time. So, let's not pretend that this isn't tit for tat. The Americans don't accept that tit for tat because the Russians are so much less powerful, unequal. But we do need to put that in perspective in terms of what the Russians will do in response and how the Americans will respond.

I would also say that the fact that Biden will rejoin the Intermediate Nuclear Forces agreement, would want to rejoin Open Skies if we hadn't started scrapping the surveillance planes, all of that does help, at the margins, normalize the relationship a little bit, even as it continues to be very, very sticky in a bunch of key areas.

Okay, let's talk baseball. The Cleveland _____?

Well, I mean, not my favorite team. You guys know I'm from Boston, so I still am very much a Red Sox fan. But they are no longer named the Indians. And I was kind of wondering, when you get rid of the Washington Redskins, why the Cleveland Indians were still kind of a thing. It seems like everything is going to move in the direction of let's no longer have Native Americans that are stylized as sports icons with all these people doing Tomahawk chops and generally disliked by the few remaining Native Americans in the United States for understandable reasons.

What do we want to name Cleveland? First of all, I like the fact that in Washington, it's just like the Washington football team. For the time being, it's kind of amusing. They've basically punted it, which is what you should do if you're a football team. If you're a baseball team, though, you can't punt, right? You got to come up with something pretty immediately. I've seen on the Internets, as they say, a few suggestions. The Cleveland Spiders kind of the old school favorite because they had a national league team back at the late 19th century. That's cute. But spiders, do you really want ... Spiders doesn't really sound like a baseball team. I'm not sure I would go there.

Maybe the Cleveland Guardians for the guardians for traffic statues on both ends of this major downtown Cleveland bridge. How about the Cleveland LeBrons, right? I mean, they lost him, but this way they could have him back. And maybe he'd visit and show up occasionally. He's done more for the Cleveland economy than anything else out there. And plus, he was multi-sport, right? I mean, the guy can do anything. He's not quite Bo, but he's close. So that's where I'm going. I'm going with the Cleveland LeBrons. I think that's where it should be. And then who cares how long he stays on the west coast.

Okuafo Pa means good farmer in the Twi language of West Africa. Hence, the naming of the project reflects the value of good farming and the rewards it brings to the people of Ghana. The Okuafo Pa Project will support Ghana's sustainable development by promoting socio-economic growth and sustainable business models.

Watch to learn how Eni is helping youth to develop agricultural knowledge and skills.

Iranians head to the polls on Friday to vote for president, and it appears a foregone conclusion that hardliner Ebrahim Raisi, the nation's top judge, will win.

Outsiders, and many Iranians, roll their eyes at the predictability of this vote. Iran's Guardian Council, a dozen clerics and judges who answer only to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, has cleared the field for Raisi by ruling all of his credible challengers ineligible. The fix is in, and Iranians are now preparing for a moment when anti-reform conservatives, those who oppose social change inside Iran and deeper engagement with the West, will for the first time ever control the country's presidency, parliament, courts, and much of the media.

But simmering beneath the cynicism and predictability of this event is a deepening anxiety over Iran's future as it enters a potentially momentous period in the Islamic Republic's 42-year history. The Supreme Leader, in power for 32 years, is now 82 years old. Very few people know the true state of his health. Even if he outlives Raisi's presidency, which could last four or eight years, preparations for a historic, uncertain, and potentially dangerous leadership transition will intensify soon.

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Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Europe:

After Biden's first visit, do his European allies feel that America is back?

I think they do. Wasn't particularly surprising, we've heard that message before. But now it was, sort of more concrete issues. I'm not certain there was, sort of major, major, major progress. But there was the beginning of a dialogue on trade and technology issues with Europe, clearly on security issues with NATO, and quite a number of other issues with G7, and general satisfaction with the outcome of the meeting with Putin. So, altogether good.

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Listen: Former US Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder weighs in on US President Joe Biden's first trip abroad, which included a very important first stop at the G7 summit in the United Kingdom, and the way forward for the US and its closest friends. Did he convince allies that "America is back" and ready to resume its leadership role in global affairs? And if so, does it even matter if Americans still need to be convinced that US engagement in the world is vital? Daalder speaks with Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast.

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.

Jon Lieber, Managing Director of the United States for the Eurasia Group, shares updates on recent policy developments:

With the Supreme Court's recent decision, is the Affordable Care Act here to stay?

Yes, this was the Court's third ruling on the Affordable Care Act upholding its constitutionality. This challenge was brought by Republican attorneys general who argued that the repeal of the individual mandate tax undermined the court's previous justification for allowing the law to stand. They were unsuccessful, yet again. And the political salience of the Affordable Care Act has really diminished in the last several years, with Republicans moving on to fight other issues and the Court signaling very strongly they don't want to get involved in overturning this piece of legislation. The Affordable Care Act will be here at least until Congress wants to legislate on it again.

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Iranians head to the polls on June 18, in what's widely perceived to be a foregone outcome. Analysts predict that popular disillusionment with Iran's political class will make this one of the lowest turnout elections in Iran's post-revolution history. According to one poll taken by the Iranian Students Polling Agency, as few as 42 percent of the eligible voting population is expected to show up. We take a look at contemporary Iran's demographics, and how this year's vote turnout might compare to previous elections.

Latin America needs vaccines: The World Health Organization has called on the G7 countries that pledged to donate a billion COVID vaccine doses to the developing world to prioritize Latin America, with WHO officials pointing to the fact that out of the top 10 countries with the highest COVID death tolls per capita over the past week, nine are in Latin America, where many health systems are overstretched and vaccines are scarce. This call comes as Latin America's COVID death toll has surpassed 1 million. Cases and deaths are soaring in Argentina and Colombia, for instance, while Brazil has fully vaccinated just 11 percent of its population despite recording the world's second highest death toll. Even Chile, which has carried out Latin America's most successful vaccination campaign to date, has been forced to delay reopening due to a recent surge in infections among unvaccinated younger people. The WHO says prioritizing the region for vaccine donations makes sense in order to stop large sustained outbreaks that may spur potentially more infectious COVID variants that'll cross borders and wreak havoc in populous states. Most of the donated shots will be distributed through the COVAX facility, which is a problem for countries like Venezuela, shut out from COVAX because of payment problems.

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3: China has launched three astronauts into orbit in its first space mission since 2016. The astronauts will spend three months aboard the country's new space station, demonstrating China's resolve to become a space power following successful earlier missions to collect soil samples on the Moon and land a wheeled robot on Mars.

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