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Trump's choices depend on money & leverage; COVID vaccine news is a big deal

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

Number one, Trump will not concede the election. What happens now?

Well, it's very different from impeachment. When impeachment happened, all the Republicans opposed it. Mitt Romney get one conviction, but otherwise, it was party line. And the social media, Fox news, OANN, all these guys, everyone said "innocent." This is a different story. Here's one where Trump isn't conceding, but actually, the Republicans are all over the map. We've got several Republican senators already that have called to congratulate Biden on his win. I know four have done so as of this morning.


We see that a lot of Trump's supporters are saying, "We definitely should go through all of every legal means to contest, but ultimately, if they fail, and by the way, they're going to fail, then that means that Biden will be the victor." And I've even seen Lindsey Graham say that. Ted Cruz almost said that. And then, you have some hardcore GOP and Trump supporters that are saying, "No, this was stolen." And so far, Trump has been saying that publicly. I saw Secretary of State Pompeo just came out with a statement, and it was, "There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration."

Now, what's Pompeo doing? Is this a coup? No, no. Pompeo understands that Trump is still going to be powerful. And you've got other people that want to run for president in 2024 that are being much more cautious, aren't supporting Trump as much like Nikki Haley, for example. And then, you've got Pompeo who's Secretary of State, and he's saying, "I'm right there with you, Mr. Trump." And so, when Mr. Trump becomes a king-maker for the party in 2024, who do you think he's going to be closer to? It's a very cynical move, but if you're Mike Pompeo, it's the move you've got. That's what you're doing. That does not mean that you actually have a whole phalanx of the Republican party that's planning to burn it all in flames.

Now, the real question is, what's Trump going to do? Will Trump ultimately offer a week late concession and won't show up at the inauguration of Biden, but nonetheless will do it? Or does he try to just burn as much down as he can personally? I don't know the answer to that. Some of this is about the money. Like, how much money does he owe? And doesn't he need to try to raise as much money possible to actually get out of that financial jeopardy? Some of it is how much leverage he does or does not think he can have with those that could push for a pardon both before the transition, as well as, potentially, after with Biden for the good of the country. Right? There are a lot of reasons why Trump would or would not want to offer some kind of concession. I understand that from a personal and narcissistic perspective, you'd say, "Well, he'd never admit that he lost anything," but he's made admissions before.

NATO, he said it was obsolete. Then, he said, "I was wrong." And he moved on. His ego allows him to be right about everything even when he admits he's wrong about something. That's one of the helpful things from the Trump mental and emotional perspective. Even on Obama birtherism, he gave that big press conference at the Trump International Hotel. The big reveal was an infomercial, but he gave one sentence saying, "Oh, and by the way, Obama was really born in the US." He didn't say he was wrong, just, "Well, the facts came out." He could do that with the presidency if he wants to. He'll still drive the libs nuts, right? That's not an issue for Trump. They all still hate him. He's still going to have that fight. It's not like he's going to give up on anything. So, I think that would be interesting if that's the way it goes.

With Pfizer and BioNTech announcing a 90% effective COVID vaccine, what happens next?

Well, look, first of all, it's a press release. I'd be more comfortable if we had the data as well. So, let's be clear that we've had other press releases too, still a lot to understand. But certainly, at this stage in the game, 90% effectiveness is vastly better than any epidemiologist I've been talking to at this... Looking at the vaccines going forward. So, if that's what we have, and by spring, summer, we end up with a significant piece of the American population taking this, and by the way, 90% effectiveness, a lot more people are going to be comfortable taking it than at 40% or 50%. I think that's a seriously big deal.

Now, again, it's two shots. So, it is, you got a booster. So, that means double the amount of time to produce, double the amount of time distribution. It's challenging. You need infrastructure around that, and I'm not sure that Trump's going to do a lot to help before inauguration of Biden on January 20th, but this is a big deal. This is going to improve GDP. It's going to improve the ability of people to get back to work, prove the ability people to socialize, stop the quarantines, all of that.

