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  • The Global Leadership Vacuum: An Interview with Ian Bremmer, President and Founder, Eurasia Group
  • Joshua Grundleger (bio) and Sean Creehan (bio)

The SAIS Review’s Editor-in-Chief, Josh Grundleger, and Senior Editor, Sean Creehan, recently sat down with Ian Bremmer, founder and president of Eurasia Group, a global political risk research and consulting firm. Dr. Bremmer discussed the outlook for 2012 and the hidden risks that face the international system.

Dr. Bremmer created Wall Street’s first global political risk index and has authored several books including the national bestseller The End of the Free Market: Who Wins the War Between States and Corporations?, which details the new global phenomenon of state capitalism and its geopolitical implications. He also wrote The J Curve: A New Way to Understand Why Nations Rise and Fall and The Fat Tail: The Power of Political Knowledge for Strategic Investing. Dr. Bremmer is a contributor for the Financial Times A-List and and writes “The Call” blog on He is also a panelist for CNN International’s “Connect the World” and appears frequently in the media as a political risk expert. Dr. Bremmer has a PhD in political science from Stanford University (1994), and he presently teaches at Columbia University. His analysis focuses on global macro-political trends and emerging markets, which he defines as “those countries where politics matter at least as much as economics for market outcomes.” [End Page 5]


Are there certain risks or threats that are underemphasized or not discussed enough that could have significant ramifications this year or in the next five to ten years?


For me, the biggest structural risk is the lack of global governance. It’s not about North Korea, it’s not about Iran, it’s not about the euro zone, it’s not about China—it’s much more macro than that. It’s about the notion that we’ve had a global environment for the last half-century plus, that was basically driven by the United States, with American values. We may or may not all like those values, or those priorities, or that power, or those institutions, but they existed, and the rules of the road were very clear. It is very clear that can’t persist, but what will replace it is not here yet. That period of transition is going to be very volatile. In fact, there are very few people around who’ve ever lived through that kind of transition—World War II is the last time we had a period like that. It may be obvious to folks that are in policy on a daily basis, but, when I think of that, I say it’s a hidden risk because it’s not in the headlines. People aren’t thinking macro right now, they’re really thinking about all of this stuff that’s pressing and immediate and driving the headlines. The much more important issue is the rebalancing that will need to occur and the crises that will get larger in the absence of effective governance capacity to resolve them over the course of the coming years. This is something that is just starting, really, now. For the last several years, we’ve had the financial crisis; for the last ten years, we’ve had the 9/11 era; both of them are now coming to a close simultaneously. The financial crisis—we’re seeing our way through it—not with the most extraordinary, robust recovery, but we are. The 9/11 era with Iraq being done, with bin Laden being killed, with Afghanistan [deployment] ending—in a much less attractive way to the U.S., but still ending—now we say well, what’s next? Well, what’s next is that the old world order doesn’t function anymore, and we don’t have a roadmap, and that will affect everything out there. It will make investors more likely to stay on the sidelines and look for safety as opposed to return, cash, gold, and the rest. As countries, it will make us look more towards resilience and less towards growth. I think that’s a fundamental and systemic change...


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pp. 5-17
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