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.
Listen: The country's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, joins Ian Bremmer to talk vaccines, school re-openings, and when—and how—the pandemic could finally come end. He was last on GZERO World just weeks before the pandemic hit in the fall of 2019 and he described at the time what kept him up at night: a "pandemic-like respiratory illness." This time, he talks about how closely that nightmare scenario foreshadowed the COVID-19 pandemic. He also offers some guidance about what public health measures vaccinated Americans should continue to take in the coming months (hint: masks stay on).
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.
<p>The first is from the tactical perspective, it is a response to militias, also Iranian-backed, that had been used in attacks against American troops and American civilians, contractors in neighboring Iraq, and that had also led to casualties. The Iranians made an adversary of the United States in the Middle East, and the US does not want to give them a blank check in escalating against US presence in the region. You don't want to necessarily hit Iraq directly because then you undermine the government the US is trying to work with, and so instead, neighboring Syria, where those militias are an operation, easier thing to do. Pinpoint, fairly limited, seen as tit for tat, doesn't derail the efforts to open, reopen negotiations in the Iranian nuclear deal, the JCPOA, which are on track to proceed. And I have a fair amount of confidence that we will get back into that deal by the end of this year, beginning of next year. US will still be a major adversary of Iran. We will still have sanctions on Iran, but the Iranians will be able to start producing another million plus barrels a day of oil, and the inspectors will be able to constrain in a confirmable way Iran's lack of development towards nuclear weapons, at least for the near to medium term.</p><p>Okay, so that's the tactical piece. You check the box, kind of like you checked the box when Trump engaged in strikes in response for Assad's use of chemical weapons against civilians. Okay. But then take another step back and I want to tell you what the White House press Spokesperson Jen Psaki had to say, and I quote, "What is the legal authority for strikes? Assad is a brutal dictator, but Syria is a sovereign country." And of course, she's pointing out here that without congressional approval, a president engaging in strikes inside a sovereign country has no legal basis. It's a breach of the way law is supposed to work in the US. It undermines separation of powers. Now, what I didn't tell you is that Jen Psaki made that statement, not in the last 24 hours, but actually in 2017, but it doesn't matter. The same rules apply. I understand that consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds and now she's on the side that has the power as opposed to port when she's criticizing Trump, but again, it's the same point. Congress has abdicated its willingness to take responsibility. They won't engage in legislation. They won't raise the question to approve or disapprove the president's ability to continue to use war powers after 9/11. They say everything is a part of the war on terror, because if everything's a part of the war and terror, then of course nothing is and there are no constraints on executive use of military power. That's not the way it was supposed to work, and it undermines the legitimacy of US actions in the eyes of American citizens and more broadly.</p><p>And then to take the more macro and even existential question, what the hell are we doing in the Middle East? It is worth asking to what extent, in 2021, the United States should continue to have a large military presence on the ground as targets, not necessarily promoting stability, costing a lot of money, seen by many in the region is problematic, and in a part of the world that the United States increasingly doesn't consider strategic and doesn't care very much about. Now, I'm not suggesting that means the US should leave in toto, but I think at least worth asking the question. Because the world today doesn't look anything like the world of the oil blockade in the '70s and that great recession, doesn't look anything like the world after 9/11 and the war in Afghanistan, that continues, that persists, the longest war we've ever fought in our lifetimes. Why the persistence of the massive war machine in the United States, the US outspending the next seven countries combined in terms of defense spending? Does that make sense in today's world? Particularly as the us lags behind in R&D spending on new technologies compared to China, soon to be the largest economy in the world with a vastly smaller military capacity than the United States and not even trying to develop nuclear parity with the United States and Russia.</p><p>Now, US laws don't apply outside of our country, but humanity does, we're all people. And when I continue to hear the Biden administration and President Biden himself say, "The US is back," it's perhaps the most consistent thing I've heard in terms of foreign policy. "The US is back." We need ask ourselves, back to what? Do we want to be the world's policemen? Do we want to be seen as the indispensable nation globally? Do we still perceive ourselves as the exceptionalist power? Because most other countries around the world don't. I would say not exactly, and I agree that we want to live in peace, but I also think that by we, we don't just mean Americans.</p><p>Anyway, something to think about, see you all next week, have a great weekend, be safe, avoid people.</p>
More Show less
Afghanistan frustrated nineteenth-century British imperialists for 40 years, and ejected the Soviet army in 1989 after a bloody decade there. And though American and NATO forces ousted the Taliban government in 2001 over its support for al-Qaeda, there's no good reason for confidence that nearly 20 years of occupation have brought lasting results for security and development across the country.
But… could China succeed where other outsiders have failed – and without a costly and risky military presence? Is the promise of lucrative trade and investment enough to ensure a power-sharing deal among Afghanistan's warring factions?
