Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here. And a Quick Take to kick off your week. I'm in New York. Of course I am, because the United Nations General Assembly high-level meetings are kicking off. They will be all week. And of course, that means incredible amounts of traffic. We can handle that because we've got subway that works and a walkable city.
But what's going to happen this week? Interestingly, I think the most important topic of the week, and it's not because of personal bias, is artificial intelligence. And the reason for that is because, unlike every other topic where people generally know what outcomes they want, they just can't get there. They can't move fast enough. Climate change, for example, ending the Russian war in Ukraine, for example, multilateral finance to support lower developed countries. Moving on the Sustainable Development Goals for human development across the world, which has been slipping with the pandemic and with the Russia war. No, in AI we don't know what people want.
People are trying to understand the space and so bring in world leaders together to have high-level meetings on their beliefs around how to govern AI, what to govern specifically, what the institution should look like, what the priorities should be. Those meetings are the ones I personally think will be most interesting. And the Secretary-General, António Guterres, is very personally focused on it. He has been for several years thinking that post, you know, his efforts on climate change, this is the area that he wants to spend the most time on. The Russia war has made that very challenging in terms of a distraction for everybody at the meeting.
But nonetheless, we're now seeing a significant amount of focus of effort. And I suspect that there'll be a lot of news that comes out of those meetings. Beyond that, we've got President Zelensky in Ukraine, and he, of course, will be here in New York. He'll also be in Washington. He's looking for more support for the counteroffensive, more military aid, which Congress continues to be inclined to provide. Also looking to have better relations with the Global South that has largely sat on the sidelines of this war. And there with the Russians bombing grain and grain infrastructure, a lot of countries that were, you know, basically saying this doesn't apply to me increasingly see that it does. And so, yes, Ukraine's in Europe. Yes, Ukraine's a bunch of white people. Yes, it's true. The developed world doesn't pay as much attention to human rights concerns and invasions and coups that happen in sub-Saharan Africa. But the fact is that this war in Ukraine is causing a lot more hardship for the poorest, the hungriest people in the world.
And that's why what I talked to the Secretary-General a couple of days ago, he said his biggest near-term priority is ending the war. Why? Because until you do that, you're going to have underperformance among the poorest of the world's 8 billion. So that's a little bit of what's going to be discussed this week. I think the G-7 meeting on the sidelines is always interesting, especially because the G-7, the world's wealthy democracies, are more aligned on national security issues than they have been historically.
Not much to be seen from Russia. Foreign Minister Lavrov. His statements are well known. They don't move the needle. And the Chinese foreign minister not here. Why? Because he was in Malta meeting with Jake Sullivan to prepare for the coming Biden-Xi bilateral in November at APEC. Now is traveling to meet with the Russians so that they can prepare for the Xi-Putin meeting coming in a month when Putin travels to China. A lot of focus there, but that means that two of the countries that are most problematic for the United States from a geopolitical perspective, not showing up at a high level here in New York City.
That's it for me. It’s going to be fascinating, it’s going to be busy and I'll talk to you all real soon.
Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hi everybody. Ian Bremmer here kicking off your week with a Quick Take from London, as you can see.
And Kim Jong Un is now in Russia, Vladivostok, on his armored personal train. People always love to talk about the fact that the train is armored. I guess that's to ensure that if you try to take it out, you're going to have to try really, really hard to meet with Vladimir Putin.
This is their big annual conference that before Kim Jong Un was announced, it was the president of Laos who was the most exciting participant. In other words, Putin is really scraping the bottom of the barrel to find high level leaders that will engage with him publicly. And that, of course, is not only an indication of how the war is not going for Putin, but also the fact that he is increasingly a rogue state from the perspective of the United States and its advanced industrial allies.
In the near-term, his ability to continue to fight this war continues to be real. His economy is still performing comparatively better than the Americans or others would have expected, given all the sanctions. But in the medium-term, the fact that he has to go to the North Koreans for weapons, the fact that the Chinese, the Emiratis, others refused to provide him with military support, when the Americans say, “If you do, there's going to be hell to pay.” Well, the only countries left that will work with the Russians aren't the ones that are already fully sanctioned by the United States and Europe. It's other rogue states. It's Belarus, it's Syria, it's Iran. And that, of course, means that a constellation of rogues, they act in ways that are credibly disruptive and irresponsible on the global stage. These are the countries that engage in asymmetric warfare, the countries that engage in human trafficking, in drug traffickin, the countries that are willing to engage in proxy warfare and support radicals in other countries around the world, and Russia now becoming the most powerful of the world's rogue states, should give us pause long-term in the geopolitical stability of the world.
