US global reputation a year after George Floyd's murder; EU sanctions against Belarus; Olympics outlook

Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics on World In 60 Seconds (aka Around the World in 180 Seconds) with help from Moose the dog:

On the anniversary of George Floyd's murder, have race relations in the United States tarnished its reputation globally?

Sure it doesn't help. There's no question in the United States is one of the most racially divided and violent countries among advanced industrial democracies. And to the extent that the United States attempts to talk about human rights globally, it has a harder time doing that than other G7 countries would. And the Russians historically, and increasingly the Chinese, are trying to propagandize pretty hard by pointing out American hypocrisy. So I think it matters, but I would still argue that what the United States does internationally probably matters a lot more in terms of the way the US is perceived by those countries. So, no question it's important. And the legacy one year in, so far in the United States in terms of improving race relations, the state of that trajectory does not look great right now.


The EU levied sanctions against Belarus. Now what?

Well, the EU responded collectively and quickly, that we can definitely say, in terms of preventing Belarus' flag carrier from traveling to points in Europe, as well as stopping European airlines from flying through Belarus airspace, that's a good first move. They've said there'll be additional sanctions, let's see what they are. Let's see if they're significant, if they're against Belarusian oil or potash, where they make their real money. Let's see if they really hurt the economy, which would also have knock on effects for Russia, which exports a lot of energy into Belarus, they'd be unhappy about that. So we'll see. For the first 24 hours, I give the EU, the United States, the UK, all pretty strong marks for the way they've responded. But this is an unprecedented act of state criminality on the part of a very illegitimate Lukashenko, who should not be president, was not legitimately elected, and he's not going anywhere anytime soon. I want to see what next sanctions come from the Europeans. I also want to see the Putin meeting in Sochi with Lukashenko next week, very important.

Finally, with the US adding Japan to the, "do not travel list," what's the outlook on the Olympics?

Not great. Over 80% Of Japanese now say that they actually don't want the Olympics to go forward, that's a pretty staggering number. The Japanese prime minister says, "It's not up to me, it's the IOC. And the IOC has the decision. They say it has to go forward." Look, the prime minister has sovereignty, if he wants to cancel it, he can cancel it, though clearly there will be costs for the Japanese government, major economic costs, major political costs for the prime minister either way. It's really staggering to see just how much the Japanese have lagged every other advanced industrial democracy in terms of a vaccine rollout. And, and I still think there's a good chance they do end up canceling this, but it's going right down to the wire. And my heart goes out to everybody involved, the Japanese people, the athletes that have been prepping; this is not the kind of Olympics that you really want to be hosting.

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The Taliban’s never-ending crisis

Afghanistan has now become what the UN is labeling the planet’s worst humanitarian disaster. Indeed, last week the world body issued its largest-ever donor appeal for a single country to battle the worsening crisis there, caused by freezing temperatures, frozen assets, and the cold reception the Taliban have received from the international community since they took over last summer.

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Governments around the world are offering creative incentives for getting a jab.

If you happen to live in New York and are one of the city’s 18% of unvaccinated residents, now might be a good time to go get jabbed. But not just because of omicron.

In late December, now former NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio announced the city would start offering gift cards, free roller coaster rides on Coney Island and trips to the Statue of Liberty to those who get their shots. And it’s not just the Big Apple.

As infections jump, vaccination incentive programs have been brought back around the world. Officials in vaccine-hesitant Missouri have earmarked $11 million dollars for gift cards worth $100. Vermont is awarding schools with per-pupil bonuses if they hit rates higher than 85%.

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What We’re Watching: China's problems, UAE vs Houthis, Nord Stream 2 split

China's mounting problems. Xi Jinping is not off to a good start in 2022. First, Chinese economic growth slowed down to 4 percent in the last quarter of 2021, almost a percentage point less than the previous period. While annual GDP was up 8.1 percent year-on-year, beating government expectations, the trend is worrying for the world’s second-largest economy. Second, annual population growth fell in 2021 to its lowest rate since 1949, when the ruling Communist Party took over. Although Xi probably saw this one coming, he's running out of ideas to encourage Chinese families to have more children — which the government needs in order to sustain growth and support the elderly over the long term. Third, and most immediate: the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics canceled ticket sales for domestic spectators — foreigners were not invited — as the more transmissible omicron variant has driven up COVID infections in China to the highest level since March 2020. It's only the latest sign that Xi's controversial zero-COVID policy is setting itself up for failure against omicron without mRNA vaccines. What'll it take for China to reverse course?

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Hard Numbers: Tongan volcano, Ukrainian cyberattack, Zemmour fined over hate speech, NK-China border reopens

100,000: We're still waiting for news from the Pacific nation of Tonga, two days after a massive underwater volcanic explosion triggered a tsunami that was felt thousands of miles away and sent a plume of ash 100,000 feet into the sky. With communications mostly cut off, Australia and New Zealand have sent airplanes to assess the damage.

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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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Omicron is here. The bad news is that it's more contagious. The good news is that mRNA vaccines work against death and hospitalization. COVID may soon become endemic in some parts of the world.

Not in China, where 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.

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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

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