Ian Bremmer is the president of the Eurasia Group and the author of 11 books, including his latest, The Power of Crisis: How Three Threats – And Our Response – Will Change the World, which will be released on May 17. In this episode, Bremmer talks about the three threats – pandemics, climate change, and new technologies – that are now facing global leaders, as well as China’s ongoing lockdowns, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, disrupted supply chains, and why he is optimistic that the crises now facing the world can be overcome.
Robert Bryce 0:04
Hi, everyone, welcome to the power hungry Podcast. I’m Robert Bryce. In this podcast we talk about energy, power, innovation and politics. And I’m pleased to welcome my guest, Ian Bremmer, he is the author of a new book that’s out May 17. The power of crisis, how three threats, and our response will change the world. Ian, welcome to the power hungry podcast.
Unknown Speaker 0:23
Hey, happy to join you, man.
Robert Bryce 0:24
So I didn’t warn you. But guests on this podcast, introduce themselves. So you have a lot of titles. If you don’t mind, give us 30 or 45 seconds on who you are.
Unknown Speaker 0:35
You didn’t want me that’s okay. I don’t I You didn’t warn me about anything. So I don’t know.
Robert Bryce 0:39
There’s a lot of coming out, you get ready on here. It’s gonna be rough.
Unknown Speaker 0:43
More fun for me, too. I’m a political scientist. I work on global issues. In particular, I started a company that is a political science firm that helps people understand how the world really works and how their own organizations may be misaligned with that about 24 years ago, with no money and no outside investment. And we are about 200 people now. And we’ve got offices all over the world. It’s kind of fun.
Robert Bryce 1:11
And that’s the Eurasia group.
Unknown Speaker 1:13
Robert Bryce 1:14
good. Well, we met some years ago in New York at a conference at NYU or a panel discussion at NYU with and then we met again in March at the American fuel and petrochemical manufacturers and petrochemical and fuel mat anyway, Orleans. A lot of fun. That’s right in March. So let’s get to it. Your new book, which I thought was quite interesting, the power of crisis, tell me if this is your 10th book, if my memory system, I think it’s my 11th book, okay, well, somebody needs to or I need to count better. But the book covers a lot of territory. So why this book and why now?
Unknown Speaker 1:50
It’s actually my most hopeful book. I wouldn’t say it’s my most optimistic but my most hopeful, and it’s
Robert Bryce 1:57
hope, hopeful verses, because I want to talk about that. At the end, I always ask people what their hope, hopeful versus optimistic, but what’s the difference there?
Unknown Speaker 2:04
I don’t pretend to have confidence that it is going to move in a direction that we can feel comfortable with. But I absolutely see the real opportunity. It is it is plausible. It is real. There are already examples of it. And these crises that we are facing in front of us right now. The pandemic climate change the war with Russia, and, and the growth of disruptive technologies. Our ability as humanity, as individuals and collectively to respond effectively to them is real. It’s absolutely real. And, and it’s happening in a time, when for decades, we have increasingly felt adrift, adrift, as a nation, adrift as a planet. And our institutions don’t really work that people are getting very anxious. They’re feeling unwi. So it felt like a time when a book like this is really necessary. That’s That’s what I mean. And that’s, and you know, hopefully, you’ll remember, I mean, Pandora’s Box. Hope was what was left, right at the bottom of the box. All these horrible things came out, but hope was hope was at the bottom. It wasn’t optimism that was at the bottom because we had all these big challenges that you had to suddenly deal with. But hope was there and and I am I am fundamentally hopeful.
Robert Bryce 3:33
Well, I am as well, I’m late, Molly. Ivan said, I’m optimistic to the point of idiocy. And but that’s a fine distinction to the hope and hope and an optimism. Well, let’s start with the the two things I wanted to start with really focused on are COVID and climate change. I remember in March, I heard your presentation. And you talked about COVID then and I just read this morning that today still we’re at the mid May and Shanghai is still in lockdown, some 373 million Chinese in 45 countries. 45 cities rather, have been locked down since late April. So you talked about China’s vaccines and that they’re not very effective. The question I have here is, is GES policy of zero tolerance on COVID. Is it failing? And how long is this going to last? Because if China is failing, so go ahead.
Unknown Speaker 4:22
It’s failing and it was not failing. When you had variants that were much less transmissible you know, in the first year of the pandemic, back in 20/22 quarter, the Chinese had basically tapped out the virus. And as a consequence, they were able to get their supply chain back up and open. And they were the only economy in the world of scale that grew in 2020. For that reason, so I mean, they have a lot to be to be proud of in terms after they finally admitted it. There was COVID the first few weeks were disaster, of course, for everybody. Because they lied about it, they covered it up. But once once they admitted it, they responded effectively. But they have not shown any flexibility the disease has changed. In America, we have a property, we have a problem with the fact that guidance has changed, as the disease has changed as our tools have changed, like it used to make a lot of sense to be much more cautious about things like mask wearing, it doesn’t mean doesn’t matter as much now, because we’ve got vaccines, we’ve got therapeutics, we understand, you know, it’s changed while the disease has changed. And the Chinese have not in any way adapted to that change. It is much more important for the Chinese now, to accept American and Western vaccines to license them, it’s much more important for them to have access to Western therapeutics, they refuse, they refuse, it’s much more important for them to force older people to get vaccinated. If they’re not going to bring in these foreign tools. They refuse to do that, too. And and
Robert Bryce 6:08
and why is that? Why are they saying that? Why is it a national pride issue? They don’t want Derna. They don’t want Johnson Johnson that
Unknown Speaker 6:15
it? Well, it’s both national pride and path dependency once they’ve already decided it. They’re stubborn. We’re frequently stubborn in the United States. Fair enough. We get dug in. Yeah. And they’ve just decided that there’s just no way no how that you know, sort of the world changing Chinese the the miracle economic story of the last 50 years, is going to go hat in hand to the Americans and Europeans and say, Can we please have access to your vaccines and therapeutics no way they’re going to do it themselves. They’re going to show that they can do it. And then they also they want to show that their way of managing COVID, which focuses I mean, completely strips away individual rights. I mean, you’ve got 30 million people in Shanghai that have been locked down for a month now supposed to be a four day lockdown and keeps going and going the largest, richest city in China. But but they’ve had virtually nobody died from COVID. And of course, the rest of the world has had 15 million people die from COVID. Right. And they consider that a failing. A play like the US is a country where we don’t care about our old people. They believe that that’s not just propaganda, the Chinese believe that and they’re like, We will not, if if we let COVID rip right now our our hospitals will get overwhelmed. And we will have one and a half to 2 million dead Chinese within months. And that may well be accurate, given the decisions they’ve made, and they’re going to stick with it. So for the for the remainder of this year, what we’re going to see in China is very low growth, very severe economic disruptions, supply chain disruption, which will also create problems with inflation for the rest of us. And you’ll also see a fair amount of social discontent in a country that recently has seen very little of it, because it is so repressive, and their surveillance capabilities are so complete.
