Quick Take: COVID hits Trump; thousands dead in Armenia & Azerbaijan

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here with Moose, the dog. He's barely awake. It's a Happy Monday to you and we are still deep in the throws of coronavirus, myself, the country, the world, the President. I mean, it's what we're talking about. It is by far the most important story out there.

But what a crazy news cycle, my God. I mean, if you think about the last few days, you've got a new Supreme Court nominee they're trying to move through. You've got Trump's former campaign manager getting arrested after an attempted suicide. You've got massive tax revelations in the New York Times about Trump not paying taxes for 10 years and then paying $750 for two years in a row, which is a weird number.

Then, of course, the most historically ridiculous presidential debate that any of us had seen. Of course, all of that goes out the window because President Trump is found to be positive for coronavirus, as well as the First Lady Melania and his press secretary and a couple of Republican senators and a whole bunch of other people. It turns out that this event in the Rose Garden and inside the White House was a super spreader event. Lots of people getting coronavirus inside the White House, which means maybe you don't want to spend as much time there.

Anyway, quite something and obviously a negative for Trump's re-election campaign efforts. The reason being that he doesn't want to talk about coronavirus. He wants to talk about the economy where he polls better than Biden consistently and he wants to talk about the Supreme Court nominee, who he probably still gets through. But with three Republican senators now having gotten coronavirus, two on the judiciary committee, two that attended the Coney Barrett announcement in the Rose Garden, you have a delay in Senate's ability to convene and if there are more positive cases, it's possible it'll be hard to get done until the lame duck.

In any case, you've only got four weeks to go, less than 30 days to go, thank God, before the election and what that means is we're talking about coronavirus for at least a couple of those weeks, first and foremost, and that makes it very hard for Trump to gain ground. He's behind. He's behind a little bit more than he was after those debates and probably still after being hospitalized. He's leaving the hospital shortly.

What is the strategy going forward? Well, if you're Trump, it is the Bolsonaro scenario strategy. It's what the Brazilian president did. Very simple. It is, "I'm fine. I got through this. I wasn't going to lock myself down because it's horrible for the economy. I've got to do my job just like you have to do your job. If that means I get this disease, okay, it knocked me out for a bit. But hey, I'm not young. I'm not Melania. I'm 74. I'm still able to get back on my feet. We've got to deal with this. So, don't be scared. Don't panic. Don't take it so seriously."

By the way, that also means that he is not going to be saying, "We all have to mask up. I made a mistake." He's not going to say, "We all have to social distance. I made a mistake." He's going to say, "I was right to not listen to Dr. Fauci. I was right to not listen to all of the scientists, all the epidemiologists that wanted us to lock down. No, we've got to get the economy going again. The Democrats are the ones that are trying to lock you down."

Now, that worked for Bolsonaro. He went from 40% to 50% in one month after he contracted coronavirus. Trump is a little under 40% right now. If he could get 10 points, heck if he could get five points, he'd be much more in this race. But Bolsonaro's popularity didn't just come because he dealt with the virus and he was fine, it also came because the numbers of coronavirus cases was going down in Brazil during that month significantly, the cases, the hospitalizations and the deaths and lots of checks were being written. 46%, 47% of the entire Brazilian population were getting big checks in their pockets for their stimulus and relief.

Now in the United States, it's getting colder. You've got states that are opening up. We now just have the largest number of cases that the U.S. has seen in two months. It's moving in the other direction. People are talking about a second wave. Those numbers are probably going to continue to be reasonably high. They might soften a bit, but not like you saw in Brazil, so that's harder. The ability to get a deal done on stimulus for a couple trillion dollars, I mean, Pelosi's Speaker of the House and Secretary of Treasury Mnuchin are talking to each other. They're interested in getting a deal and they might even announce one, but getting one actually through both houses of Congress fast enough that it matters for the election, I'm not sure there's time.

In other words, the two things that got Bolsonaro up to 50 don't look like they're going to get Trump up to 45. Also, the country's much more divided, the U.S., then Brazil is and the level of hatred for Trump among those that really don't like him and level of love for Trump among those that really love him is so much more entrenched. I mean, the number of people I've seen on social media that are saying, "I hope the president dies," that that would be a good thing. He's the President. I mean, I hope he loses. I don't hope he dies. I want him to recover as quickly as possible. He's a human being. The fact that he doesn't show empathy for anyone else doesn't affect me in terms of the way I think about other people. That's a strange thing.

