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Kyrgyzstan unrest; Trump better than ever post-COVID

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

Number one, what is going on in Kyrgyzstan?

Otherwise was known as the Kyrgyz Republic. Well, massive demonstrations, a lot of violence, dozens injured, one dead, on the back of an election, parliamentary elections, where two parties that support the president said they won with a lot of claims of vote buying and corruption and massive outcry. And they've basically now overturned the result of the elections because the country was going to be in complete disarray. Not the first time in the Kyrgyz Republic there've been big demonstrations across the country to remove the outcomes of elections. We've seen presidents removed in the past. In this case, they actually got the former president who had been held in arrest for politicized charges has been removed from power. He's not saying he wants to be president, and the existing president isn't planning on stepping down, but it's clearly going to be messy and some time before we figure out how we redraw power in the Kyrgyz Republic.


It's not a very large country. It's only a few million people. It's in the mountains. It's basically locked up between China and Russia. So geopolitically, it doesn't have a lot of importance. It's mostly aligned with Kazakhstan next door, but still it is one more place there's just an awful lot of tension in the former Soviet Union, Russian country neighbors that the Russians think they should have the most influence over, and turns out it's really hard to maintain that extended presence. They're not happy about that. The Kremlin is not.

What's the update with the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan?

Well, similarly, here's a case where you've got a country, Armenia, that had a revolution. It was peaceful. They kicked out a corrupt kleptocracy. They're now being run by a democratic government. That democratic government still very much supports the Kremlin in terms of their trade deals, in terms of their intelligence sharing, and in terms of their defense relationship, they have a defense pact, to defend each other if one is invaded. Obviously, it's pretty asymmetrical because Armenia is all of five million people and landlocked, but nonetheless, didn't change that.

But the Russians aren't as happy be about the Armenians because the Russians see that Armenia is going its own way. It's more interested in civil society and Russia obviously is not. And so now for over a week, the Russians have been pretty much standing on the sidelines while there's been fairly significant attacks into mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh, an area that's overwhelmingly populated by Armenians, but that was historically part of the Azerbaijan Republic and the Azeris claim it as their territory.

There are ongoing negotiations, it's disputed territory, but it is now a military fight. Everyone's calling for ceasefire, except for Turkey, supporting Azerbaijan. And that's really kind of unfortunate because the Turks have a lot of military capacity, the Azeris have increased their military capacity, and the Armenians right now at least are pretty much all by themselves. So, brings back these historical concerns of genocide, which the Turks committed against the Armenian people some hundred years ago, and which the Turkish government has never admitted to. This has the potential to get a lot worse. And the news is between hundreds and even thousands dead on both sides at this point, and not getting much coverage at all here in the United States.

Okay. Final question. Will Trump change his views on COVID after contracting the virus?

Not at all. If anything, I mean, in Brazil after Bolsonaro contracted the virus, he said, "It's just a little flu. It's not a big deal." He was saying that before. In the United States, if anything, Trump is saying, actually this is, he's doubling down. He's saying, "I feel better than I did 20 years ago. I defeated the virus." I mean, I think it's very clear that within a week, Trump will be back, not only does he want to go to the debates, but he wants to be back on the campaign trail, and he wants to be back on the trail not wearing a mask, back on the trail with large masses, live, indoors. And we'll see. I mean, of course there'll be incredible outcry from people that can't stand Trump, but that's not new. I mean, as long as the two sides are completely in different information and media spheres, I think that this Trump strategy is not going to change.

The problem for Trump is that he's not getting an electoral college majority that way. He's actually dropped a point, two points, in key swing states over the last week. It's still early. We still need a lot of polls to come out to see how his handling of coronavirus is affecting the polls. But in Brazil they only picked up Bolsonaro a month later because the Brazilian population was having less of a hard time from coronavirus. In the United States those numbers still are persisting. They're not softening anywhere near what people would want them to. And it's going to be hard for them because Trump himself is not leaning into policies that would make that so. So what does it mean? It means his attitude is absolutely not changing and we've got four more weeks of everyone pulling their hair out in both sides of the political spectrum.

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When Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resigned Tuesday — plunging the country into chaos as it faces once-in-a-generation public health and economic crises — he became the fourteenth Italian to vacate the prime ministership in three decades. (For contrast, Germany has only had three chancellors since 1982, and France has had five presidents.)

But Conte, who had no previous political experience until he was tapped for the top job in 2018, is not so much throwing in the towel as he is taking a massive gamble that President Sergio Mattarella will again appoint him to head Conte's third coalition government in less than three years.

The recent dysfunction is unique even within the context of instability-prone Italian politics. How did Italy get here, and what might come next?

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

What did you think of Xi Jinping's speech at the virtual World Economic Forum?

Well, his last speech at the real World Economic Forum in Davos, I remember being there four years ago, and given that Trump had just been elected, Xi Jinping gives this big, "We want to stand up and be leaders while the Americans are doing America first." And generally speaking, was probably the most important speech of the week. People liked it. This is a pretty different environment, not so much because Trump has gone, but rather because support and belief in Xi Jinping is pretty low. I will say one thing that was generally well responded to was the call not to enter into a new Cold War. Anybody in the business community generally supports that. There's so much integration and interdependence between the US and the Chinese economies that when Xi Jinping says, "We need to find ways to continue to work together," I mean, this is the pro-globalization audience he's speaking to. They generally agree. But otherwise, the message fell pretty flat. So, the idea that China is going to be globally useful on issues of leadership, especially when it comes to anything that might threaten Beijing's sovereignty, they check global norms at the door. And a few examples of that, when Xi called for support for the rules-based international order, that's in obvious contrast with China's violation of the one country, two systems framework in Hong Kong. And they said, "Well, that's a domestic issue." Well, actually that's not what your agreement was with the British handover. And just because you're more powerful doesn't mean that norm doesn't matter anymore.

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Over the weekend, some 40,000 people in Moscow and thousands more across Russia braved subzero temperatures to turn out in the streets in support of imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. More than 3,000 protesters were arrested, and Navalny called on his followers to prepare for more action in the coming weeks.

But just who is Alexei Navalny, and how significant is the threat that he may pose to Vladimir Putin's stranglehold on power in Russia?

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Angry farmers take Indian fort: In a major and violent escalation of ongoing protests over new agriculture laws, thousands of Indian farmers broke through police barricades and stormed the historic Red Fort in New Delhi on Tuesday. At least one protester died in the chaos, while the government shut down internet service in parts of the capital. Farmers and the government are still deadlocked over the new laws, which liberalize agriculture markets in ways that farmers fear will undercut their livelihoods. The government has offered to suspend implementation for 18 months, but the farmers unions are pushing for a complete repeal. Given that some 60 percent of India's population works in agriculture, the standoff has become a major political test for the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling BJP party.

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