Ian Bremmer is a world-renowned expert on global affairs, international relations, and the political connections to the world economic outlook, but I still wasn’t sure what to expect from his presentation on Thursday, billed with the title of his new book, The Power of Crisis: How Three Threats — and Our Response — Will Change the World. From the moment Bremmer jogged onto the stage of the Granada, he explained that he would be tying together the social, economic, and technological forces affecting our world today, and jumped right into weighty topics like U.S. relationships with Russia and China (what he described as the most important geopolitical relationship in the world) with the enthusiasm of a college professor who really loves his job. In this presentation from UCSB Arts & Lectures, Bremmer’s energetic, good-humored, and about as neutral-as-one-can-be-when-talking-about-politics approach to such heady topics went a long way toward a general receptiveness from the audience.
He described Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, as the end of the “peace dividend,” in which Europeans believed for 30 years that they didn’t need to spend money on defense. “The biggest challenge now is there is no off-ramp for Putin,” said Bremmer. Adding that “Russia is becoming a global Iran, a completely rogue state,” he gave big props to U.S. diplomacy since the February attack (“close to an A”), adding that “fixing things comes later; right now we need to stabilize Russia.”
In terms of China, he talked at length about the importance of semiconductors, which are an essential component of modern electronics (and therefore an essential component of modern life), the manufacture of which the U.S. has fully exported to Taiwan. He described our situation with China as being a “technological cold war,” which none of our American allies support.
Bremmer — who teaches at Columbia and is the president and founder of Eurasia Group, the foreign affairs columnist and editor-at-large for Time magazine, and the host of the television program GZERO World with Ian Bremmer — also delved quite a bit into the harmful effects of social media on democracy. On a more positive side, just two days after the midterms, Bremmer’s assessment was that “the risk of a constitutional crisis for 2024 is off the table after last Tuesday,” and that there is “more stability in the U.S. as a result of the last election.”
To be able to leave a presentation on geopolitics on an optimistic note is about as much as one can hope for these days.