Opinion

Ian Bremmer

Political risk must-reads

Ian Bremmer
Jun 14, 2013 15:05 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 

Africa: Continent of Plenty” – G. Pascal Zachary, IEEE Spectrum

In the early 1960s, Africa supplied 8 percent of the world’s tradable food; that figure has dropped below 2 percent today.  Can Africa feed itself—and even help feed the world?  Here are ten reasons to believe it can.

Putin’s Self-Destruction” – Ivan Krastev and Vladislav Inozemtsev, Foreign Affairs

From 2000 to 2012, the number of Russian state officials rose by more than 65 percent, from 1.3 million to 2.1 million. Today, approximately $300 billion (16 percent) of Russia’s GDP is consumed by corruption.  Will Putin’s anti-corruption campaign undermine the very people who support him most?

Italy’s overcrowded prisons close to collapse” – Barry Mood, Reuters

American exceptionalism, seen through the prism of American blunders

Ian Bremmer
Jun 13, 2013 14:39 UTC

The past weeks’ revelations about PRISM, the National Security Agency’s broad electronic surveillance program, follow a grand American tradition of major disclosures that undermine the high standards to which the United States holds itself — and the world. In this case: How can the U.S. tell other countries to stop using the Internet to pursue their aims at the expense of others when it has been systematically spying on foreigners for years? 

This contradiction is nothing new in American foreign policy: it’s the flip side of American exceptionalism. The United States is so eager to cast itself as a pinnacle of various behaviors and values that when it inevitably falls short, it leads to awkward contradictions. That’s a shame, because the United States actually does have substantive differences from many other countries on civil liberties, human rights and democracy — it’s just that its stance ensures any slipups and embarrassments overshadow everything else.

Look no further than last weekend, when the NSA disclosures spoiled the Obama administration’s plans to corner China on its own cyber practices. Instead, publications like the Guardian were running headlines like “U.S.-China summit ends with accord on all but cyberespionage.”

Political risk must-reads

Ian Bremmer
Jun 7, 2013 19:04 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.

Not always with us” – The Economist

How have we made so much progress eradicating poverty in recent decades? Between 1981 and 2010, China lifted 680m people out poverty—more than the entire current population of Latin America. China alone accounted for around three quarters of the world’s total decline in extreme poverty over the past 30 years. Where does progress need to come from going forward?

Cristinanomics: Argentina’s crazy plan to save the economy through money laundering” – Douglas Farah, Foreign Policy

Erdogan’s popularity contest

Ian Bremmer
Jun 6, 2013 19:46 UTC

In the past week thousands of people have mobilized across Turkey, protesting Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s efforts to consolidate power and impose his agenda. Erdogan’s heavy-handed response — he sent riot police in to disperse the largely peaceful protesters in Istanbul — led to widespread condemnation,  and even bigger protests.

The facile interpretation of what’s happening in Turkey is that it’s the next stage of the Arab Spring, when the rage of a region spreads even to its most stable, democratic outlier. But that’s not the case here. There are real differences between what’s happening in Turkey and what happened in the Arab Spring — and they’re a testament to how successful Turkey has been as a nation, and how successful it will continue to be.

Arab Spring protests in a country like Egypt were an outcry against the political system as a whole. In Turkey, the anger is directed at one man, whose ouster would not topple the political system more broadly — and Erdogan still holds the key to mitigating the conflict if he can take a more conciliatory stance (though for him, that might be easier said than done.)

The underappreciated tensions between China and Brazil

Ian Bremmer
May 28, 2013 17:46 UTC

If you believed the conventional wisdom, this week’s meeting between Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was bound to be fraught. The leaders of the world’s two largest countries, only a month removed from a standoff in the Himalayas, were meeting. Acrimony was sure to follow, right?

No. Instead, Li said he offered India a “handshake across the Himalayas” and mused about how China and India could increase their trade to $100 billion by 2015. China and India, you see, aren’t as antagonistic as pundits make them out to be.

Aside from each having more than 1 billion people, China and India actually have very little in common. The two are divergent — yet their economies are largely complementary. India is struggling to regain its torrid growth of the mid-2000s; China is closer to maintaining it. India, thanks to corruption and regulation, doesn’t build much infrastructure; China can’t stop. Indians have started to bring their entrepreneurship to China, since their domestic market is so flawed and because China itself has so few entrepreneurs. China, meanwhile, has started to send some basic low-scale manufacturing to India, as the cost and quality of Chinese labor rises.