I think about before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the cyberattacks that had been occurring from Russian criminals against the United States, for example. And the Americans told the Russians, “You've got to stop that or we're going to hit you hard.” The Russians did stop it. They actually pulled back on it. Would they do that in this environment? I think that's highly unlikely. In other words, I think we're going to see from Russia over the coming years the kind of activities towards the West that we've seen from Iran over the past years towards countries in the Middle East and ironically, happening just at the time that the Iranians are becoming a more normalized actor by opening relations with the Saudis, with the Emiratis, and with others.
Fascinating times geopolitically in the world, but dangerous times as well. That's it for me. Thank you. All.
Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here and I. Happy post Labor Day to all of you. I'm in London for a very, very brief trip, but I wanted to talk a little bit about the G-20 summit coming up this weekend.
Big news to start, Xi Jinping is not coming. Why not? Lots of speculation, lots of news, lots of ink being spilled except for the fact that people should have known about this a while back. One, the Indian government had been informed at least a month ago that Xi Jinping wasn't planning on attending. And secondly, the Americans have been working on a meeting with Xi Jinping and Biden for months now at APEC in San Francisco in November, and that was widely expected to be the next time the two men would be in the same place at the same time.
Biden is going to the G-20, in other words, Xi Jinping was not. Now, that certainly means it's not a sudden health issue, not a sudden domestic economic crisis or political crisis that stopping him from going. It's a question of how much of this is Chinese irritation at their relationship with India. India's export controls, investment review and screens against China now are frankly stronger than those from the United States against China, not to mention border disputes. And the Chinese trying to limit some of India's influence and roles in multilateral organizations. It's been fairly chippy. I wouldn't say it's overtly hostile, but it's certainly not friendly. And, you know, Xi Jinping might see that he has little interest in turning up at a G-20 that is going to be in India. And is know sort of Modi's great party. Risks antagonizing Modi more, of course, by doing that.
But again, not a decision that was taken recently. Secondly, the fact that Russia is not attending and really can't attend, given Putin and the ICC ruling against him, the fact that the G-20, the one place that you have not been able to get any coordination at this meeting in any of the ministerial is around Ukraine statement. The Chinese have been aligned this time around more with the Russians on this and really don't want to be front and center with Xi Jinping being the holdout facing pressure from the G-20, from all the other countries to get an agreement done. And Modi would certainly be on the other side of that. So would the Americans, frankly, so would all the other attendees. China doesn't want to be seen in that regard as the only country supporting the Russian position. So then you have the issue of China having the BRICS, and that is a group that they've just had some success with a significant expansion to Middle East and North African states. That will happen at the beginning of 2024. It's a meeting that China has a lot more sway over. It is China as by far the largest economy and then the Global South as opposed to the G-20, which is everybody that matters and China certainly not feeling in charge of anything. So in that regard, Xi Jinping has a structural reason to make the G20 less important and make the BRICS summit more important going forward.
I'm particularly interested in how they play that with Russia chairing the BRICS next year and how many of the other BRICS invitees show up at the head of state level. It's going to be, I mean, quite something when you've got, say, the Saudis and the Emiratis and the Brazilians all showing up in Russia for a BRICS summit. I think a lot of them are going to be looking for cover and maybe hoping that one or two say no so that they can say no to. But that's kind of where we are. The G-20 itself should be quite successful. I don't think that it's going to be meaningfully different in terms of Modi's ability to show that he's doing well on the back of Xi not showing up, in part because, of course China's having so many economic challenges at home. While this is really India's year, Modi with very strong popularity inside India, strongest economic growth of any major economy in the world, and moving, driving a more assertive climate policy, a more assertive technology reform policy, and, you know, looking pretty strong in the run up to 2024 India elections.
So at this point, especially with Modi having talked with over 100 leaders in preparation to the G-20 summit and seeing a lot of irritation with the United States on the back of unilateralism, America firstism and questions of where the US is going post 2024. A lot of Belt and Road countries feeling like they're not getting the kind of support they have historically from the Chinese. This is a big opportunity and India with some role to fill and they've historically not wanting to be a big geopolitical player, especially outside of the region, that is changing a lot under Modi.
So we're watching that all weekend and I hope everyone's doing well. Talk to you soon. Bye.
Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hi, everybody. And a happy end of summer back to school. Labor Day is coming up in a week and I am going to be back and at it in New York and around the world. But for now, a Quick Take and want to talk a little bit about the BRICS.
You saw the summit last week in South Africa, the headlines going into the summit, at least from the United States and its allies, was all about how Putin wasn't going to be allowed to attend. He had to attend virtually. One of the members of the BRICS, they can only send their foreign minister. Doesn't that show that, you know, the International Criminal Court means something, even though the Americans aren't actually a signatory to it? But that wasn't the real story.