But it's so divided. It's so ugly and so partisan that I just don't see any amount of potential sympathy for the President having gone through this. None. None at all, aside from people that already love him. I mean, the amazing thing is the fact that he's on the other side of this, mishandled this as badly as he has, 210,000 Americans dead, the test capacity nowhere near what it should be, not wearing masks, not taking the lead on social distancing. So much worse response than a country like Germany, which we should be doing better than and we're not and yet Trump's approval has not really slipped on the back of that either.

So, it works both ways. That electorate just isn't really moving, but he needs a lot more independence. He needs a lot more turnout and I just don't see that happening. I still think the strategy for President Trump is obscure, a lot of chaos, contest the outcome, say the mail-in ballots are fake and fraudulent and hope that allows you to be able to say, "We don't know who won and so it's not clear and so it was rigged," and then push that as far as you can. I think when you're losing and you're Trump, that's the strategy.

Before I let you guys go, my God, Armenia, Azerbaijan, a significant war. It looks like thousands dead now, not hundreds, thousands and there's actually attacks, drone strikes, missiles on Armenia proper, on Azerbaijan proper. It's not just about Karabakh, the contested territory, anymore. The international community, almost all of them are calling for a ceasefire except Turkey because President Erdoğan's popularity is down. His economy's in the toilet. He's tried to raise nationalist support for drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, got bloodied up a bit by the Greeks and the United States. Told him to calm down. So, he's the one that's willing to take risks and he's on the side of Azerbaijan.

The case of Russia, which traditionally would have kept Azerbaijan in their corner, they're selling weapons to both countries and Armenia's had a peaceful transition to democracy. They're more independent from the Russians. They're still supporting the same defense treaties, trade and all the rest, but Putin's not very happy with that, so he's clearly willing to stand by and let these Azeris and others bloody the Armenians up a bit. Not much being said in the United States right now because we're so damn distracted. Usually, there would be.

During the past year, 58% of all cyberattacks observed by Microsoft from nation-states have come from Russia. And attacks from Russian nation-state actors are increasingly effective, jumping from a 21% successful compromise rate last year to a 32% rate this year. Russian nation-state actors are increasingly targeting government agencies for intelligence gathering, which jumped from 3% of their targets a year ago to 53% – largely agencies involved in foreign policy, national security or defense. The top three countries targeted by Russian nation-state actors were the United States, Ukraine and the UK. These are just a few of the insights in the second annual Microsoft Digital Defense Report. Read additional highlights from the Microsoft on the Issues blog and find the full report here.

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The answer may surprise you: it's Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who's been to the continent more times than the leader(s) of any other non-African state. Just this week he notched his 28th visit, with stops in Angola, Nigeria, and Togo. Sure, being in power for two decades creates a lot of opportunities for exotic travel, but even Putin isn't close: he's been to Africa just five times, all to visit South Africa or Egypt.

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Normally, such a drastic slowdown would have put the ruling Communist Party in a tizzy. But this time, Xi Jinping knows this is the price he must pay for his big plans to curb rising inequality and boost the middle class at the expense of the CCP's traditional economic mantra: high growth above all else.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Read Ian Bremmer's wide-ranging essay in Foreign Affairs that puts in perspective both the challenge, and the opportunity, that comes from the unprecedented power of Big Tech.

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here on the road, something we haven't done very much recently, but will increasingly as we try to move through COVID. And I want to talk to you about a new article that I just put out in Foreign Affairs that I'm calling "The Technopolar Moment." Not unipolar, not bipolar, not multipolar, technopolar. What the hell does technopolar mean?

It means that increasingly big technology companies are themselves geopolitical actors. So to understand the future of the world, you can't just look at the United States, Europe and China. You need to look at the big tech companies, too.

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China gets away with a lot these days in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and elsewhere. That's because over the past decade, its economy has experienced explosive growth, making it an indispensable trading partner for almost every country in the world. At the same time, China has been expanding its share of the global economy, and is now set to overtake the US as the world's biggest economic powerhouse in the near term. We take a look at China's annual growth rate and share of the global economy based on GDP over the past decade.

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