Quick Take: Pro-Navalny Russian protests make Putin defensive; AMLO's COVID diagnosis

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Russian opposition leader Navalny in jail. Hundreds of thousands demonstrating across the country in Russia over well over 100 cities, well over 3000 arrested. And Putin responding by saying that this video that was put out that showed what Navalny said was Putin's palace that costs well over a billion dollars to create and Putin, I got to say, usually he doesn't respond to this stuff very quickly. Looked a little defensive, said didn't really watch it, saw some of it, but it definitely wasn't owned by him or owned by his relatives.


And in the investigation itself, it said it was actually in a holding company by people linked to the Kremlin as opposed to Putin himself. But the hundred million people that have watched it, don't find Putin very credible on this. The interesting thing is the Kremlin clearly sees Navalny as a threat. They're responding in a more defensive way than I've seen the Kremlin respond to really anything since Putin has been president on the domestic front. And I don't know if that means that they can't kill him while he's under detention or whether they feel like they have to. Certainly, it makes it much harder for them to let him go. I think it makes it more likely that he's detained for a longer period of time or he's convicted of some ginned-up crimes. But the influence that he has across the country is actually growing.

And that probably means a harder fist from the Russians in the kind of response to local opposition. Keep in mind the economy's not doing very well. Nobody's is, but Russia's in particular right now, and Putin's approval ratings are not what they were when he first annexed Crimea for example.

Final point Mexico, you may have seen the news, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the president has contracted COVID. So many world leaders have come down with it. Even with the most extraordinary capacity to try to protect these people, coronavirus is incredibly transmissible. And a lot of these leaders in the governments aren't taking it as seriously as they should. That certainly is true of the Mexican president or the Brazilian president or the American president or the UK prime minister. All of whom have gotten coronavirus, though, I would say the French president's taken it quite seriously and he still got it.

But specifically in Mexico, this is important because Lopez Obrador himself controls so much of the decision-making in the country. There's no real functioning cabinet in Mexico, it's all the Mexican president. And the direction and the details of policy in Mexico are not about his ministers, it's about him. So, if Trump had been incapacitated for a few weeks, it wouldn't have much impact on American policy. He didn't do it.

In Brazil, same thing. All the economic policy was largely given to the key ministers Bolsonaro Doesn't really understand economic policy. In Mexico, whatever you think of Lopez Obrador, he's doing it. And so if he's laid up for a long time or in the worst case, if he dies, this is actually going to be a really significant problem for the Mexican government, where there is no obvious successor and very little capacity for governance outside of the Mexican president himself. Let's keep in mind, he's 67 years old. He had a heart attack in 2013 and supposedly suffers from hypertension. So, you put all that together, this is actually something to watch. He gets the best medical care of anybody in Mexico, but it's still something to be concerned about and I suspect we're going to see market reaction to that.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Listen: Stanford historian Niall Ferguson joins Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast to talk about the geopolitics of disaster. Throughout human history we seem to be unable to adequately prepare for catastrophes (natural or human-caused) before they strike. Why is that? And as we emerge from the greatest calamity of our lifetimes in the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the plethora of crises that climate change has and will cause, what can we do to lessen the blow?

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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