The real story is that after a significant amount of Chinese diplomatic effort to expand the BRICS and make it more meaningful, which other members were skeptical about, there was significant success and an announcement that there will be six new members invited to join at the beginning of 2024. That's a very meaningful expansion. Egypt, Ethiopia, Argentina, UAE, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Presuming this all goes ahead, the BRICS will be the most important grouping of the so-called Global South. And I use that term advisedly because it's not quite clear that China is really a member of the Global South. It's much more important economically as a creditor of the Global South and increasingly wanting to have great influence over it, which a lot of members of the Global South want to resist. I'll get into that in a minute. But still, if you compare to what's been going on among the developing members of the G-20 to try to set a common agenda that more aligns with their interests as opposed to those of the United States and its allies in the G-7 who have become increasingly tight-knit post-Trump and post the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
I would say the BRICS are now supplanting that process as the most important piece of international architecture to watch, engage with, and to drive an agenda that matters to the countries of the Global South. And I think that the agenda-setting will be important on climate, it will be important on finance and the global economy. Maybe a bit on Russia, Ukraine, and also in efforts to resist weaponization of the US dollar. In other words, these are a whole bunch of countries that don't really like the fact that the Americans have leveraged a dominant position in the international financial system and as global reserve currency to have more influence over their own economic outcomes. I don't think this really means dollarization or the replacement with a BRICS currency any time soon. The role of the US dollar in global reserve currencies held by central banks around the world has been roughly the same for the last 20 years, and that, I suspect, will be true in another 10, another 15, 20 years as well. But nonetheless, in terms of a willingness of a whole bunch of countries to say we are not happy with the present global agenda as being set in their interests by the United States and allies, the BRICS will be an alternative, that is important, that will matter more economically over time and on some issues will be cohesive. So in that regard, I think it is important and I think we should spend more time following it and covering it.
As you know, we do other major sub-global confabs out there. A few points as rejoinders to that though, first of all, Argentina is not actually going to join. The present Argentine government very happy to. That is a leftist government that is much more aligned with China in particular. Their economy is falling apart. It is almost certain that after elections we will have a center-right or perhaps a far right libertarian government, either Bullrich or Milei in charge of Argentina. Both have said that they would not join the BRICS. So let's take Argentina out of the equation.
The countries that are left, it's interesting. It's all kind of one very broad region. We're talking about the Middle East and kind of northeast Africa. So again, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Iran, Egypt, and Ethiopia. Let's look at what that means. In the case of the Middle East, this is the region of the world that is becoming much less aligned with the United States, much more focused on the fact that they have to be self-sufficient, in part because the Americans aren't as interested, in part because the Americans are core competitors for energy, fossil fuel, energy development and export, then the Saudis, the Emiratis, and the Iranians.
So some of it is the US paying less attention, some of it is US driving a climate agenda to a greater degree than they were before. Some of it is the Americans are not a part of OPEC and competing with OPEC. And so for all of these reasons, what you see is the countries from the Middle East wanting to go more their own way, wanting to balance and hedge and be a part of everything. So keep their security relations with the US if they're Saudi Arabia and the UAE, but also work more closely with the Chinese and with everyone else that has significant demand for that energy. Hence the Saudis and the Iranians having a diplomatic engagement that the Chinese, that breakthrough sponsored by China, hence the Saudis inviting everyone, the Americans and the Chinese and the Ukrainians, everyone but Russia to be a part of what has been so far the most significant diplomatic effort around the Russian-Ukraine war and the fact that the Saudis, the Emirates and the Iranians are all now joining the BRICS is a significant additional movement. I would argue the Middle East is becoming more geopolitically stable, but also less aligned with the United States, more playing a balancing role with everyone. In the case of Ethiopia, that is a very significant, very populous country in Africa that is overwhelmingly aligned economically with China. That's where the money is. The United States doesn't play much of a role.
I think the next round of BRICS expansion looking forward is probably more likely to have the most interest from other sub-Saharan African countries. How many actually join is an open question, but that's certainly the easiest grouping that you can see wanting to be a part of the BRICS for all the reasons we just talked about. And then finally, I would say, let's also recognize what the BRICS is not. The BRICS is not a China-led competitor to the G-7, and that is because most of the countries that are in the BRICS, not all, but most do not want it to be. They don't want it to be led by China. Think about India in that regard in particular. And they don't want it to be a competitor to the G-7 where they have to join one and not the other. They want to have good economic relations with both. The economic order is a multipolar order. It is not a Cold War environment, and the security order is driven primarily by the United States. And you have to put BRICS expansion into that broader global framework. So the BRICS will matter more economically. They will facilitate far more Middle Eastern hedging. They will also facilitate greater agenda-setting in the global economy, broadly defined by the Global South. But that is not suddenly a decoupling of the world into G-7 versus BRICS. That's certainly not what we're going to see. So very important, a meaningful diplomatic win for the Chinese, not aligned with what the United States is trying to accomplish with the G-7 and with NATO broadly speaking, but not directly confrontational either. It's messy, it's nuanced. It doesn't easily lend itself to a five-second headline, but a ten-minute Quick Take. What the hell?
