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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.

Meet Ian Martin, an English Professor from Glasgow who is now head of Communications for Eni's International Resources. Approaching his work in the same way he used to hold his lectures, Ian is dedicated to listening and making people around him comfortable. Having working in both Milan and London, Ian utilizes his ability to communicate in different languages and cultures to prepare Eni's global messaging strategy. "Communication is a transfer of humanity," he says, and his job is as much centered around people as it as around language.

Watch Ian's human approach to communications on the most recent episode of Faces of Eni.

How to capture the essence of this incredible, terrible year in a few short words and without using profanity? It's not easy.

Thankfully, the dictionary website Merriam-Webster.com has released its list of most heavily searched words of 2020, and they tell the story of an historic year in US politics and the life of our planet. Here's a sample.

The top word, unsurprisingly, was "Pandemic," a disease outbreak that covers a wide area and afflicts lots of people. In 2020, the coronavirus crisis hit every region of the world, triggering a public health, economic, and political emergency on a geographic scale our planet has never experienced. Differing responses to that problem defined the politics (and geopolitics) of 2020.

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While recent news from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca on the efficacy of their respective COVID vaccines is encouraging, it has also given rise to bidding wars between wealthy countries trying to secure the largest supply of the new drugs for their citizens. Meanwhile, many governments in emerging market economies, where healthcare infrastructure is generally weaker, are worried they'll be kicked to the back of the line in the global distribution process. Indeed, history bears out their concerns: while a lifesaving HIV treatment hit shelves in the West in the mid-1990s, for example, it took years to become widely in Africa, which saw some of the worst HIV outbreaks in the world. But here's the catch: even if wealthy countries manage to obtain large supplies of vaccines to immunize their populations, the interconnected nature of the global economy means that no one will really be out of the woods until we all are. Here's a snapshot of how many COVID vaccines select countries have already purchased.

Afghanistan's small breakthrough: For months, disagreements over a range of political issues have hamstrung the intra-Afghan peace talks brokered by the Trump administration that aim to bridge the years-long conflict between the Afghan government and the Taliban. But this week, a significant breakthrough was made on the principles and procedures governing the talks, that, experts say, will help push negotiations to the next phase. One key advance is agreement on the official name of the Afghan government, an issue that stalled talks earlier this year. Still, progress is fragile. Taliban violence and efforts to seize territory have only increased since the militants and the US reached a deal in February on a blueprint for an American troop withdrawal. And the Trump administration says it aims to pull out all but 2,500 US troops by mid-January, whether the Taliban have kept their end of the deal or not. What's more, while this week's development puts the parties one step closer to an eventual power-sharing agreement, it's unclear whether the incoming Biden administration will even honor the Trump administration's deal with the Taliban.

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Two weeks ago, Russia secured a deal to build a naval base in Sudan, its first new military facility in Africa since the end of the Cold War. The accord is a major milestone in Moscow's wider push to regain influence, and income, on a continent where the Kremlin was once a major player.

But with the ideological and military contests of the Cold War long over, what is Moscow doing in Africa today?

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Reasons for Hope: COVID and the Coming Year. Watch on Friday. Dec 4 2020 12 noon - 1 pm ET

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