Robert Bryce 8:19
Right? Well, so But if that was one of the things that I thought was intriguing when when I heard you in March was that, well, if that’s the case, then the Chinese made, they’re never going to achieve herd immunity. There’s no no possibility for that. Right, that that, you know, and, and we’re still having flare ups. I’m a big basketball fan, Steve Kerr didn’t coach last night because he got COVID. So it’s still persisting, but near not nearly the levels it was a year ago or a year and a half ago. But if there’s no, if their vaccines aren’t effective, and they don’t allow the virus to take its natural course, they’re gonna be in a mess for for years to come is that?
Unknown Speaker 8:54
I think I think the answer is therapeutics at scale. And I think that they are developing a Chinese mRNA vaccine that is likely to be effective, and they’ll probably have it at scale by, you know, end of this year, early next year, but they also are developing therapeutics, and I think that that is really the game changer if you can make sure because their ability to test and track is incredibly high. So if you can ensure that you’re symptomatic people who are vulnerable, so your you know, old, very old population and your population with with existing, you know, sort of pre existing conditions, you can get those people therapeutics quickly that are effective, then you no longer worry about your hospitals getting overwhelmed and then you can end zero COVID But that is earliest that’s the end of this year.
Robert Bryce 9:52
So that’s gonna have ramifications then for all kinds of industry in the US for steel steel prices for because China produces what? 30 40% of the world’s steel. So all of these things are going to ripple through the global economy then for if it’s not over till the end of this year in China, then the the after effects in the global economy then will last another two years, then perhaps
Unknown Speaker 10:14
the timings not great. It’s not we got I mean, there is this a target rich environment for crises to write about.
Robert Bryce 10:23
That’s a fair point. So how many there are a couple things that I wanted to just back up and talk more broadly about, in addition to your book, and one, so my latest book that the title is a question of power, electricity and the Wealth of Nations. You talk around these issues in this book, and you’re you this is your field, and wanted, because I’ve spoken about this, and I talked about the idea of the Wealth of Nations, what makes them rich countries, rich and others poor.
Unknown Speaker 10:52
Some of its luck, and some of its governance. Right. Right. I mean, you know, it’s like, what makes people rich and people poor? You know, some of it’s dumb luck. And some of it is how you comport yourself. Right? I mean, you know, what, why am I successful? Well, I mean, I’m pretty smart. And that’s helpful. But most people that have my brains and capabilities are nowhere near as successful as I am. And that’s because they didn’t have my luck. And that’s obviously the most important issue. I think, for countries, the luck aspect, just like for human beings, is more important than the governance aspect. I mean, if you’re Saudi Arabia, and you can stick a straw in your land and money comes out. You don’t need good governance. And they’ve proven that for a long time. Sure. And now, now, they’re starting to recognize that they’re going to need to change and they r&d trying to reform or whether it’s too late, too little, we’ll see. But, you know, I do think that around the world, I mean, the United States, is so incredibly fortunate to in terms of the resources that are available to us the geography that we are blessed with the natural enemies in our region that we don’t have, right, having said that, back at the beginning of the 19th century, if you were to ask if you were to go to a salon in Europe, and say, who did you who would you bet on long term in the Western Hemisphere, everyone would have said Argentina, because that was a country that was you know, you have all these European immigrants going over. And there’s this extraordinary, you know, sort of natural wealth in Argentina. And yet, they’re so they have the same luck as the United States, but they had extraordinarily poor governance. And that led to, you know, sort of no private sector in agriculture, incredible inefficiency, no ability to really develop big, big industrial corporations. And today, of course, Argentina is one of the sick man of South America. I mean, it’s literally imploding. They’ve got financial crises year after year. And, and the people are suffering greatly great place to visit. But, you know, just a shell of what it could have been. So both the report?
Robert Bryce 13:22
Well, so let me just, I don’t want to spend too much time on this bit on that governance part. You know, I was in Lebanon and Lebanon figures in my book and in my new documentary, but it’s the, how important is that belief in the system, because that’s one of the things I think, is the strength of the US that this idea of the Constitution still endures. And we talk about the Bill of Rights, the Constitution, we litigate this stuff all the time that in my view, will GK Chesterton said it right, whether the US isn’t the only country ever founded on a creed? But how important is that common belief and a thing in the idea of the country? That seems to me to be one of the strengths of the United States, despite all the challenges, and you you lay them out very well, in the book? How important is that?
