10 Questions That Got Answered in 2017

1- What sort of president will Donald Trump be?

Trump has approached his role as president just as he played the role of candidate. He has opened nearly every negotiation — with foreign leaders, US lawmakers, reporters, and everyone else — with aggressive accusations and maximalist demands. He has repackaged modest results and several defeats as historic victories. He has shown that he knows what his most loyal supporters want to hear — and that he doesn’t understand how the US government works. Trump doesn’t change.


2- How much longer will China’s leaders follow Deng Xiaoping’s advice to hide the country’s strength and bide their time?

This turned out to be the most significant change in world politics in 2017. President Xi Jinping used October’s Party Congress to make clear that he is entirely in charge and that Beijing will now play a much more forceful role in the world. He used the phrases “great power” or “strong power” 26 times during a speech at the event. As Trump scales back US leadership ambitions, Xi has offered China as a leader on trade, investment, and the fight against climate change. Expect a more assertive Beijing in 2018 and beyond.

3- Do French voters want President Marine Le Pen?

Merci, non.There was a time when it appeared French voters might follow the trail blazed by Brexit and Trump toward an establishment-rattling protest vote. But of course, the French don’t follow the Anglo-Saxon lead on anything. They still dealt the traditional center-right and center-left parties a smack of historic proportions, but they did it with a fresh-faced, pro-European centrist with big aspirations for France and the EU.

4- Can Theresa May deliver a Brexit breakthrough?

Yes, but as public sausage-making goes, this process has been particularly hideous. UK Prime Minister Theresa May still lives at №10, the Europeans are still talking, and negotiations have advanced from “divorce terms” to future UK-EU relations. But nothing is final until everything is final, and the main lesson we learned this year is that May will step on more mines than she manages to avoid. #SausageMakingInaMinefield

5- Will Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) make his move to become king?

No doubt about that. We’d grown use to a young prince willing to start wars to bolster his resume (see Yemen). But 2017 proved that MbS is ready for all kinds of fights, and the length of his list of enemies (and potential enemies) would shock Michael Corleone. Iran? On notice. Qatar? Isolated. Religious conservatives? Overruled. Saudi royals of doubtful reliability? Detained. He’s not yet king, but he’s clearly in charge.

6- Can Erdogan win Putin-like powers in Turkey?

Yes, he can. In April, Turkey’s president won a narrow victory in a constitutional referendum that significantly extends the powers of his office. To get there, he dialed up his natural charisma, conjured fear of internal plots, stoked Turkey-against-the-West defiance, and probably ordered a bit of ballot-stuffing. He won’t get his new powers until he wins the next election, likely in late 2018. But Erdogan has cleared the highest hurdle on his way to the finish line.

7- Can the African National Congress (ANC) move beyond Jacob Zuma?

Yes, but it won’t be easy. Just this week, delegates at the ruling ANC’s party conference chose Cyril Ramaphosa as their new leader. Zuma remains South Africa’s president. He might even stay on the job through 2018. He certainly won’t go down without a fight. The choice of Ramaphosa brings potential for a change within the ruling party that South Africa badly needs, but Zuma loyalists will fight him every step of the way.

8- Can Brazil’s president survive the year with a single-digit approval rating?

Yes, he can. In fact, his approval rating surged from 3 to 6% just this week. Michel Temer doesn’t have much political future, but he has so far avoided both political oblivion and prison. (In today’s Brazil, that’s not nothing.) For millions of Brazilians, next October’s presidential election can’t get here fast enough.

9- Can I pass off Chuck E. Cheese game tokens as Bitcoin?

This question still lacks a clear answer. Earlier this week, your Signal author became very excited over reports that a man had successfully passed off round metal tokens used in the video game section of a popular pizza restaurant as Bitcoin. That report turned out to be a hoax, and I was inconsolable for several minutes. But the fact that it didn’t happen doesn’t mean it couldn’thappen.

10- Can NYC authorities prove the killer squirrel is dead?

Apparently not. The murderous squirrel that captured international attention in July by attacking people in Prospect Park — less than one mile from my apartment — has not reappeared. City officials say he’s dead, but they have not shown me (or anyone else) a corpse. Stay awake, Brooklyn.

Beyond simply accumulating too much waste, we also recycle and repurpose so little of it. 3D printers, however, can reverse this pattern. Among the most used tools in the "circular" economy, these printers help reduce production costs, release fewer greenhouse gases, and reduce the use of raw materials by allowing objects to be repaired.

See how they work on the 7th episode of Eni's new Energy Superfacts series.

You've probably heard a lot in the past three days about Senator Kamala Harris, her background, and the ground-breaking nature of her candidacy for US vice president.

But now that the cheering crowds have logged off and the virtual confetti has been swept away, we're left with a basic question: will Kamala Harris make a difference — on the campaign trial and maybe in the White House — for Joe Biden?

More Show less

Kevin Sneader, global managing partner for McKinsey & Company, provides perspective on how corporate business leaders think in response to the coronavirus crisis:

What is the role of HR going into the next normal?

Well, this is a time of reset and one big reset that I see is around the role of HR. I think it's time for HR to shift from being a transactional partner around compensation, organization charts, and benefits to being a truly integral architect of change. Now, that's been happening for years in the best performing HR departments. It Involves rethinking talent requirements, capturing what was learned about individuals and organizations during the course of this pandemic, and even learning and growing in a world in which remote working has to be combined with working back in the office or the manufacturing facility. A world where incentives needs to be rethought. And where employee experiences need to reflect a very different reality. So, there's a big reset going on and I think that reset needs to embrace HR both in terms of what HR can do, the role of the CHR role, and indeed the way in which together HR becomes a true architect for change, just as it has done for many years, perhaps unnoticed, and not give enough credit by those who really should know better.

An open letter in Politico by a group of foreign policy experts says the US should take a much tougher approach on Russia. In this edition of The Red Pen, Ian Bremmer is joined by Eurasia Group analysts Alex Brideau and Zach Witlin to point out some reasons why diplomacy and realism are critical in the US approach to Russia.

And today, we're taking our Red Pen to an open letter titled "No, Now Is Not the Time for Another Russia Reset." It was published in Politico and signed by 33 foreign policy experts, including diplomats Bill Taylor and Kurt Volker, who both testified at the impeachment hearings, as well as a bunch of military intelligence and diplomatic figures. And as it turned out, actually, we were Red Penned here, because it's a response to this piece, also in Politico recently, that I cosigned with a different group of Russia experts, including Fiona Hill and Jon Huntsman.

Both letters talk about the road ahead for US relations with Russia. The one I signed argued that the US needs to know when there will be opportunities to work with Russia and when Washington has to push back. The central argument in this article is that there's no point in talking to Russia until Putin changes his mind. So, what we have here is an open debate about the issue. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty we agree on and plenty of places where no red ink is required.

We agree that Russia bears plenty of responsibility for the current state of affairs. It occupies territory that belongs to Georgia and Ukraine, two sovereign states. And it interfered in the 2016 US election and continues to do so as we speak. Moscow has also killed dissidents in Europe, assassinated them. So, I mean, you know, no one is trying to justify any of that belligerent behavior. And we also agree that while the United States can fine tune its policy all we want, it actually takes two to tango. Recent talks with the Russians have not been too successful, but since the red pen is here, it is time to highlight some areas of disagreement. So, here they are.

Point one, the authors argue that there's no point in talking to Russia about much of anything until Putin changes his act. They write that "by arguing that it is the United States and not Russia that needs a 'current change of course' the authors of the open letter (that's us) get it exactly backward."

If the US takes an all or nothing approach with Russia, it will end up with nothing. Look, I mean, I certainly expect and understand that we should have a more hawkish line on a bunch of things with the Chinese as well, but that doesn't mean you can't work with these countries on climate change, on space, on a bunch of areas where it's actually really important. These are still large economies. In the case of the Russians, the largest nuclear arsenal in the world along with the United States, and I would argue that leaving the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Agreement was a mistake, leaving the Blue Skies Agreement, the Open Skies Agreement was a mistake. That you have to work even with your antagonists, and that's important. That means that we should be pursuing diplomacy and cooperation where we can while also vigorously defending our own interests where we can't. This strikes me as a fairly obvious baseline understanding of international diplomacy, and I'm always surprised when people push back against it.

Point two, the authors write that the US should "maintain, even enhance sanctions" on Russia unless a long list of demands are met, like withdrawing troops from Ukraine, including Crimea, and ending cyberattacks and election interference.

Nobody is saying we should give in to Russia on any of those issues. The bottom line is that the above list of demands is already US policy. How more sanctions would change Russian behavior? Doesn't make a lot of sense. You need your allies on board for sanctions to work. And sanctions work best when they're calibrated and targeted. When they have clear benchmarks that when met, lead to easing of those sanctions. And when they're paired with diplomacy. Russia's a big nuclear armed country, unlike, say, South Africa. Russia's not going to simply be sanctioned into surrender. Maintain the sanctions but expanding them at this point strikes me as having very little likelihood of return and only marginal increase of sanctions that we could do.

Point three, the authors say that the US should not resign itself to accepting "Russia's repression, kleptocracy and aggression" as that provides no incentive for Putin to change.

Now, we agree. The US cannot accept Russian misbehavior, but we need to be realistic about what we can actually change, like stopping Russian election meddling, and what we can't, like Russia's kleptocracy. We can and should do our part to stop dirty money from coming into the US and Europe but changing Russia's domestic system is another story.

So, in conclusion, the Russians are an antagonist of the United States. Their revisionist power, they're in decline. They are trying to undermine the Americans, the Europeans, and the transatlantic relationship. All true. But I actually think that there are areas where we still need to be working with lots of states that we really don't like and don't trust, and yes, Russia is one of them. By the way, New START, the nuclear arms reduction treaty signed in 2010 by the US and Russia expires in February 2021. Open dialog right now could save it and I think it's worth saving. Let's work on that.

"We now have for the first time, pre-COVID, a very good sense of where the gaps are" says former CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden on pandemic preparedness. But in order to prevent another pandemic from bringing the world to its knees, he argues, the United States must play a more proactive role on the global stage. First step: work much more closely with the CDC (and don't, for starters, pull funding during a pandemic).