So anyway, that's it for me. Hope everyone's doing well. Enjoy this last days of summer and I'll talk to you all real soon.
Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Yevgeny Prigozhin, former head of Wagner Group and would-be putschist against Vladimir Putin's Kremlin and Russia, is no more. It was an unprecedented story, that coup attempt against Putin's regime. This was the man who, of course, had been built up and so loyal to Vladimir Putin with the most powerful paramilitary organization in the world, fighting a battle on the ground in Ukraine and fighting against the Minister of Defense and others, losing that battle and deciding to turn his forces against the Russian regime. First, in Rostov and capturing the seat of the Southern command, and then marching him probably on to Moscow, where at the final moment he backs down and agrees to a quote unquote deal with Putin. Putin, who went on national media and referred to Prigozhin as a traitor.
Let's be clear, the important information from all of this was not that there was a deal that was cut. The important information that NATO is paying very close attention to is that Putin didn't take Prigozhin out immediately. He contained the threat. He took his time and acted in a much more calculated way for Putin's own survival.
And given that we've never seen Putin tested like this, and given that for a dictator, it's important to have some air of unpredictability, that you might just launch those weapons, you might have your finger on the button, and that creates some deterrence. The fact is that when Putin was faced with a truly regime-ending threat, that what he did was very careful, very calculated, and ensured the best possible ability for Putin to keep on keeping on.
Now, as I said, back in June, Prigozhin was a dead man walking. Putin had good reason not to want to take him out at the point of his maximum leverage, not least because it would be very ugly in and around Moscow. It would lead to a lot of people getting killed that you wouldn't be able to contain or not show the Russian public. It quite probably would've showed that Putin himself had fled to St. Petersburg from Moscow, a message that certainly he didn't want to see go out.
And of course, Russia was also fighting what was at that point expected to be a very difficult and dangerous Ukrainian counteroffensive. And opening up a fight on two fronts and taking troops away from Ukraine also would've made that much harder for him. So now, Wagner has been contained. Their media company has been shut, many of their bank accounts were frozen, their contracts are being transferred, and the Ukrainian counteroffensive has mostly been shut down by the Russians.
And that of course makes it far, far safer and easier for Putin to go after the former Wagner chief. And so now Yevgeny Prigozhin and the military command structure of Wagner, that leadership dead in a plane crash. I'm fairly comfortable, even though there is no direct evidence at this point, we probably will never have any, saying that Putin gave that order personally. And hey, he actually had some time on his hands since he can't exactly travel to the BRICS Summit in South Africa.
And I'm also comfortable saying that there's no strong near-term threat to Putin. Let's remember that even when the Wagner forces were on their way to Moscow, that there were no defections from Russia's official military structure, no defections from oligarchs. And of course there was not major instability among the Russian people on the streets.
Yes, of course the Russian economy is doing a lot worse now than it was six months ago, a year ago. But Putin still runs that place, and as everyone in Russia can now clearly see, there remain very serious consequences for taking him on.
That's it for me, and I'll talk to y'all real soon.
Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here, and a happy Monday to you. Want to turn to US domestic politics for this week's Quick Take in part because there's been a surge in the GOP among the candidates. We've had Trump way out in front, and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis as the major challenger pretty much for the last several months until this last week, with an outsider Vivek Ramaswamy in a couple of polls showing up as number two. Certainly enjoying a surge. So thought it was worth taking a little bit of a look at him.
First of all, I mean, let's be clear, the big news remains the Trump indictments and the Democratic efforts to drive them. It's all about the politics. It is not about rule of law. That's what it should be if it were a properly functioning representative democracy. That is not the state of US politics right now. But aside from that, it's "is anyone a potential challenger to Trump on the GOP side?" And, you know, the idea that Trump is not going to participate in the Republican primary debates, as we see this Wednesday, is his political interest in showing that "I'm going to get this nomination and all the rest are pretenders to the throne." Completely understandable that that's the way he's handling that, but it's interesting to me that to the extent that anyone else is getting oxygen, it is the candidates that are most like him. In other words, those that are willing to take on his message that are proactively being supportive and engaging.