Unknown Speaker 13:59
Well, I mean, number one, it’s becoming less of an advantage for the United States over time, because Americans increasingly do not believe in their system in a holistic communal way, the way that the US certainly did in the 70s in the 80s, in the 90s, just much less of that. And you see it in the response to the pandemic, which is massively politicized. And you see it to what just happened with Roe versus Wade, the way the Supreme Court is perceived the events of January sixth, frankly, you saw in the response, the 2016 election. So but but it is, of course, important. I think it’s a big part that underpins the ability to have good governance. But let’s also be clear, that sometimes when luck is a huge part of your wealth, your ability to fritter away the good governance that you have, because you don’t think it matters that much to you. Is also sick Africa. And so in my book, I start not with the hopeful piece, I start with the constraints. I started by saying, look, we got two big challenges, one out there. One is that the most powerful country in the world, the United States is the most politically dysfunctional in the g7. And secondly, the most important geopolitical relationship in the world, the US China relationship is completely broken, and there is absolutely no trust. And furthermore, even though I can tell you the things that would fix that, they’re not going to be fixed in the next five to 10 years. So before I want to outline why I am hopeful that we can respond to crises, let us recognize that it’s not going to be because the United States suddenly fixes its democracy, or because the US and China have a kumbaya moment. No, it has to happen in spite of that. And indeed, it can. And indeed, to some degree, it already is. And that that’s so I think this book is hopeful precisely because it actually comes from a place of reality, as opposed to well, if I was God, here’s the way I would move the chess pieces, right. No, I can’t stand books like that. Yeah. You know, when you come up with ideas that you know, are non starters from day one. I mean, that’s, that’s like a late night dinner conversation that went on too long. I should have already been at drinks, you know? Yeah.
Robert Bryce 16:30
So you, let’s, let’s turn to, we talked about China and COVID. And the US seems to be I mean, I’ve been flying. I’ve traveled a lot. I’m so happy to not be wearing a mask. We’ve talked about that a little bit. But and then let’s talk about Ukraine and Russia. Because this seems to me to be an inflection point, presumably on the energy front, which is where I live and write about all the time. You and your your doctoral dissertation, which I think was 1994. It was on the politics of ethnicity Russians in the Ukraine. So you were on the right track here. 28 years ago? What What have you looked at that document since then? What do you think about it now? 28 years later with this good?
Unknown Speaker 17:15
I probably should have made it a book. No, it’s funny. You’re,
Robert Bryce 17:19
you’re impressed with yourself 20 years ago, that’s good.
Unknown Speaker 17:23
I’m glad. I wrote a bunch of articles on the back of it. And I was so sick of it once I finished the PhD because there’s a lot of work. And I was just ready to move on. But I never made it into a book. I just didn’t bother. And in retrospect, I probably should have what was obvious to me. And I started my PhD in 89. But I started the field work in 90 to 9192. Which, of course, when the Soviet Union collapsed, right. So the timing, I mean, of course, if you’re doing a PhD in political science, in 1989, you’re gonna work on the former Soviet Union, because I mean, it was just so rife with world changing transition, right? I mean, just stuff was happening there. And it was an experiment. And I so I looked at what was happening specifically in Ukraine, where you had all of these Russians that had lived there for a long time. And suddenly Ukraine was independent. And so the country left Russia, they became the speech diaspora. And it was very obvious that independence of Ukraine did not resolve things, for a lot of these Russians, who saw themselves as very different, particularly in Crimea, which became an autonomous republic, with its own parliament, that were fluor, Russian tricolour, on top of it, it was very obvious that like Crimea, this was not these guys, were not Ukraine. These guys didn’t feel like Ukraine. And yet, when you went to other parts of Ukraine, you went into the southeast, then you went to key and then you went to Western Ukraine, and I spent time on the ground and love Eve, as well. You recognize that? Oh, no, no, this is a very different nation. This is not part of Russia. And, and so even though they actually got along quite well with each other at that point, Russians and Ukrainians, they were not the same nation, they were very different. And this was had the potential to become a fairly significant conflict over time. And, you know, what we’ve seen, of course, is especially because Russia did not move in a democratic direction, the EU expanded, NATO expanded, but Russia was not a part of any of that Russia was, in a sense left behind and felt humiliated. As a consequence of that, well, suddenly, these fault lines that had the potential to really explode actually exploded. And that’s what we are witnessing is what we saw in 2014, when Ukraine was first invaded by Russia and they took Crimea they have the little green men in the done bars. And now of course on February 24, when 190,000 Russian troops that the Russian government told Biden and Schultz and McCraw No, no, no, these are exercises under no circumstances are we invading lied through their teeth. And now they’re committing war crimes on the ground in Ukraine and the peace dividend is over. We are in a new Cold War. It has united Europe. And the new Iron Curtain has on the other side, Russia, Belarus, and occupied Ukraine. And that’s it. But again, from the perspective of my book, there are such enormous opportunities to resolve issues that were deeply problematic that come out of this. I mean, how many American presidents have been begging the Germans to spend money on defense, Bush and Obama and Trump and Biden. And no one could do it. And then Putin invades Ukraine, and now it’s happening? How many? How much did you want Finland and Sweden to join NATO for decades, and it doesn’t really matter. Now, they’re a part of what cron said that NATO was brain dead. Now, he said that had electroshock therapy. Why? The power of crisis? I mean, the United States Democrats, Republicans were thinking that each other were their own biggest enemy. Now, they both agreed that Putin is why the power crisis, we’ve got a Madrid Conference coming up for NATO in June. And they’re going to invite Asian allies to come and so the pivot to Asia increasingly isn’t about Asia or Europe, but it’s about the advanced industrial democracies coming together. Why the power crisis? So we need we desperately need more from our citizens, in terms of governance of our own country and of the world. And we are in this conflict rich, crisis rich environment that is providing the opportunity and even the impulse, the impetus for us to precisely do these things. And I think that that is that’s what makes me hopeful.
