World of conflict: Israel & Syria, Abiy's Ethiopia, Peru's presidents, US in Afghanistan

Watch as Ian Bremmer discusses the world in (more than) 60 seconds:

Number one: what do you make of Israeli airstrikes in Syria?

The relationship between Israel and Trump has very little to do with the way the Israeli government defends their perceived national security in the region. This was not just strikes in Syria, it was strikes against Iranian target in Syria, and a lot of them, in response to apparently some improvised explosive devices in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Israel of course has said it's their territory.


The Trump administration has also said it's their territory. Israel has vast superiority, both in terms of military cyber capabilities and intelligence compared to every other country in the region, and they're willing to use it. And that creates more deterrence. So, the fact that we've seen this before, we'll see it again. And the transition to a Biden administration is going to matter not one wit in terms of that.

Number two: more US troops are leaving Afghanistan, what does that mean for the incoming Biden administration?

Not that much. We're going down from 4,500 to 2,500 troops. That's different from taking all of the American troops out. So, the US is still fighting this forever war that started after 9/11 and is obviously not going to be concluding successfully anytime soon. Let's also keep in mind that there are well over 10,000 US contractors on the ground, many of which are military advisers helping with infrastructure, things like that and working with the Afghan government.

They're not going away. So much of American force is through drone strikes, which has nothing to do with the number of troops on the ground. Those drones coordinated from outside of Afghanistan. Then of course, you've got all the satellite imagery, which not only informs those drone strikes, but also providing real-time intelligence to the Afghan government and other forces on the ground, including from other countries. That's not changing. I mean, I know there's an enormous amount of how possibly could Trump make this announcement. We do need to recognize that Trump lies about all sorts of things. And when he promised that he was going to drain the swamp, of course he did not. And indeed, if you look at his cabinet, you're talking about a bunch of policies that are really awesome for the 0.1% and not so awesome for the average working stiff in the United States.

But if you look about other promises that he made, like trying to end these forever wars, bring the troops back, and reducing immigration into the United States, both of those things, which are also popular with Trump's base, he has actually persisted with and he's persisted with despite an enormous amount of opposition from inside his own administration and from inside the US bureaucracy. And this is one of those places. I've got to say in terms of trying to bring the Afghan war to a close, I'm probably closer to where Trump has been and where Biden is probably going to be than where Obama was or where Hillary Clinton was. In this regard, I think that Biden is not so upset with the idea that there are fewer US troops on the ground in Afghanistan when he takes over.

What's going on in Ethiopia?

A big fight happening between the Tigray who are a small part of the Ethiopian population, less than 10%, but used to basically run the government and the new Ethiopian government run by Prime Minister Ahmed Abiy. He wants to end ethnic federalism. He's gotten rid of these tribal or ethnically driven political parties in favor of his own broader party. He's an ethnic Oromo, that's the largest group in Ethiopia, but they're not getting to run as Oromo. It's trying to create a democracy that's based on the popular will as opposed to us versus them of all of these different ethnic groups that are regionally based and tend to subvert the interests of the other. Remember, representative democracy is very different than majoritarianism or minoritarism, which tends to really be bad for the out group. Problem is that the Tigray are really angry about this and so they've launched military strikes, perhaps more importantly, they decided to hold their own elections and now are saying that they've got their own Tigray government in their own Republic. That's leading to a big fight. We've already seen tens of thousands Tigray refugees streaming into Sudan. There is a difficulty getting humanitarian aid getting in, which has largely been blocked. There's been hundreds dead, probably over a thousand at this point. And the entire effort of Prime Minister Abiy, remember he won the Nobel peace prize, but his ability to make Ethiopia a functional democracy is facing existential challenges right now.

Finally, Peru has had three presidents in a week, what's going on?

Lots of corruption charges, massive economic crisis. Their economy is going to contract by about 20% this year. Congress has gotten rid of a popularly supported president and brought in their own, this impeachment that was driven by Congress, not by the people. That was that's how Vizcarra was forced out. Then you had a very short term, a few days, a new president that was appointed, and was enormously unpopular, and had favored the impeachment, big demonstrations, including a few Peruvians getting killed by the military. That made things worse. So, that president's out. Now we have a new caretaker president who probably won't last very long, but at least opposed the impeachment. So, it makes it more popular on the ground, on the street. Peru's an enormous mess, not just economically - over 50% in majority of Peruvians serving in Congress right now are under some form of investigation. If you think the United States has it bad, you've seen nothing until you go to like Peru, worse than Brazil, worse than the UK, worse than any major democratic government, in terms of governance right now that we can find in the world. That's saying something, it can always get worse.