And that, plus the fact that mortality rates are going down means that the balance between listening to the scientist and listening to the economist is shifting towards the economist, and that's important. Like, I wouldn't feel pretty bad if Biden only listens to the scientists and the COVID task force and doesn't recognize that mortality is coming down. We've got better treatment. We're going to continue to have that. And we also have vaccines coming. You still want to wear masks, but you definitely want to be opening the economy more. I don't think this reflects needing to lock down economies. And that's a really, really good thing.

Will the peace deal between Armenia and Azerbaijan last?

Yeah. Yeah, I think it will because the Armenians have gotten pasted. They have really very little support internationally. Militarily, the Azeris supported by the Turks are a lot stronger, and the Armenians lost some territory in this contested mountain, this Nagorno-Karabakh. They were, potentially, going to lose the capital, so they gave up the territory that the Azeris occupied. They gave up the territory around Nagorno-Karabakh that had been occupied by the Armenians as a buffer zone. This makes the democratic elected government in Armenia a lot weaker. It's potential that they could be overthrown. There's going to be a lot of anger when you lose a war. There's a lot of anger, but in terms of, is there going to be a ceasefire or not? Yeah.

When one side wins, there's not much that the Armenians can do right now. And this is what happens in a GZERO world where you've got a political vacuum, you've got a military vacuum, the aggressor gets to do a lot. And the Turks and the Azeris decided that the status quo, which had worked very well for decades for an Armenia that had a lot of political friends, but not many military advantages, they don't like that status quo. So, holding onto the status quo was not a viable strategy. And again, they just got pasted.

Wales, early 19th century: During breaks from his law studies, William Robert Grove indulges in his passion for science to become an inventor. On his honeymoon in Europe, he learns about the new energy source everyone's talking about: electricity. After learning that electricity allows water to be broken down into its two components, hydrogen and oxygen, his intuition leads him to an idea that ends up making him a pioneer of sustainable energy production.

Watch the story of William Robert Grove in Eni's MINDS series, where we travel through time seeking scientists.

El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele is an unusual politician. The 39-year old political outsider boasts of his political triumphs on TikTok, dons a suave casual uniform (backwards-facing cap; leather jacket; tieless ), and refuses to abide by Supreme Court rulings.

Bukele also enjoys one of the world's highest approval ratings, and that's what helped his New Ideas party clinch a decisive victory in legislative elections on February 28, securing a close to two-third's supermajority (75 percent of the vote had been counted at the time of this writing).

His triumph will resonate far beyond the borders of El Salvador, Central America's smallest country, home to 6.5 million people. Now that Bukele has consolidated power in a big way, here are a few key developments to keep an eye on.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here, and as we head into the weekend, a Quick Take on, well, the first bombing campaign of the new Biden administration. You kind of knew it was going to happen. Against some Iranian-backed militias in Syria, looks like a couple of dozen, perhaps more killed, and some militia-connected military facilities destroyed. I think there are a few ways to look at this, maybe three different lenses.

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Iran rules out nuclear talks… for now: Iran has reportedly rejected an offer to join direct talks with the US and EU over its nuclear program, saying it won't start the conversation until sanctions on Iran's economy are eased. To be clear, this does NOT mean that prospects for reviving the Iran nuclear deal are dead. Europeans and the Biden administration want a return to the 2015 nuclear agreement, and Iran certainly needs the economic boost that would come from a removal of sanctions. But Tehran is going to try to maximize its leverage before any talks begin, especially since this is a sensitive election year in in the country. Iran's leaders are going to play hard to get for a while longer before edging their way back to the bargaining table. Still, it's high stakes diplomacy here between parties that have almost no mutual trust — and one misstep could throw things off track quickly.

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18: A week after threatening protesters with a severe crackdown, Myanmar's ruling junta killed at least 18 people across the country in the bloodiest day of clashes since the generals staged a coup last month.
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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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Biden strikes Syria. Now what?

Quick Take