Robert Bryce 22:10
Well, I like the way you put that. And it’s clear, I mean, the coalition, the coalition, the coalescing of the coalition, after the invasion had been remarkable how fast it’s occurred. But what comes of this? I mean, where does this go? The Joel Kotkin was one of my guests on the podcast, and we talked about this about, Does this mean that a closer it appears to me that this pushes China and Russia more closely together? You saw just in February, shortly before the invasion, the announcement of the power of Siberia to pipeline moving more Russian gas into China? Does this ultimately end with Russia more closely aligned with China versus the rest of the world? How do you see that?
Unknown Speaker 22:50
So uncertain? Now, I’m not I don’t know that the war made Russia and China come closer together? I don’t think I’d agree with that. Okay, I would say that leading up to the War, Russia and China got closer together. That was February 4 20 days before the invasion. That’s when Xi Jinping and Putin met at the beginning of the Beijing Olympics. And they signed this document of a global friendship without limits. But that was when Putin told Xi Jinping that he’s not planning a war. He’s planning a special military operation. By the way, that wasn’t propaganda. That was what Putin thought it was going to be he thought was going to be a few days, and we’re done. They’re not going to fight. Yeah. And by the way, I didn’t think they were going to fully invade Ukraine. I thought that they were going to invade, but I thought they were just going to take the Don boss, where they were saying acts of genocide were being committed, they lied, but that’s what they said. And the reason for that is because they only had 190,000 Troops, that wasn’t enough for a successful full fledged invasion. I mean, that’s 0.8 Russian troops for every one Ukrainian troop, you can’t win an offensive land war with that. But it’s because Putin thought that Ukrainians weren’t going to fight. I as someone who lived on the ground in Ukraine in 1992 93, very clear to me that if Russians were going to invade all of Ukraine, the Ukrainians were going to die. So I was a little surprised by that, but but the fact is that this invasion has gone desperately badly for Putin. And I don’t think China’s happy about that at all. And in the last 48 hours, I’ve seen phone calls between Xi Jinping and Macron phone calls between Xi Jinping and Olaf Scholz, where the Chinese are saying we really need a ceasefire, where the Chinese saying this is like, we don’t want this to get worse. Now, some of that is because the Chinese want to be seen as responsible players, and they don’t want the Europeans to cut them off economically. They don’t want to be in a sanctions framework, but part of it is because this isn’t good for China. So I do think there are opportunities to address some of the issues even with China. And yes, I was happy when the Biden administration told the Chinese if you break are saying Chances are if you send military support to Russia, your head is gonna roll. And by the way, so far, at least knock on wood. The Chinese haven’t done that. Why? Because China’s economy is 10 times bigger than Russia’s economy. They trade a lot more with the United States and with Europe, from the trade with Russia, the Chinese do have an aligned ideology and aligned worldview with Russia because they think with some justification, that the Americans are trying to contain them in Asia in the same way that the Americans have tried to contain the Russians in Eurasia and Europe. But the Chinese aren’t stupid. And they’re very interested in ensuring that their economy does not fall apart. And they understand that the United States holds vastly more cards in that regard than the Russians do. So I do think that the fact that Putin has so incredibly overplayed his hand has made probably the single biggest geopolitical misjudgment of any major leader on the global stage since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. I think I can say that, certainly much bigger in terms of impact on Russia than any thing the Americans did with the Iraq War, the Afghanistan war. And those were pretty big mistakes. I would argue that creates a very significant opportunity for the United States and others on the global stage to that.
Robert Bryce 26:22
Well, yeah, as you said that I was gonna say, Well, we, you beat me to it on the first Iraq war, I thought, well, that was a big geopolitical mistake, as well as the Afghani Afghani invasion of Afghanistan. Second Iraq War. Yeah. Yeah. So But was this you know, there’s a lot of talk that the the NATO push to expand into Ukraine was a trigger for Putin, and that, that NATO bears some blame here. Is that is that some rhyme with you? Does that make any sense to you? Or is this you think
Unknown Speaker 26:50
the blame for the invasion of Ukraine is 100%, on the shoulders of Mr. Putin. Having said that, I think that there are many mistakes that were made by the West, that helps to precipitate that conflict, right. And I would focus, for example, in 1994, when the Americans along with the UK and the Russians signed the Budapest Memorandum. And we promised that we would defend Ukraine’s territorial integrity and return from them getting rid of their nuclear weapons which they’d had stationed on the territory in the days of the Soviet Union. We didn’t make good on that. That was international law that we signed, and we’re supposed to be the country that really stands up for that. And, and we failed. And Putin saw that, and he sees that as weakness. And in 2014, when Putin invaded Ukraine, we didn’t do very much. And so he saw that as weakness in 2008, when he invaded Georgia, we didn’t do very much Bush considered it Cheney pushed for it, but ultimately, nobody else stood for it. And that’s the message, I think, the failure in Afghanistan and the unilateralism of the American withdrawal and the debacle around that I think that was a message, I think the effort to pivot to Asia. And the the idea that we didn’t really want any problems with Russia. I think that was a message. I think that when Biden met with Putin back in June last year in Geneva, and Biden set the agenda, and Ukraine wasn’t on the agenda, actually, cyber attack. So this is right after the Colonial Pipeline was hit. That was on the agenda. I think that was a message, the fact that the Russians had so much more influence over the Europeans in terms particularly of gas export, and the fact that Merkel and then Olaf Schultz, were so supportive of Nord Stream two, I think that was a message. So I mean, it’s not one thing. You know, you mentioned NATO. And I know that we’ve had John Mearsheimer, and some others well known Americans on the left and the right, have come out and said that, you know, we’re the ones that antagonize the Russians. And I see that Lula, who’s likely to be next president in Brazil has made a similar statement. And I mean, if you look at what the Russians have done, in the run up to the invasion, and in the last couple of months, it is very clear where the accountability is. That is, that is not a question. But yeah, we made a lot of mistakes.