Political risk must-reads

Ian Bremmer
May 24, 2013 15:23 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.

 

China’s Entrenched Gender Gap

Leta Hong Fincher, New York Times

The employment rate for urban working-age women in China fell to 60.8 percent in 2010– down from 77.4 percent 20 years earlier—a full 20 percent below the 2010 rate for men. As China continues to urbanize, what does this trend mean? Will educated Chinese women increasingly look abroad for work?

 

Senate Moves Toward Arming the Syrian Rebels

Josh Rogin, The Daily Beast

“The U.S. cannot solve every conflict on the planet,” said Senator Marco Rubio at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee meeting to vote on legislation that would arm elements of the Syrian opposition. But even with no Syrian solution in sight, that didn’t stop him from voting in favor of the bill. Will it pressure President Obama to increase American involvement?

Political risk must-reads

Ian Bremmer
May 20, 2013 15:28 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

Leaving Bangladesh? Not an easy choice for brands” – Jonathan Faney and Anne D’Innocenzio, Associated Press

The recent tragedy in Bangladesh is a reason for multinationals to take their business elsewhere. The average hourly wage of 24 cents in Bangladesh (compared to $0.45 in Cambodia, $0.52 in Pakistan, $0.53 in Vietnam, or $1.26 in China) may prove sufficient reason to stay.

Washington’s scandals won’t stunt America’s recovery

Ian Bremmer
May 16, 2013 15:55 UTC

Scandal has visited the Obama administration, and thanks to the media narrative it’s larger than the sum of its parts. With a talking-point imbroglio after Benghazi, the IRS’s discriminatory practices and the Justice Department’s procurement of Associated Press phone records, the Obama administration and its allies are right to be worried.

But those of us invested in U.S. growth have little reason to fret. The past few years have proved that dysfunction in Washington has almost no effect on America’s attractiveness to investors. As the rates of U.S. Treasury bonds prove, America continues to be the place for investors to park their money. That’s because petty politics don’t control the fate of the country.

In major emerging markets, politicians have to behave to appeal to investors. In capitals like Moscow, Delhi and Pretoria, this is largely an act of optics, but it’s an important one for countries trying to earn the trust of investors who see opportunity, but not necessarily stability. For further proof of developing countries’ precarious position, look to Bangladesh, where a country’s economy has been threatened by its politicians’ negligence before, during and after the country’s latest garment industry catastrophe.

Political risk must-reads

Ian Bremmer
May 10, 2013 18:58 UTC

Eurasia Group is posting our favorite political risk articles of the week on Foreign Policy, which I’d like to share here as well.  As always, feel free to give us your feedback or selections @EurasiaGroup or @IanBremmer.

Must-reads 

U.S. Blames China’s Military Directly for Cyberattacks” – David E. Sanger, New York Times

For the first time, the Obama administration explicitly accused China’s military of responsibility for cyberattacks on American government computer systems. By some estimates, 90 percent of the cyberespionage in the US originates in China. 

On Syria, it’s time for Obama to decide

Ian Bremmer
May 9, 2013 18:46 UTC

Through two years of Syrian crisis, the Obama administration has cautiously dragged its feet as the United States is further enmeshed in the conflict. That’s a sensible platform at home, with opinion polls showing that Americans don’t think the country has a responsibility to intervene. It has strategic merit, too, given that intervention against Bashar al-Assad is an implicit endorsement of a largely unknown opposition force with radical, sectarian factions. 

But the status quo in Syria is breaking down, and Obama’s worst option is to kick the can as the United States inexorably gets dragged deeper into the conflict. It may be politically painful, but it’s time to make a choice: Go all in with a no fly zone — or avoid anything more than diplomatic intervention and humanitarian/non-lethal aid. Here’s why.

Until recently, Obama’s strategy of hesitance and risk aversion was commendable and well executed. As the situation worsened, the United States took minimal, reactionary steps. First, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tried to put together a formal — and reasonably liberal — Syrian political opposition, but it quickly fragmented because it had no workable ties to the actual rebels doing the actual fighting. Then the United States turned to non-lethal aid for the rebels (including defensive military equipment) as well as supporting Qatar and other countries through intelligence and logistics. Furthermore, in August 2012, Obama drew a “red line” at “chemical weapons moving around or being utilized” by the regime. At the time, it seemed unlikely to come to fruition anytime soon.

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