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BLOG: After listening to this past Wednesday's episode of Headline with Howard Green, one might come to the conclusion that the world is a scary place from a geopolitical standpoint.
By pure luck, we managed to score two interviews on the same day - former U.S. National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski (for President Jimmy Carter, from 1977 to 1981) AND the founder of top-ranking geopolitical risk consulting firm Eurasia Group, Ian Bremmer. Both provided some fascinating insight into the risks and challenges the world faces - and the intersection between 'geopolitics' and 'geoeconomics.'
So let's start with Brzezinski. From a technical point of view, what was interesting about this interview was that it was done via Skype. Yes, the technology exists and a lot of networks now do use Skype interviews. But at BNN, we want to make sure if we do use Skype the quality of the feed is at a level that doesn't distract viewers. Fortunately, Brzezinski's setup is pretty good, and we were happy with the image, though you'll notice he spoke through his cell phone rather than earbud. Oh well, despite our worries about the 'look,' content is still king.
First, the former national security advisor paints a frightening picture of growing conflict in the world.
"We may be entering a phase in which there might be widespread turmoil and conflict in the world," Brzezinski says.
But this time, it's not the kind of geopolitical tensions we've seen in the past. It's not the 'big powers' duking it out to grow or maintain global influence, but smaller, regional conflicts involving unstable nations, from Syria and Libya to Mali and Niger. The fact that they are smaller makes them no less dangerous, Brzezinski says. In some ways, he adds, perhaps even more so because of the players and volatility involved.
So this discussion naturally led to the question of whether the U.S. will - or should - attack Iran, especially as concerns that that country takes an increasingly strong stance against the existence of Israel and may or may not have growing nuclear capability.
Brzezinski says there is "no valid reason" for the U.S. to launch an attack on Iran.
"If one is sober, and not hallucinatory, there is no reason for concern. Iran is a long way off from having a nuclear bomb," he says. "And why should Iran be singled out, given that despotic countries such as North Korea may also have nuclear capability?"
Brzezinski also points out that the world somehow managed to survive with the potential threat of the Soviet Union and China for many years. And attacking Iran would be hugely destabilizing for the world economy. It's reasonable to assume that if the U.S. struck Iran, there would be some form of retaliation - probably oil fields in the northeast of Saudi Arabia - and disruption of transportation routes such as the Strait of Hormuz, he says. And whatever oil did get through would probably have to be covered by a "massive escalation" in insurance rates. All this would be very harmful to the economies of Asia and Europe especially, he adds.
Still, Brzezinski says he has full confidence that U.S. President Barack Obama's choices for Secretary of State - Senator John Kerry (D-Mass, and head of Senate Foreign Relations Committee ) - and Secretary of Defense - Chuck Hagel (a former Republican Senator from Nebraska) - are a "sober, realistic, experienced" team that won't take the U.S. down the road to military action lightly.
And of course, this brings us to the question of the U.S. and its so-called "special" relationship with Israel, especially given the controversial comments made by Hagel regarding the "Jewish lobby". When asked about this, Brzezinski called this a somewhat unfair attack against Hagel. Many groups have lobbying efforts to promote their cause, Brzezinski says. And perhaps Hagel should have said there is "a" Jewish lobby rather than "the" Jewish lobby, he added.
"The definition of friendship," he says, should not involve "acceptance of the most extreme and reckless" views.
To finish off, Brzezinski says he agrees with controversial comments made by the former head of the Israel's intelligence agency Mossad, Meir Dagan, who in May 2011 called a strike on Iran the "stupidest idea I have ever heard".
All of these comments provided a perfect set-up piece for Headline's interview with Eurasia Group's Ian Bremmer, on his list of Top Risks for 2013. Here's a brief summary of those risks, but you should check out that interview as well.
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