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Ukraine is once again in a tough spot.

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Listen: Soumya Swaminathan calls for a massive increase in the global vaccine supply in order to prevent the rise of more dangerous and vaccine-evading super-variants, in a wide-ranging interview with Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast. Dr. Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at the World Health Organization, argues that vaccine nationalism, where countries prioritize their own citizens ahead of the rest of the world, will only prolong the pandemic because a virus does not stop at any national border. She also weighs in on a controversial new WHO report investigating the origins of COVID-19 and discusses when she thinks the world's children should get vaccinated. In addition, she suggests we may see alternative vaccine forms, like nasal sprays, sooner than we think.

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.

India, the world's third largest emitter of carbon dioxide, is one of the countries worst affected by climate change. But it takes issue with those now asking it to clean up its act. Why, the Indians ask, should we give up our right to get rich by burning fossil fuels like you developed economies have done for generations?

That's precisely the message that India's energy minister had for the US and other wealthy nations at a recent Zoom summit after they pressured Delhi to set a future deadline for net zero emissions. For India, he explained, such targets are "pie in the sky" aspirations that do little to address the climate crisis the country faces right now.

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The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics are nearly a year away, but discussion of a potential boycott is already stoking tensions on both sides of the US-China relationship. Officials in Washington and other Western capitals are coming under mounting pressure from activists to respond to human rights abuses in China. An increasingly assertive Beijing, meanwhile, vigorously rejects any foreign criticism of what it regards as internal issues.

The last time the US boycotted an Olympics was in 1980, when it withdrew from the Summer Olympics in Moscow to protest the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan. Four years later, the Soviet Union repaid in kind by skipping the Games in Los Angeles. Would the US and its allies do something like that again? And how might China respond? Eurasia Group analysts Neil Thomas and Allison Sherlock explain the drivers of the boycott movement and its possible fallout.

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In two weeks, US President Joe Biden will be hosting an online "climate summit" to mark Earth Day. He'll ask China and India to sign up to America's ambitious new plan to slow down climate change. Will they go for it? China is the world's largest polluter, but Beijing is rolling out solar and wind power as fast as it's burning coal. India, meanwhile, is loathe to pick up the slack for rich countries that polluted their way to wealth and now want everyone else to agree to emissions cuts. No matter what happens, any successful plan to reduce global emissions will require buy-in from these three nations which, along with the European Union, account for almost 60 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions nowadays. Here's a look at emissions by the world's top polluters compared to everyone else over the last two decades.

Two big Andean elections: This Sunday, Ecuadorians go to the polls for the second time this year in a close presidential runoff, while Peruvians will vote in the first round of their own presidential election. In Ecuador, the matchup is between the leftwing-populist frontrunner Andrés Arauz, who has pledged to blow up the country's IMF agreements and boost national oil production, and Guillermo Lasso, a pro-business candidate who is seen as the choice of continuity with the current market-friendly government. Voter abstention is likely to be high, and the final result could very well be close and contested in a polarized country that was struggling with massive social unrest even before the pandemic struck. Meanwhile in Peru — which recently went through three presidents in the space of a week — the candidate field is hugely fragmented. Those with a decent shot to make it to the second round include "change" candidates like the leftist former lawmakers Yohny Lescano and Verónica Mendoza, as well as the prominent neoliberal economist Hernando De Soto, who has recently risen in the polls. Former soccer star George Forsyth is also in the mix, as is Keiko Fujimori, daughter of authoritarian former president Alberto Fujimori. Both of this Sunday's elections will serve as a kind of bellwether for the political mood in a region that has been devastated by the public health and economic impact of the pandemic.

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Nasal sprays, oral vaccines, and other new types of COVID-19 vaccines may be ready soon, according to Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at the World Health Organization. She previews some of these needle-less vaccines and notes that the possibility of being able to store vaccines at room temperature could be a game-changer for vaccinating poorer nations. The advantage of nasal sprays, she explains, is that they "would generate local mucosal immunity in addition to systemic immunity." Dr. Swaminathan's conversation with Ian Bremmer is featured on the latest episode of GZERO World, airing on US public television stations starting this Friday, April 9. Check local listings.

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