It is DeSantis and Vivek and that shouldn't surprise anyone in terms of where the Republican party is and is going as the Democratic party has increasingly become a party identified with urban elites and the Republican party increasingly with rural working and middle classes. And that is a grievance-based and anger-based "let's beat up on the establishment." It is not the center. Trump did very well as an outsider, not because his policies made a lot of sense, but rather because they really animated the emotional anger channeled the sense of disenfranchisement and otherness of people that felt like the elites were part of this shadowy, globalist deep state. Vivek Ramaswamy, in my view, has been the most effective at engaging on the political stage in that. He's basically portraying himself as the young Trump, as the person that can carry the mantle that, you know, if Trump is one more Covid episode away from not being with us,
Vivek is 38 years old. He's an entrepreneur, young kid. You know, he's an outsider. He is never been a candidate. Heck, he's barely voted most of the presidential elections. He hasn't participated in, said he was jaded at the time. That is a feature, not a bug for someone who is, you know, wants to run on "I'm not a politico, I'm not a part of Washington. I have no political experience, and that makes me better." I mean, he proactively said like, "I want to run the government the way Elon runs Twitter/X, which I'm not clear that appeals to people that care about governance, but that's not the point. This is anger and people that want to hurt the folks that are benefiting from the fruits of governance over the course of the past, say, 40 to 50 years in the United States.
He's aligned with Trump. He's aligned with Tucker Carlson, that's the lane here. I definitely see in his policy statements that, you know, anti-woke but more effective in his rhetoric on that front than DeSantis has been. Talking about the global reset versus the great uprising. In other words, anti world economic forum, anti-woke, anti global control, anti deep state, anti all of this, you know, anything that feels like the forces that you don't understand that are in control of you, Vivek is opposed to them. It's very much like Trump's drain the swamp, which again, of all the things that Trump did, drain the swamp was, you know, the one he was least actually interested in. Fantastic on the rhetoric, and then appointed all the CEOs and billionaires to run cabinet to reduce taxation. I mean, the men north of Richmond did fantastically well under Trump and likely would under Vivek.
But that's not the point. The point is not appealing to an analytic reasoned policy debate. It is appealing to a sense of anger, and we want to burn it down. And in that regard, Vivek has been most effective in some of his policy statements that really antagonizing the mainstream media. I saw this in particular, with a CNN interview that he did in talking about Russia and Ukraine and in saying, "hey, I'm going to make the Ukrainians give up some of their territory and say there won't be any NATO for Ukraine because I want to pull Russia away from China." And I mean, you can just imagine this is absolutely intended to drive mainstream media crazy, and they do, and it's a massive amount of attention for this young outsider. And he's winning, not winning for the nomination, of course, that's not the point.
But he's winning in the performative sweep that allow him to do far better from personal career perspective on the back of deciding to run. Running this presidential campaign is an absolute no brainer for someone like Ramaswamy. He'll have bigger book deals, higher speaking fees, has a decent shot of being on a Trump cabinet if Trump were to potentially win. But he also is setting himself up to be one of the younger forces that can wear the populist MAGA mantle assuming the GOP stays intact beyond this presidential cycle. And so in that regard, I find him a very important cultural phenomenon and political phenomenon. We are going to see more of this as long as American political dysfunction continues to be a primary driving force, as long as the US is more polarized, riven with more disinformation, more mistrust, and more feeling of illegitimacy than any of the other G-7 advanced industrial democracies.
This is the lane to run on, at least on the right. I think we'll see more of it on the left as well. But again, the demographics of where the GOP is doing well, it aligns particularly with this form of nativism and populism. And I do feel like Vivek has been very effective there. We'll see on Wednesday night with the debate how he does on a stage with, you know, ten folks, many of whom are fully part of the GOP establishment. I suspect he'll do very well because this is really meant for small sound bites social media, and he's going to be an effective bomb thrower there. So will Chris Christie, by the way, who's a fantastic debater and is the one that is really taking Trump on individually, but of course, Trump is going to be talking to Tucker Carlson who has said in his private texts that he can't stand the guy, thinks he's a lunatic.
But that doesn't matter because they occupy the same lane. And as political entrepreneurs for themselves, this is exactly what they should be doing, which is teaming up to make the establishment debate that the party forces want to have less relevant. And it makes Tucker Carlson more relevant to his fans and to his revenues as bottom line, and it makes Trump more relevant too. So that's where we are this week, kind of depressing state of affairs in terms of US politics, but from an analysis perspective, got to get that right either way. Hope everyone's well, and I'll talk to you all real soon.