Robert Bryce 29:22
So in reading through the book, the book is on sale may 17. And you but is it already dated? Have you there’s a chapter on page 111. You talk about the Green New Deal or the European Green Deal. You said there’s reason for optimism on this front. The so called European Green Deal has boosted Europe as a leader on climate by committing unprecedent amounts of money toward the net zero goal. And then you talked about EU governments and the rest of it but in the wake of the invasion, Germany’s firing up their coal plants to the Spaniards. I mean, everybody’s looking for coal. There’s a has this has this and how I’ll ask it this way. How is this invasion then changed it Europe’s ideas around climate. And moreover, the global idea because
Unknown Speaker 30:04
your I will take the exact opposite position here in the near term. Yes, they absolutely understand they have to do everything possible to ensure that they can cut Russia off. And they’re trying to ensure that they have 50% less dependence on Russia by next winter. And they want to cut the Russians off completely by 2024. But what that means is that the Europeans who were ahead of the world in terms of the move towards renewables, and then move away from fossil fuels, this is pushing them much faster in that direction, it’s making them recognize that they have to do more, they have to be more efficient, they have to also be more invested in the move to renewables, they have to be more willing to accept nuclear. And yeah, in the near term, that also means some more coal. But there’s no question that this is actually a kick in the pants for the Europeans to move faster towards Net Zero to move faster away from oil and gas. Now, that’s a different story when we talk about India, but for India, the issue is not primarily Russia, Ukraine. For India, the issue is primarily the fact that didn’t have a spring, that their wet bulb temperatures for 1 billion Indians massively heat stressed of their 1.4 billion population over the last three months has meant that they literally cannot sweat to cool their bodies down outside. And the impact of that in stopping Indians from being able to labor outdoors after 10am. I mean, you’re talking about billions of labor hours that are being lost to climate change in India, and they’re angry. And they’re gonna focus more on coal unless the West is prepared to pay. And and in my book, I talked about the fact that it’s not a green New Deal. It’s not about the Americans giving more money to the Americans on climate change. It’s that if we don’t find ways to stop the Indians, from building vastly more coal, they’re going to be the largest emitters in the world in short order. And right now they’ve got a 2070 netzero plan, they have no idea how they’re going to possibly get to, and they’re going to have really good reason to tell the West. No, because you don’t care about us. Because look at what you’ve done, you’re the ones that have actually been shooting carbon into the atmosphere. And now you’re telling us poor India, very poor per capita, India, that we got to pay for this, we’re not gonna pay for this. Right. Well, so
Robert Bryce 32:37
let me follow up on the nuclear part of that, because that’s the other part of this that I think is really intriguing, and other people I’ve had on the podcast talking about Rosa, Tom, and you know, to what extent Russia’s nuclear exports are going to be halted or slowed by this. And one of the views I’ve had is that actually, it’s not going to affect that much at all that the the Turks, the Egyptians, the Iranians are going to go ahead and deal with with Roscommon as a single part of this, that that’s not going to affect the nuclear business. What’s your view on that?
Unknown Speaker 33:05
I think that there is a possibility of secondary sanctions over the coming months, particularly if the Russians expand the war beyond the Donbass and or if they use weapons of mass destruction, chemical weapons, for example, against the Ukrainians, and then all all bets are off. Because if you get secondary sanctions, everything’s cut off. But right now, no, I don’t see that right now, what I see is the Europeans trying to completely sever their economic relations from the Russians, and that will be permanent. But outside the g7, I see the developing countries continuing to do business as usual with Russia. And that means, you know, if you’re India, that means lots of fertilizer. And if you’re Egypt, that means uranium, right? I mean, it’s it. Absolutely. And now, I do think that you all one thing that people don’t talk about, is the fact that not only is Russia a major commodities producer and exporter, they’re also the second largest arms exporter in the world. Now, there, I think that’s going to fall apart. And that’s because the Russians will not have the ability to manufacture spare parts. And I just don’t think if you’re India, you’re going to want to buy a lot of Meigs, if you don’t you think you can get parts for. So I think that’s going to really hurt the Russian that is the next major shoe to drop in the next 12 months for the Russian economy.
Robert Bryce 34:30
Is there constraints on
Unknown Speaker 34:32
opportunity for the West to huge opportunity for the West that what the military industrial complex, it’s not like they want to sell all these gems and they want to sell javelin? Sure. That’s not the opportunity. The opportunity is the second largest arms producer exporter in the world is suddenly going to completely fail. And they’re going to be able to take that market. That’s their opportunity.
Robert Bryce 34:57
Let’s talk about that because I think that’s an interesting point one or the other. Things that it seems apparent now in wake of COVID. In the wake of Ukraine, Russia is the issue of reshoring broadly, in terms of pharmaceuticals, in terms of mining, manufacturing of all kinds, is that one of the other likely outcomes from all this recent conflict that we’re seeing then.
