Ian Bremmer: ‘I Fear’ ‘You’ll See Increasingly Large Amounts of Xenophobia and Populism’ After Paris Attacks

Eurasia Group President Ian Bremmer stated, “I fear that going forward, we’re going to start talking about a two-track Europe politically, where you’ll see increasingly large amounts of xenophobia and populism” and “unfortunately, we’re seeing borders being closed” during MSNBC’s coverage of the terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday.

Bremmer said, “I guess the biggest thing is that Europe is in a much deeper crisis than it has at any point since the end of the Cold War. The French will show extraordinary resilience and solidarity as a consequence of this, but Europe will not. I would argue yes, this is France’s 9/11, but also that the social fabric of what it means to be Europe is unraveling in front of our eyes, and unfortunately, we’re seeing borders being closed. This isn’t just France. We’ve seen borders be closed over the course of the last week as a consequence of the refugee crisis, none of this is going to get better. We have failed states across the Middle East. We have record numbers of refugees. We have $40 oil. The economic capability to get these countries back on their feet is not there, and the military and leadership wherewithal to try to create stability in these countries isn’t going to happen either. Europe is in the face of this. In the United States. We can talk about immigrants coming from Mexico. That is a reality that unfortunately, the Europeans cannot accept.”

He added, “I fear that we’re going to see, yes, an extraordinary resilience on the part of the French citizens, and international leaders from all over the world, including Europe, will say the right things, they’ll stream to France, they’ll light the candles, but there’s going to be a reaction here. There’s going to be enormous populism. You know, Brian, over the last eight years we’ve talked about a two-track Europe economically, that there was a core and a periphery, that some were doing well, some weren’t economically. I fear that going forward, we’re going to start talking about a two-track Europe politically, where you’ll see increasingly large amounts of xenophobia and populism, you’ll see political forces that will become stronger, that are away from the establishment. You’re already seeing that in France. They have regional elections coming up next month. I fear that the Front national will do quite well in those elections. This is made for that kind of populism. And it’s not just there, you’ll see it across eastern Europe. Merkel’s extraordinary leadership in saying that they’ll accept 800,000 refugees a year is incredibly unpopular, both in many segments of German society, but also across Europe, and unfortunately the tragedy that we’re seeing play out on our screens in front of our eyes this evening is really going to feed into what’s going to be a very ugly narrative across Europe.”

Bremmer further stated, “there’s a very clear transmission mechanism between Europe and the Middle East. And during the Arab Spring, it went the other way, the Europeans had the financial crisis, but they no longer had the aid to give to Tunisia or Egypt, or the tourism, or the trade, or the remittances from those workers in Europe, and Europe was more resilient, but the Tunisians and the Egyptians fell apart. They experienced their revolutions at that point. Now these countries are falling apart. The refugees are streaming across borders. Only 6% have made it to Europe so far, but many, many more. They all want to get to Germany. They all want to get to the European continent where they can do better. And my God, we’re going to see this transmission mechanism snap back and hit the Europeans. That’s what I worry about.”

Bremmer also argued, “the economy in Europe, as we see, the growth is barely in positive territory right now. There’s massive amounts of youth unemployment, that’s hitting most greatly among some of these young male populations that are most of the time citizens, but they’re not integrated into these societies. And yes, the Germans have poor demographics. They need more laborers, but the Syrian refugees coming over are largely blue-collar, not particularly well educated, and they’re not going to be welcomed in Germany by the citizens, or in any of these societies. So, you’re going to have the worsening economics, clearly as a backdrop, that’s going to create much more social instability, much more radicalism on the part of the Muslims that are coming over, and that are already there, and also the populist and xenophobic response from the European citizens themselves.”

He concluded, “well, I mean, one would hope it would end with a recognition is that this is getting so bad that the European countries have to bound together. I mean, after 9/11 of course, the United States, we all rallied, and we did some things that looking back, were excessive and got us into trouble in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the popularity and the support in the United States for fighting terror was at record levels. You’re not going to see that kind of coordination among the dozens of countries that are in Europe. You’re going to see the French say they want a French response. The Germans will be very different. The east Europeans will be very different. The Brits aren’t taking in refugees. They’re going to have a referendum whether they even want to stay in the EU. And more broadly, Brian, there’s also the question of the trans-Atlantic relationship, which, just, we’re having a president election and we’re talking about Mexico. we’re not talking about Europe. We’re not talking about what we can and should be doing to help the allies that have been most important for the United States, over the course of the past decades, both from a security perspective as well as economically. And you have to hope that in our own presidential elections here, they’re going to start taking up, in a much more serious way, why Europe matters to us, and what we’re going to do to try to keep these guys on their feet.”

Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett


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