Why CIA director Bill Burns met with the Taliban

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on the CIA director's secret meeting with the leader of the Taliban, the G7 emergency meeting on Afghanistan, and the future of vaccine mandates following the FDA's approval of Pfizer's COVID vaccine.

CIA director Bill Burns held a secret meeting with the leader of the Taliban. How will it impact the ongoing evacuations?

Well, at the very least, you have to think that America's top priority, ensuring that all Americans get out of Afghanistan, given that the US controls nothing on the ground but Kabul Airport, will be facilitated. I would think that that was the reason for him to be there, absolute top priority. That has been successful. If it was a failure, we would've heard something about it by now, and the situation on the ground would be quite different. That is very different though than what happens after August 31st, and whether or not all of the Afghan nationals working with the Americans and in physical danger are going to be let out. So far, I haven't heard that from the Taliban. Certainly that will be a big piece of the negotiations. But better that he's there than not.


What do you expect to come from the G7 emergency meeting on Afghanistan on Tuesday?

Well, this is interesting because the Brits, who are chairing the G7 this year, really want to ensure that everyone gets out, and that means all the Afghans that have been working with the coalition forces. That means you have the ability to extend beyond August 31st, which President Biden has certainly not said he's been able to do and the Taliban forces have not said they'd agree to. We'll see where it goes. This is going to be a much more contentious G7 than what we saw in Cornwall a couple of months ago, and it'll be very interesting to see whether we have anything like the kind of statements from the Germans, from the French, the Brits criticizing the Biden administration after today's meeting that we did over the last week on Afghanistan. A lot of damage control will be done by President Biden in today's summit.

With FDA approval, are vaccine mandates imminent?

They're happening, and they will ramp up. There are a lot of companies that are going to feel much more comfortable requiring vaccines now that they've been fully approved. Pfizer Comirnaty, the name of their vaccine now, has been approved by the FDA. I also think that a lot of skeptics in the United States will get more comfortable because this was an emergency authorization before, and now it is a fully-approved vaccination the way others that we take, that our children take, have been for decades and decades. I'm hoping that it means good things for the United States in relatively short order. Certainly the numbers of vaccinations over the last couple days, also driven by Delta variant, also going up.

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The German people have spoken. For the first time in over 70 years, the country's next government is all but assured to be a three-way coalition.

That coalition will probably be led by the center-left SPD, the most voted party, with the Greens and the pro-business FDP as junior partners. Less likely but still possible is a similar combination headed by the conservative CDU/CSU, which got its worst result ever. A grand coalition of the SPD and the CDU/CSU — the two parties that have dominated German federal politics since World War II — is only a fallback option if talks fail badly.

Both the Greens and especially the FDP have been in coalition governments before. But this time it's different because together they have the upper hand in negotiations with the big parties wooing them.

The problem is that the two smaller parties agree on little beyond legalizing weed, and even when they do, diverge on how to reach common goals. So, where does each stand on what separates them?

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Joe Biden has already cancelled more US student than any other president. But progressive Democrats want him to write off a lot more to reduce the racial wealth gap and help people recover better from COVID's economic ruin. Republicans are against all this because it would be unfair to current and future borrowers and to taxpayers footing the bill, not to mention subsidizing the rich.

Watch the episode: How the COVID-damaged economy surprised Adam Tooze

China and Canada's hostage diplomacy: In 2018, Canada arrested Huawei top executive Meng Wanzhou because US authorities wanted to prosecute her for violating Iran sanctions. China responded by arresting two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, in what looked like a tit-for-tat. Over the weekend, Meng and the "Two Michaels" were all freed to return to their home countries as part of a deal evidently brokered by Washington. The exchange removes a major sore spot in US-China and Canada-China relations, though we're wondering if establishing the precedent of "hostage diplomacy" with China, especially in such a prominent case, is a good one for anyone involved.

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40: Samyukta Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body representing 40 Indian farmer groups, took to the streets Monday to mark a year since the start of mass protests against new farming laws that they say help big agro-businesses at the expense of small farmers. The group has called for an industry-wide strike until the laws are withdrawn.

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Germany's conservative CDU/ CSU party and the center-left SPD have dominated German politics since the 1950s. For decades, they have vied for dominance and often served in a coalition together, and have been known as the "people's parties" – a reference to their perceived middle-of-the-road pragmatism and combined broad appeal to the majority of Germans. But that's all changing, as evidenced by the fact that both performed poorly in this week's election, shedding votes to the minority Greens and pro-business Free Democrats. We take a look at the CDU/CSU and SPD's respective electoral performance over the past 60 years.

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here. Happy week to all of you and thought I'd talk a little bit about Germany and Europe. Because of course, we just had elections in Germany, 16 years of Angela Merkel's rule coming to an end - by far the strongest leader that Germany has seen post-war, Europe has seen since the collapse of the Soviet Union. And indeed in many ways, the world has seen in the 21st century. Xi Jinping, of course, runs a much bigger country and has consolidated much more power, but in terms of the free world, it's been Angela Merkel.

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Germany's historic moment of choice is finally here, and voters will stream to the polls on Sunday for the country's first post-World War II vote without a national leader seeking re-election. They will elect new members of the Bundestag, Germany's lower house of parliament. The leader of the party that wins the most seats will then try to secure a majority of seats by drawing other parties into a governing partnership. He or she will then replace Angela Merkel as Germany's chancellor.

If the latest opinion polls are right, the center-left Social Democrats will finish first. In coming weeks, they look likely to form a (potentially unwieldy) governing coalition with the Green Party and the pro-business Free Democrats, which would be Germany's first-ever governing alliance of more than two parties.

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