Unknown Speaker 35:18
So I think when you want to talk about reshoring, what you’re talking about is decoupling friends shoring, right? You’re saying for the last 50 years, we’ve had globalization, where goods and services and capital and ideas have moved faster and faster all over the world to whatever is most efficient, right. And we are now seeing that that is starting to shift trajectory pretty significantly. And I would argue that’s happening in three different areas. But the three areas are actually not connected with each other. So one is you’re seeing it between Russia and the g7. And that means that specifically, if you were an advanced industrial democracy, that did business with Russia, that’s going to end and that will be decoupled. Right, that’s very specific. It’s very focused. And it’s, it’s over, it’s permanent. Because what Russia would have to do to get those sanctions off, is really not in the cards in terms of what their plans are in Ukraine. It’s not in the cards. So that’s not possible, in my view, very, very low bet. Secondly, you’ve got the decoupling between the United States and China, which is mostly about areas that are defined as relevant to national security or dual use by the Americans and the Chinese. And by the way, those things are defined somewhat differently. There’s overlap in the Venn diagram, but it’s not one circle. That’s a second type of decoupling that’s happening. And then you have a third more structural decoupling that’s happening globally, which is the you know, it’s it’s Magga. For everybody. It’s every nation for itself. It’s focusing its populism. And it’s focusing on my working class, my middle class, right, that means I need to ensure, and that’s happening at the same time as the fourth industrial revolution, which is also a post industrial shock if you have your job being displaced by AI, by deep learning and by Big Data, and by robotics. And so you put that together, that’s a third kind of decoupling, but they’re all different. They’re and they’re different drivers. So if you want to understand what’s affecting globalization, you can’t just say, oh, yeah, it was happening before now. It’s not happening. No, it’s now it’s not happening in some specific ways. But aside from those three specific ways, it’s still happening. Because the benefits of that efficiency are still massive, right? Well, let me so for example, I actually believe that the US China trade relationship in 10 years time will be more robust than it is today, overall. Because there’s so much vested interest in that interdependence.
Robert Bryce 38:01
Well, let me ask you about that. Because when we were in March, I sent you or when we met in March, I sent you that do we report on China and magnets and the rest of that? Yeah, that seems like that’s one of those critical dependencies. You mentioned defense. And this is one of those areas where the rare earth elements, permanent magnets that the US right now is 90% over 90% dependent on China. That seems like one of the I mean, a real vulnerability for the US semiconductors
Unknown Speaker 38:24
is an equivalent vulnerability for the Chinese. So you have that’s why I said they’re not overlapping completely. And you can point to those areas. Right. But most of the trade between the US and China is not that.
Robert Bryce 38:39
Unknown Speaker 38:40
China gotcha, and that are expanding their investments are trying to or not that. So that’s important to know.
Robert Bryce 38:45
Okay, and what industries just might put a point on that so Oh, my God,
Unknown Speaker 38:49
I mean, every country Good, okay. The Chinese want to buy a hotels, the services, the NBA, a Hollywood, you know, I mean, BlackRock, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, I’m, you know, I mean, these are a lot, a lot of American companies that are just making bank in China. And a lot of politicians say, well, they’re not patriotic, like, Well, no, because you believe in animal spirits before you believe in patriotism in the United States. And that means that you, you hold up your capitalist to make money no matter where it is, right. And unless that changes in the United States, then you’re going to continue to have massive, massive numbers of folks that are overweight China.
Robert Bryce 39:34
So let’s, you mentioned this idea about though, you know, every country for itself, and this is the one part where in reading your section on climate change that I I read it, I thought, wait a minute, you said on climate as with the pandemic, we can’t meet the challenge of climate change anywhere until we made it everywhere. But you know, I gotta be honest with you. I don’t see much progress on that front and the you know, the China’s Chinese just announced they’re going to increase coal production by 300 million tonnes a year. The climate issue is is very difficult. And it’s one that Well, I call it the iron law of electricity. Roger piLc, Jr. calls the iron law of climate countries are going to act in their own self interest on this. Well, I, my one critical comment would be that I think you’re over optimistic on the climate change cooperation. What how, why am I telling me why I’m wrong? Where is it that see this cooperation?
Unknown Speaker 40:23
Yeah, I would say that, you’re you’re not seeing a lot of cooperation at the inter government level. But you’re seeing enormous amounts of cooperation, in terms of investments all over the world, moving away from fossil fuels, and moving towards renewable energy, and moving towards other forms of advanced supply chain for non fossil fuel energy. Why? Well, number one, because a lot of young people said, we’re not going to buy from you, unless you pay attention to what we think about this, and that they think it doesn’t matter where they were in the political spectrum, everyone under 40 feels that way, in the wealthy world. And number two, that banks and investment companies with trillions and trillions of dollars at stake, and have 10 year portfolios from pension funds, and the rest said, we’re not going to make any money. If we invested in fossil fuels, the returns won’t be there in 10 years. So we need to redeploy that. So they did. And once that happens, you started to see massive cost reduction in solar at scale. And you see massive cost reduction in EVs and batteries that are related to that. And you so I mean, I would argue, but it took us too long to do this. This should have started 50 years ago, and it didn’t. But the fact is that five years ago, you had people that were out there that were credibly saying we could be on a path of four degrees, five degrees, six degrees warming, by 2100. No one credible says that anymore. They the credible people say something between two degrees and three degrees, that’s still too high. But that’s incredible progress in a short period of time. It’s incredible. And that’s without international cooperation from most of the big governments. The Europeans are the exception. They’re doing a lot the Japanese are moving in a better direction. But the Americans are not at the at the national government level. The Chinese are not at the national level alone, the Indians sure as hell are not at the national government level. And yet still, you see all that progress. I think that’s extraordinary. Another area of progress, which is very important, and which you should not underestimate in a world that is rife with disinformation, is that 195 countries now get together every year. And they and they actually agree on the science of climate change. They agree that we’ve got 1.2 degrees of warming already. They agree that it’s a human. It’s an anthro. What do you call it? Anthropogenic development? It’s not cyclical from climate itself. There are you can’t solve a problem until you agree what the problem is. Sure. And there are a lot of problems in the world today that you get no agreement on what it is we’ve actually gotten the entire world to accept the science on climate change. That’s a huge deal compared to where we were 10 years
Robert Bryce 43:24
ago. Well, fair enough. So my perception and you’re talking about you’re talking about it your look, I’m bullied more bullish on solar than I am on wind, I pay a lot of attention to land use conflicts report about it a lot. And 330 communities in Hawaii have rejected it. So but handicap the prospects for nuclear, then the Canada’s moving ahead. Eastern European countries are apparently you know, there’s some very rapid movements in Romania. China’s China’s massive 46 reactors, the US is building to their oversight over overschedule over budget. Talk to me just for briefly about nuclear and then we’ll move on. But are you bullish on nuclear? Where are you on in terms of
Unknown Speaker 44:02
more bullish than I was first? I was I was always bullish for China on nuclear. Right. And I’m now more bullish for lots of other countries recognizing even the United States, even California, which is extending, you know, the license on the new spring. And I think that as that happens, you will see more support for next generation noobs that are you know, I mean, that this is not Three Mile Island, right? And they’ve been you know, the climate movement, unfairly besmirched nuclear for way too long. And now, I mean, people like Mckibben came back to the party early. But now I think that especially given what’s just happened with with Russia, there is just a lot more reality that we need to embrace the solutions that are out there and nuclear is a big piece of solutions that are out there. No conversation to
Robert Bryce 44:54
Yeah, and I think Gavin Newsom is reversal on Diablo Canyon and the question whether, you know, Whitmer will be able to say Palisades and Miss Chicken, those are those are key. I think those are parts of reflecting partly Well, this massive increase in the price of natural gas. Energy realism is happening. So your grace is my friend. There you go. He had some famous, it’s a book that I’m talking about right now, again, my guest is Ian Bremmer, his new book is the power of crisis, how three threats and our response will change the world. So your last issue is around technology and the power and issues around. Artificial Intelligence, big data, quantum computing, you talk about all these, one of the things that’s been interesting to me watching the conflict in Russia and Ukraine, and you talk about the issue of drones, and the issue of smart drone, suicide drones, and how have these are these fundamentally changing how wars are now going to be are being fought, because we see it almost in real time in Ukraine, where shoulder mounted weapons are taking out, you know, tanks, potentially, you know, ships. I mean, this is just seems like a different type of warfare than what we’ve seen in the past. And it’s because any quarter
Unknown Speaker 46:03
of the world, the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan was completely frozen, the Armenians taken a lot of territory. And over the course of a few years, the Turks supply these areas with advanced drones. And suddenly, these areas completely shift the battlefield. And they’re able to decisively take out the Armenians. And when. And this had nothing to do this wasn’t Russia, this wasn’t the United States, it was Turkey, not a first rate, military power at all. And so what you’re seeing is the proliferation and diffusion of dangerous technologies that are that we don’t have any real governance around. I remember when there was that drone, radio remote controlled drone, that about 10 years ago, took a picture of Angela Merkel, it got about six meters away from her. Fortunately, it didn’t have you know, any incendiary devices attached to it, it could have killed her. The anybody that watches these lethal autonomous weapons issue, recognize that we desperately need to have international governance, public and private sector together in understanding that they need to have a true bands of a lot of these kinds, very strong restrictions on a lot of these kinds of technologies and weapons, because otherwise, you’re the the ability of small rogue states and terrorist organizations to cause unacceptable levels of damage, we’re already seeing this in the cyber field will become much greater. So I mean, this of the crises that we’re talking about the disruptive technologies issue is the one that is fastest moving, and the one that right now, we are farthest from able to solve?
Robert Bryce 47:52
Well, I mean, that kind of came through in the book and the way you’re talking about it, just whether it’s cyber, whether it’s the drones, whether it’s quantum computing, the possibility that no cryptography would be able to I heard a lecture about this from ION Q, one of the quantum computing companies that no cryptography is going to be safe that there’s going to be this and we
Unknown Speaker 48:10
could be 10 years away from that, that we could be close to that, right.
Robert Bryce 48:13
So. So we’ve been talking almost in an hour. And I know you need to get off here in just a minute. So oh, well, I did want to bid for Aadhaar. In India, that was a company I’ve never heard of before. And I’m no expert on India, I’ve been there. Once I’ve reported on in my book and my documentary. Aadhaar has a technology company that uses fingerprints, to then assure identity. And in India you talk about it’s really quite remarkable what that has meant for Indians in terms of their ability to access banks and also for the government. But there’s a downside to that as well. Can you just give us a quick, quick brief on Adhara.
Unknown Speaker 48:47
It’s a universal identification system, biometric ly driven for India, that has historically been not just an enormously poor country, but also an incredibly, desperately inefficient and corrupt country with massive levels of bureaucracy. And what Aadhar has allowed the Indian government to do, by spending less money in their fiscal budget, they’re still getting vastly more to the average Indian citizen, because they’re able with Aadhaar, to give them their benefits directly. Right. And that’s been enormously powerful. But it also means that India is creating the basis to have a surveillance state. And they also have a whole bunch of data that’s not very secure, that’s quite vulnerable, that can be exploited by bad actors. So like so many of these technologies, there are really good reasons to develop them, you’re not going to stop their development. But if you do not have thoughtful people engaging in creating the kind of guardrails and, and regulation, and some of that regulation is public sector. Some of that regulation actually is has to be in the business model of the corporations themselves because corporations are increasingly sovereign actors in the digital space. It’s
Robert Bryce 50:00
right. Because not because they’re inherently because inherently, they’re inherently transnational, right? That there’s a residual out there, they’re not going to limit you know, Apple, Facebook, you know, they want as big a big an audience Bigger, bigger customer base as they possibly can get. So it’s going to require some restraint, I guess is that the responsibility, some
Unknown Speaker 50:21
strategy, it’s going to require some strategy’s gonna require some long term ism. And and and I do think that there are some companies out there that are taking these issues more seriously. They tend to be companies that have been around for longer, they’re more mature. So I think Microsoft and Google are generally better at this than you know, than Elon Musk is right. You know, but but it is urgent. And it’s coming to a theater near you real soon.
