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.

Emily Ademola lives in an area of Nigeria that has been attacked by Boko Haram militants in the past. Looking for water was very risky, and without access to water, the community – especially children – were at risk of waterborne diseases. Eni, in partnership with FAO, built a water well in Emily's community in 2019.

Watch Emily's first-hand account about how access to water "close to our doorsteps" has improved the quality of life for her community and her family.

There's never a great time to impose higher taxes on funeral services — but doing it in the middle of a raging pandemic is an especially bad move. Yet that was one of a number of measures that the Colombian government proposed last week in a controversial new tax bill that has provoked the country's largest and most violent protests in decades.

In the days since, the finance minister has resigned, the tax reform has been pulled, and President Iván Duque has called for fresh dialogue with activists, union leaders, and opposition politicians.

But demonstrations, vandalism, and deadly clashes with police have only intensified. Two dozen people are dead, 40 are missing, and the UN has criticized Colombian police for their heavy-handed response.

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While residents of wealthy countries are getting ready for hot vaxxed summer — COVID is still ravaging many low- and middle-income countries. The horrifying scenes coming out of India in recent weeks have gripped the world, causing governments and civil society to quickly mobilize and pledge support.

But on the other side of the globe, Brazil is also being pummeled by the pandemic — and has been for a year now. Yet thus far, the outpouring of aid and (solidarity) hasn't been as large.

What explains the global alarm at India's situation, and seeming passivity towards Brazil's plight? What are the politics of compassion?

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Paris-London face-off at sea: France and the UK are at loggerheads in the high seas this week over post-Brexit fishing access in Jersey, an island off the English Channel. Furious at regulations that they say makes it harder to fish in these lucrative waters, dozens of French fishing boats amassed near the Channel Island, threatening to block access to the port. In response, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson deployed two naval vessels — a move critics say was an unnecessary escalation, and an attempt by the PM to flex his muscles and bolster the Tory vote ahead of Thursday's regional election. France, for its part, sent its own naval ship and threatened to cut off Jersey's electricity supply, 90 percent of which comes from French underwater cables. Fishing rights was one of the final sticking points of Brexit trade negotiations, an emotive political issue for many Britons who say that they got a subpar deal when the UK joined the European Economic Community in the 1970s. Though an UK-EU Brexit agreement was finally reached in December 2020, it's clear that there are still thorny issues that need to be resolved.

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10: Joshua Wong was sentenced along with other Hong Kong democracy activists to 10 months in prison for participating in a vigil last year marking the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing. Wong is currently behind bars for participating in separate pro-democracy protests, and will only start this new sentence after that term concludes in November.

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What's the biggest foreign policy misconception that Americans have about the US's role in the world? According to international relations expert Tom Nichols, too few Americans believe that the US, in fact, has a critical role in the world, and that the things Americans enjoy, from cheap goods to safe streets, are made possible because of American global leadership. "Americans have become so spoiled and inured to the idea that the world is a dangerous place that they don't understand that the seas are navigable because someone makes them that way. They don't understand that peace between the great powers is not simply like the weather, that just happens," Nichols tells Ian Bremmer. Their conversation is featured on an episode of GZERO World, airing on US public television – check local listings.

Watch the episode: Make politics "boring" again: Joe Biden's first 100 Days

The cover story of The Economist declares that Taiwan is "The most dangerous place on Earth," because China might finally be ready to plan an invasion of the island. But are the consequences of such a move worth the many risks to China and its President Xi Jinping? Ian Bremmer breaks out the Red Pen to to explain why a US-China war over Taiwan is unlikely.

We are taking our red pen to a recent article from The Economist. The Economist, you ask, how could I? I love The Economist, I know, I know. But you'd lose respect if I give this piece a pass. In fact, it was the magazine's cover story this week, so I had no choice. The image and headline say it all. Here it is, Taiwan is now "the most dangerous place on earth" as US/China relations continue to sour in the opening months of President Biden's administration.

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Delhi-based reporter Barkha Dutt's decades of journalism couldn't prepare her for the horrific experience of covering the death of one specific COVID-19 victim: her own father. In a conversation with Ian Bremmer, Dutt recounts her desperate struggle to find an ambulance to take her father through Delhi traffic to reach the hospital, only for him to die in the ICU. Their in-depth discussion looks at India's struggle with the world's worst COVID crisis in the upcoming episode of GZERO World begins airing on US public television Friday, May 7. Check local listings.

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Would China really invade Taiwan?

The Red Pen

India’s COVID crisis hits home

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal