Opinion

Ian Bremmer

Political risk must-reads

Ian Bremmer
Aug 30, 2013 15:15 UTC

Eurasia Group’s weekly selection of essential reading for the political risk junkie — presented in no particular order. As always, feel free to give us your feedback or selections by tweeting at us via @EurasiaGroup or @ianbremmer.

Must-reads 

Why Bo Stole the Show” – Minxin Pei, Project Syndicate

Day One of the Bo Xilai trial was jarringly transparent; it’s hard to believe it was China’s attempt at upholding rule of law and judicial integrity. After all, Beijing clamped down from the second day onward. So how did Bo Xilai get a chance to speak his mind so openly and dramatically? What impact might it have?

Mutually Insured Destruction” – Maggie Koerth-Baker, New York Times

Can predictive algorithms used by reinsurance companies successfully measure the economic impact of climate change?

Best and Worst Countries for Babies on Their First Day of Life” – Cat Wise, PBS

One million babies die every year on their day of birth. A baby born in Somalia is 43 times more likely to die on its first day than a baby born in Luxembourg (which tops the list); the United States comes in 68th out of 186 ranked countries. 

Can the U.S.’s limited military strike against Assad stay limited?

Ian Bremmer
Aug 27, 2013 21:44 UTC

After Secretary of State John Kerry’s speech about Syria’s chemical warfare yesterday, it’s clear that the U.S. is going to attack Syria. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says U.S. forces are “ready to go.” Envoys are telling rebels that Western forces “could attack Syria within days,” per Reuters.

But even as the United States prepares to strike, Syria is not really the heart of the issue. As Kerry said in his speech, “The meaning of [Assad’s chemical weapon] attack goes beyond the conflict in Syria itself.” The goal will not be to tilt the scales in Syria’s civil war or to put an end to the violence; rather, the U.S. wants to retaliate against an affront to its credibility, and the unambiguous breaching of an international norm. But there is danger. What begins as a limited military strike to punish Assad could quickly devolve into deeper engagement in Syria, or it could scuttle America’s top regional priorities like its nuclear discussions with Iran.

Months ago President Obama made clear that he would not permit any chemical weapons abuses in Syria, calling it his “red line.” But despite evidence of small batches of chemical weapons being deployed on Syrians, Obama sat idle for months. It’s only now, after chemical attacks last week that left hundreds dead and more traumatized, that the U.S. is moving to action. The chemical warfare became too large — and calls from the United States’ allies too loud — for the United States to remain a spectator any longer. So after two years of idling on Syria, it’s clear that what the U.S. is really defending is not Syrians, but the international prohibition of chemical weapons, and, most of all, its own credibility. Assad has to be punished because he clearly and publicly crossed Obama’s one explicit red line — however arbitrary hundreds of chemical weapons-induced deaths may seem in comparison to the 100,000-plus Syrians who have perished in the civil war.

Political risk must-reads

Ian Bremmer
Aug 23, 2013 13:11 UTC

Eurasia Group’s weekly selection of essential reading for the political risk junkie — presented in no particular order. As always, feel free to give us your feedback or selections by tweeting at us via @EurasiaGroup or @ianbremmer.

Must-reads

Getting Serious: An End to the Russia-Japan Dispute?” – J. Berkshire Miller, The Diplomat

Russia and Japan have not yet formally signed a peace treaty to end their World War II hostilities. Could things really be looking up for their bilateral relationship?

Political risk must-reads

Ian Bremmer
Aug 16, 2013 15:19 UTC

Eurasia Group’s weekly selection of essential reading for the political-risk junkie — presented in no particular order, and shared from ForeignPolicy.com. As always, feel free to give us your feedback or selections by tweeting at us via @EurasiaGroup or @ianbremmer.

Must-reads

Why Russia is worried about the ‘Zero Option’ in Afghanistan” – Andrew S. Bowen, The Diplomat

What are the security risks that Russia faces as the United States pulls out of Afghanistan? Russia’s own pullout in 1989 is an ominous signal for what’s to come.

The world leaders who are actually leading

Ian Bremmer
Aug 15, 2013 15:33 UTC

Earlier this summer, as I watched the Pope attract millions as he toured Brazil, I noticed how rare the scene was. Here was a man in control of an embattled institution, and he had somehow rallied his troops. By going back to the basics of Catholic belief—embracing humility, supporting the downtrodden, asking for sacrifice— as well as pushing the envelope (with his more progressive stance on homosexuality, for example), Pope Francis had begun to rehabilitate the church. It was viable leadership: the kind that motivates, inspires, and unites.

This is becoming increasingly rare. We live in a world where no single country or group of countries can provide dominant, sustainable global leadership—G-Zero, as I call it—and that’s in large part because so many countries lack solid leadership at home. As I look around the world, I see only three leaders of major countries that, like the pope, are managing to squelch opposition, carve out a more impactful role for themselves, and undertake difficult reforms, all while leveraging their popularity and consolidating their strength.

In Japan, Shinzo Abe, the country’s former and also new prime minister, has enjoyed extraordinary popularity since reemerging as a national leader last year. Abe, who had a disappointing stint as prime minister in 2006-2007, has come back with force, promoting a namesake economics plan that has Japan shedding its “lost decades” and inspiring Japanese citizens. So far, “Abenomics” is producing some impressive results. Profits among major Japanese companies in the 2nd quarter of this year were double the figure a year ago. Private consumption in the same period increased 3.8 percent on an annualized basis. The Nikkei stock average is up over 30 percent this year.

What does Obama’s snub mean for U.S.-Russia relations?

Ian Bremmer
Aug 9, 2013 19:55 UTC

Earlier this week, Barack Obama announced that he won’t be meeting with Vladimir Putin in advance of the September G20 summit in St. Petersburg. That was, at least in part, a response to Russia’s decision to grant NSA leaker Edward Snowden temporary asylum, a move that left the White House “extremely disappointed.” So what will the fallout be? Are the media’s Cold War comparisons appropriate?

No. This episode will have limited impact on an already toxic bilateral relationship that matters increasingly less around the world.

Obama made the right decision — and more importantly, he did it at the right time. By snubbing Putin when he did, Obama will allow Secretaries of State and Defense John Kerry and Chuck Hagel and their Russian counterparts to work back up from this low-water mark when they meet this week. If he had waited to snub Putin, it would unwind any progress that might come out of the current meetings. Obama clearly understands there is more room for productivity among senior diplomats than between the heads of state, where the relationship has always been icy, and any shortcomings are higher profile.

Political risk must-reads

Ian Bremmer
Aug 9, 2013 14:31 UTC

Eurasia Group’s weekly selection of essential reading for the political-risk junkie — presented in no particular order. As always, feel free to give us your feedback or selections by tweeting at us via @EurasiaGroup or @ianbremmer.

Must-reads

City chickens and country eggs” – The Economist

China has gone all-in with efforts to spur increased urbanization. Said Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, “Urbanization has the greatest potential for boosting domestic demand.” He claims urban residents in China spent 3.6 times as much as their rural peers in 2010. But what if China has it backwards? Does urbanization lead to growth — or does growth lead to urbanization?

Searching Big Data for ‘Digital Smoke Signals’” – Steve Lohr, New York Times

Political risk must-reads

Ian Bremmer
Aug 2, 2013 15:18 UTC

Eurasia Group’s weekly selection of essential reading for the political-risk junkie — presented in no particular order, and shared from ForeignPolicy.com. As always, feel free to give us your feedback or selections by tweeting at us via @EurasiaGroup or @ianbremmer.

Must-reads 

Chinese Search for Infant Formula Goes Global” – Edward Wong, New York TImes

Are Chinese consumers ready to trust the safety standards of homemade products? Concerned parents in China are registering their doubts with their wallets as they go abroad to purchase baby formula.

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