Robert Bryce 50:50
Gotcha. So what do you handicap this for me? So when you look at the all the countries in the world, and they’re obviously a lot of men, you travel a lot? What? Are there countries that you’re more bullish on than others? Vietnam, or other ones that are now we talk a lot we’ve talked a lot about the major countries are the others that you look at? And you think these are the countries to watch? If so, who which ones are they?
Unknown Speaker 51:11
Yeah, but Southeast Asia, clearly, I mean, strong demographics, relatively decent governance and political stability, benefiting from the fact that China and the United States is really interested in them. So as a consequence, they’re kind of getting the investment from Belton Road, much more than other countries are, and they’re getting the investment from the United States. You know, I think that’s that, and plus, you know, Asia is where the locus of the global economy is increasingly shifting. So if you’re talking about smaller countries, it’s very easy to talk about Vietnam, it’s very easy to talk about the Philippines, even though there have been presidents that, you know, you don’t necessarily think they’re great from a liberal democracy perspective, but from a make the economy work perspective, they’ve actually done a very effective job. Outside of that. It’s funny, so I’m quite bullish on Europe, in terms of its importance, and its political stability. The EU matters more now than it did before more post Brexit, more post post global financial crisis, more post pandemic, they show that the strength of a supranational institution when everything is breaking down, really matters. On the other hand, part of the reason why I’m so bullish on the politics of the EU, is precisely because the challenges and dangers to Europe, which are really crippling them economically, are growing United States, I’m much more negative about the politics of the United States, but I’m much more bullish about the economic opportunities.
Robert Bryce 52:49
So we’ll succeed in spite of ourselves, is that a different way to put it, but
Unknown Speaker 52:54
at some point at some point that starts to break? And so you know, you really don’t want to get to the point that you have to test that and the 2020 elections, you know, we’re close to a constitutional crisis. 2024 could become one, right? Because you can break the US election. It’s state by state, it’s not federal. And so it’s relatively easy to go to have an 1876 moment again, in the United States where the election is broken. And there’s no, you have to rely on an extra legal political agreement to get a new president. That’s absolutely plausible in the US and 2024.
Robert Bryce 53:29
Yeah, well, I’m bullish on the US, but I’m worried as well. The urban rural divide is one that I spent a lot of time in rural America, and I just see it growing all the time. You know, the Democrats being in the cities, Republicans in the in rural areas, and they like they don’t they don’t speak the same languages. They don’t they don’t know, don’t relate. So just a couple last last questions, and so thanks for your time. So whose work do you admire? Who do you follow? And what books are you reading these days?
Unknown Speaker 53:58
So first of all, I will say that I thought that Shoshana Zubov is that her name, the age of surveillance capitalism,
Robert Bryce 54:06
right. Surveillance capitalism. You referenced that in your in your book.
Unknown Speaker 54:10
I think that this was a game changing book that really helps to explain where capitalism is going the interplay of technology and the global economy. And and the the impact of that is so underappreciated by so many people, I think it’s an absolutely essential read. I love Adam tos. I am relentless listener of his podcast. I read most of his work. I think he’s fantastic. The Globalization guy, the Turkish economist is also fantastic helped me out here. He used to be a professor at Princeton. I think he’s outstanding. I can’t think of his name right now. But I also follow him pretty closely. You know, one thing that I think is very important for your listeners to do, in an environment where people are getting much more anxious is to spend a little bit of time listening to or watching the news, global news, English language news from other countries, Deutsche Wella, from Germany, NHK, from Japan, even CBC in Canada, it is so valuable to spend an hour of time doing that, as opposed to CNN or Fox. Because these people don’t have a real X in the American political spectrum, but they are reporting global news. And Americans need to understand what global news really means. And they need to understand how America is perceived by its friends. But that aren’t Americans, because the Americans get stuffed up inside their own challenges and neuroses wait too much these days. And so I think that’s a very valuable thing to do.
Robert Bryce 55:56
Fair enough. So we’ll touch on one last question. And you kind of answered at the beginning. But I formula as people introduce themselves at the end, I ask them what they’re reading and what what makes them hopeful. You’re hopeful because the power of crisis, we talked about that with your new book, but that that this could be a transformative time that would allow more international cooperation? Is that? Is that a summary of is that a good? Yeah, you’re looking at this.
Unknown Speaker 56:20
It’s not just international cooperation between governments, it’s a time that we’re going to transform how governance works. It’s time when individuals are going to be more involved, it’s time when private sector actors are going to be more involved, it’s time it’s not going to be done, it’s not gonna be a Westphalian moment. Global Governance, if we’re able to transform and respond to these crisis, it’s not going to be about a bunch of global government leaders sitting in a room figuring it out, it’s going to be much more of a hybrid model, it’s going to be much more flexible, it’s gonna be much faster moving, it’s gonna be much more creative. It’s gonna be much less bureaucratic. And that’s exciting. And it’s exciting to be alive and around at a time that is so rife with possibility. And court. I don’t want to be in government, right? I’m not a creature of that. I mean, I grew up in the projects, I was raised by my mom. And I started my own firm. And, you know, my, my view is, I think of myself as much more a human being than I think of myself as an American. It just seems to me fundamentally, that human being is more I spent much more time thinking about what it means to be human being that I spend time thinking about what it means to be Scorpio or a Catholic, or a white man, or an American. And, and I think that when this is a unique moment in our history, to actually have that perspective.
Robert Bryce 57:53
Well, we’ll end it there. My guest is Ian Bremmer, his new book is the power of crisis. It’s on sale may 17. How three threats. The power crisis, how three threats in our response will change the world. Ian, thanks for being on the power hungry podcast. I’d really appreciate it. My pleasure, man. Thanks to all of you in podcast land until then, bye