Lebanon's new PM; why India is reopening; Lukashenko's grip on power

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

First, who is Lebanon's new prime minister?

His name's Mustafa Adib and I had never heard of him. Apparently, he wasn't being considered for prime minister until apparently 24 hours ago. He was Lebanon's ambassador to Germany or is Lebanon's ambassador to Germany. And also, a PhD in political science. So clearly, we must like him. He can't be a bad guy. He looks basically like a technocrat. But in part, it's because Lebanon is impossible to govern and can't agree on any of the well-known and outspoken figures. And this is a massive economic challenge that they're facing. Their currency is falling apart. Their budgets, they can't fund. They had that massive explosion that's going to cost billions to rebuild Beirut. Just happened a couple of weeks ago. They're also fighting coronavirus. They have millions of refugees on their territory that they're paying for. And they don't have as much money from the Gulf states that they had historically because they're facing their own budgetary challenges. On top of which, it's really hard to get an IMF deal done when you don't have effective governance and when Hezbollah is part of your government structure.


So, it's pretty ugly. I wish this guy well. I can't imagine we're going to be hearing from him for very long. But that is the situation in Lebanon. Godspeed.

With daily COVID cases surging to record highs, why is India reopening?

Well, a couple of reasons. First, because, you know, it's a very poor country and people are getting tired and angry of a pretty significant and severe lockdown that Prime Minister Modi had originally put in place. Also, India is a relatively young country. And so even if they have lots of cases, not as many people are going to need hospitalization and mortality rates are comparatively much lower than they are in the United States or Western Europe. That matters. Also, I mean, you have so many people that are prepared to live with a threat of disease, whether it's coronavirus or others, if that means that they can work, and they can continue to provide for their families. Because the alternative, with so many people at subsistence living, is much worse. And that's particularly true when you're not even testing many people. So, you don't really understand the broad contours of the crisis. I mean, there were some recent tests in this one slum that's the largest in Mumbai, over a million people live in it, I've not gone into it, but I've driven right by it on many occasions, and that 50% of that population was shown to have some kind of antibodies for coronavirus. I mean, just ripping through that area. And yet you didn't see big demonstrations or riots about coronavirus. Where you will, if the lockdowns last for longer. It's a lot easier to engage in longer lockdown and longer quarantine in countries with a lot of money and the ability to provide continued support for their populations, like in Europe, like at least until now, the United States. Though, we'll see what happens with the Phase 4 stimulus deal. In the US is getting a lot tougher for a lot of people, too.

What's the update on Belarus? Will Lukashenko fall?

It's looking less likely. The demonstrators, nonviolent, completely nonviolent, and in some cases hundreds of thousands, certainly most cases tens of thousands on the streets for a few weeks solid now in Minsk and in some other places. But Lukashenko, the president, the dictator who stole this election, claiming 80% of the popular vote, he clearly got nowhere close to that, is now arresting, detaining and arresting journalists. He has taken away the accreditation of all of the local journalists for Western institutions. So, we're not getting the same news on the ground that we were just a couple of days ago. They've also brought in special forces and they brought in tanks into Minsk, certainly sending a very disturbing message. All of that happening on the back of President Putin, of Russia, saying that if certain red lines were crossed, that the Russians would come in and provide direct support for Lukashenko. Putin had been staying on the sidelines for weeks. He certainly does not want to engage militarily. That will undermine popularity for Russia in Belarus. But he's now providing nearly a blank check for Lukashenko. And at the end of the day, you have to believe that that makes it much less likely that the supporters of democracy on the streets in Belarus are going to succeed. Horrible to say that. Horrible to see this. But that is what it looks like right now.

Certainly, personally continuing to stand for those demonstrators and hope that they can persist and prevail. But, my God, very dangerous and very courageous. If I had a kid right now in Belarus, I wouldn't want him or her to be out there on the streets. And that's what you also have to watch out for, right? I mean, the human dimension here, it's very easy to say, "stand for them." But in many of the industries, for example, in Belarus, you had seen demonstrations, but they're not willing to risk their jobs because otherwise, how are they going to make a living? And so, they haven't persisted with the kind of grass movement action in shutting down the strike action and shutting down those places that you've seen among the population as a whole in Minsk. It does look like it's moving towards Lukashenko and towards state power.

Finally, what do I make of recent Far Right protests in Germany?

Well, you know, even in Germany, where they've done an awful lot to provide support for the middle and working class and to ensure that people continue to have the ability to take care of themselves, to meet their bills, to not get evicted from their apartments, all of that, there is a significant level of impatience with very tough lockdowns and shutdowns across Germany. That's been very wide support for Merkel and the federal system in Germany, but much better alignment among the among the federal leaders, the regional leaders in Germany, than you've seen among red and blue states in the United States, for example. Merkel's popularity remains very high consistently through the pandemic. But you also saw thousands of the far right actually demonstrating in Berlin. Opposed to social distancing. Opposed to mandatory lockdowns. It is a tiny percentage of the population compared to those sorts of sentiments in other parts of Europe and certainly in the United States. But something to watch out for, particularly something to watch out for in former eastern Germany, where that political sentiment is by far the strongest, but also a part that's done comparatively well, given the social and economic response of the German government since coronavirus has hit. So, I wouldn't worry too much about that. But clearly, something that's worth the headlines, especially as the US continues to be dominated by Trump, dominated by social racial instability, and of course, our own pandemic. So, important to be looking at the news happening around the world today, especially because this pandemic is truly global and is affecting all of us together.