<p><strong>In recent years, the Chinese leadership has actively engaged</strong> <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-afghanistan-taliban-china/afghan-rivals-to-meet-in-china-after-us-talks-stall-idUSKBN1X20C7" target="_blank">both</a> the Western-backed government in Kabul and — given the likelihood they will eventually regain some degree of political power — <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/69110b85-bce9-45cb-a2f4-eadcd3edc6e3" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Taliban fighters</a>, in hopes of ending the never-ending conflicts that have long made Afghanistan ungovernable. </p><p><strong>China has good reason to become more deeply involved.</strong> Afghanistan shares a short border with China's mainly Muslim Xinjiang region, and Beijing has long feared that instability in Afghanistan, heightened as the US and NATO prepare to withdraw troops, might allow Uighur separatists to use Afghan territory as a <a href="https://www.sundayguardianlive.com/news/uyghur-factor-china-perceives-afghanistan-threat" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">base for military operations</a>. China also sees Afghanistan as an arena in which to promote stronger commercial and security ties with its Pakistani ally and gain advantage on its Indian rival. </p><p>Most importantly, Afghanistan offers major new economic opportunities for China via potential expansion across Afghan territory of China's <a href="https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/chinas-massive-belt-and-road-initiative" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Belt and Road</a> infrastructure development project. Beyond the interest of Chinese companies in its <a href="https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/China-Buys-into-Afghanistan-Erica-Downs.pdf" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">mineral wealth</a>, Afghanistan is China's <a href="https://www.trtworld.com/magazine/slowly-but-surely-china-is-moving-into-afghanistan-24276" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">direct overland path to the Middle East</a>. It could also become part of the <a href="https://www.rferl.org/a/beijing-cautiously-ramps-up-belt-and-road-dreams-in-pakistan-afghanistan/30862796.html" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">China-Pakistan Economic Corridor</a>, a project of central economic and geopolitical importance for Belt and Road. </p><p><strong>Deeper Chinese involvement might bring all kinds of good things for Afghanistan.</strong> All of the country's factions know China has staying power and a willingness to spend that others won't match. If China can persuade Afghanistan's government, the Taliban leadership, and local warlords that a sustainable power-sharing deal might make them all rich, it could bring a degree of stability that no foreign occupier can. Belt and Road could provide badly-needed infrastructure and the trade and investment opportunities that come with them. </p><p><strong>And that's great… unless you're an Afghan who needs outside powers to try to force powerful locals to respect your rights.</strong> As we've written in the past, <a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/03/05/crucial-moment-womens-rights-afghanistan" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Afghanistan's women</a> in particular face a precarious existence in a world where the fundamentalist Taliban exert major influence. Women and girls stand to lose <a href="https://www.usaid.gov/afghanistan/gender-participant-training" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">significant gains in health and education</a> made over the past two decades if Taliban promises to preserve them prove empty. Whatever high-minded rhetoric is written into diplomatic deals between China and Afghan factions, protections for human rights inside Afghanistan will never be a Chinese priority. </p><p><strong>Or maybe it's all a mirage.</strong> Before China commits to big long-term investments — economic, political, and theoretically military if Chinese assets are threatened — its leadership must calculate whether engagement is a sustainable strategy. What if Afghan power brokers eventually decide they'd rather fight over spoils than keep the peace in their common interest? What if Taliban leaders can't control every Taliban faction? What if mounting debt, for both Pakistan and Afghanistan, make expanded regional infrastructure investment too risky? </p><p>Over the years, China's leaders have seen Britons, Europeans, Russians, and Americans stuck in Afghanistan without an exit strategy. Those are mistakes no one in Beijing is eager to repeat.</p>
More Show less
Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Stockholm on Europe In 60 Seconds:
Is there a military coup ongoing in Armenia?
Well, it isn't a military coup as of yet, but it's not far from it either. This is the turmoil that is resulting from the war with Azerbaijan, which Armenia took a large death loss. What happened was that the head of the armed forces asked for the prime minister to resign. That was not quite a coup, but not very far from it. Now, the prime minister sacked the head of the armed forces, there's considerable uncertainty. Watch the space.
<p><strong>What's happening in Georgia?</strong></p><p>Well, turmoil in Georgia is very much a result of the Salvador authoritarian instincts that is there in the ruling Georgia Dream coalition or party that is led by the oligarch Ivanishvili. Then there has been an escalation of confrontation and this led to the verdict by a court against the leader of the opposition. The prime minister resigned over the question of whether he should be arrested. A new hard-line prime minister was put in place and the leader of opposition has been arrested. There's a reason to be very concerned with where Georgia is heading</p>
More Show less