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The European Union is, for better or worse, the most ambitious experiment in human history in institutionalized multinational cooperation. Its success depends on the willingness of its members to abide by its rules.

In recent years, the populist-nationalist governments of former Communist bloc members Hungary and Poland have flouted some of those rules in order to boost their own popularity with citizens suspicious of the EU's liberal values on issues like immigration and minority rights. In response, the EU has scolded these "illiberal" governments and threatened forceful action – so far without much effect.

The fight between EU institutions and Poland and Hungary has escalated.

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Some of the worst sectarian clashes since Lebanon's 15-year civil war (1975-1990) broke out in Beirut this week between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, and Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. Shiite protesters were rallying against the state probe into the Beirut port blast, which occurred last year. They say authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. Below is our original piece on the Beirut port explosions published on August 5, 2020.


The twin explosions at Beirut's port on Tuesday were so powerful that the aftershocks reverberated as far as the Eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, 150 miles away. The specter of fire and smoke was such that many suggested on social media that Beirut had experienced a nuclear blast.

In the days ahead, more details will come to light about why a deadly cache of materials was haphazardly stashed at a port warehouse, and why Lebanon's government failed to secure the site. So, what comes next for crisis-ridden Lebanon?

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Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

What does it actually mean to cut $1 trillion from the Democrats' $3.5 trillion social spending bill?

President Biden has proposed one of the most ambitious expansions of federal spending in recent memory. If he gets everything he wants, it would probably be the largest expansion of government since the Great Society, but he's not going to get everything he wants. Democrats have basically said they cannot do all $3.5 trillion in spending. They're probably going to end up around $2 trillion. So what gets cut? Well, we don't know yet. There's kind of two ways to go about this. They could either cut the number of programs that have been proposed, doing fewer things with more money on a permanent basis, or they could try to do more things, each program getting less money and potentially doing them on a temporary basis. So, a future Congress would have to extend it. What does this mean for you? Well, a lot of the money in here is designed to go directly to families, either in the form of cash payments, through the tax code, the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit, or subsidies for things like child care, early childhood education, and community college. And if you cut these things back, it means less money is going to go out the door to the American people. It also means less tax increases to finance it. So the implications of what's being proposed could actually end up being a big deal for a lot of Americans who would qualify for benefits under these new programs.

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How will artificial intelligence change the world and especially the job market by 2041? AI scientist Kai-fu Lee just wrote a book about precisely that, and he predicts it'll shake up almost every major industry. AI, he explains, will be most disruptive to many so-called "routine" occupations, but the damage may be reduced by shifting "empathetic" workers to jobs that require human empathy. Watch his interview on GZERO World with Ian Bremmer.

Watch this episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: Is a robot coming for your job? Kai-fu Lee explains AI

The Atlantic CEO Nick Thompson believes in tech firms doing business in China because connecting with people there is a huge social good for the world. But in demanding LinkedIn de-platform certain people, he says, the Chinese government crossed a line, and "you can't justify that."

Watch Ian Bremmer's interview with Nicholas Thompson in an upcoming episode of GZERO World, airing on US public television.

Sectarian clashes in Lebanon: As Lebanese supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, were on their way to a protest in Beirut Thursday, gunfire broke out, evidently between Hezbollah militants and those of the Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. The protesters were rallying against the ongoing state probe into last year's devastating twin blasts at a Beirut port, saying that state authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. They have called for the dismissal of Judge Tarek Bitar — who is leading the probe and on Monday issued an arrest warrant for a prominent Shiite parliamentarian linked to Amal. Each side has blamed the other for starting the violence Thursday, which killed at least six people, injured dozens more, and threw the entire city into a panic. In a grim omen, the clashes, which are among the worst in recent years, erupted along one of the old front lines (dividing Muslim and Christian neighborhoods) of the 15-year sectarian civil war that devastated the country up until 1990. With the country mired in economic and political crises, the people of Lebanon can't seem to catch a break: just last week the country was plunged into complete darkness when its decrepit power grid ran out of fuel. Meanwhile, Najib Mikati, who became prime minister designate in July after months of political deadlock, declared a "day of mourning," but civil strife continues.

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35.4: The US has overtaken China as the country with the largest share of the world's Bitcoin mining networks, now accounting for 35.4 of the global mining presence. This comes after the Chinese government banned domestic cryptocurrency mining operations to promote its own digital yuan that would track every single transaction.

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