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Ian Bremmer on Geopolitical Risk

Takeaways from discussion with Ian Bremmer on geopolitical risk.

“Every quarter.” That’s the prescription Ian Bremmer gives for a discussion of geopolitical risk on the board agenda. Bremmer, founder and president of geopolitical risk consultancy Eurasia Group, said on a recent KPMG Board Leadership Center (BLC) webcast that the best companies explicitly task a board member with real-time monitoring of geopolitical activity, especially those companies with more than 10 percent of their revenue earned outside of the United States.

Joined by KPMG BLC Senior Advisor Susan Angele, Bremmer delivered a high-level take on the current state of geopolitics and the issues on which directors might query management. “From energy security to cyber security, these risks intertwine and multiply, but they also create opportunities for global businesses,” said Angele.

  1. Globalization adrift. “Fifty years of globalization are not over, but the trajectory is slowing,” said Bremmer. As goods, services, and the movement of people was happening faster and more easily across international borders, global growth surged and help to create a global middle class. While grass-roots protectionism has taken hold around the world, it is incremental. At the same time, new trade agreements are being implemented and tariffs are coming down, even amid a U.S. dollar surge. In this climate, Bremmer said, “It is critical that your CEO and/or Chair are aware and are building relationships geopolitically that matter most for company outcomes.”
  2. Impact of the Russia-Ukraine war. “Russia has been forcibly decoupled from the G7— economically, diplomatically, and culturally,” said Bremmer. Europe is going to go through a significant recession as Russia cuts off remaining energy supply. Bremmer said he expects a 2–3 percent contraction in EU economies, but not a reduction of sanctions. The EU is economically more vulnerable, but politically stronger. “Over the last 6 months, Russia went from being a small China to a large Iran—completely cut off by advanced industrial economies,” said Bremmer. Food and fertilizer prices will continue to move higher. Distribution challenges could lead to food stress and forced migration in developing economies.
  3. The future for China. Amid underperformance for state-owned enterprises and the failed zero-COVID policy, China is seeing significant economic challenges amid the “worst demographic collapse of any major economy than we have experienced historically.” “As I look out five years, ten years, I no longer see a country that is going to dominate and capture the economies of other countries around the world,” said Bremmer. “I actually see an economy that's going to focus more on China in some of the analogous ways that the United States—for different reasons—is focusing more on the United States … China is increasingly a developed country, oriented more toward the status quo.”
  4. Climate change and the energy transition. Momentum is shifting due to the war in Ukraine. Renewable energy costs are decreasing and even “next generation” nuclear is being explored. “When we talk about transition, we should also be talking about bridge energies such as LNG [liquified natural gas], which are absolutely critical.” However, higher energy prices due to the Russia-Ukraine war will have an outsized impact on developing economies. Banks have returned to fossil fuel financing, a necessary but disappointing outcome for advocates of the 1.5° C target temperature rise (relative to pre-industrial levels.) “That goal is slipping away,” said Bremmer. “Ultimately, we’re going to need massive redistribution to pay developing economies not to use coal.”
  5. Cyber defense requires coordination. “The good news is that a number of U.S. technology companies are working closely with the U.S. government to try to improve defensive capabilities,” said Bremmer. “But there are number of major Silicon Valley companies that say, ‘We don’t want the U.S. government, we just want to do business. But there's no question that there are a lot of softer targets out there—schools, hospitals, agricultural collectives, pipelines…. If you have committed actors out there and they want to go after you, you can be taken down.” Bremmer warned that state actors and international terrorist organizations will continue to attempt debilitating cyberattacks. So far, he said many haven’t worked, “but they’ve come close.”

Bremmer also discussed current challenges in the United Kingdom, where “underperformance is the baseline,” and “the anti-establishment wave” gripping Latin America. 

Webcast survey results*

How frequently does your board actively assess geopolitical issues and their potential impact on strategy and risk?

Which geopolitical issue do you believe will have the greatest long-term impact on your company over the next 3-5 years?

*Other geopolitical concerns identified by survey respondents include China, the economy, interest rates and supply chain.
*Survey results from nearly 400 self-identified corporate directors surveyed in advance of the September 15, 2022, KPMG Board Leadership Center webcast. 

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the speakers and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of KPMG LLP.

Meet our team

Image of Ian Bremmer
Ian Bremmer
President and Founder, Eurasia Group and GZERO Media
Read bio
Image of Ian Bremmer

Ian Bremmer

President and Founder, Eurasia Group and GZERO Media

Ian Bremmer is a political scientist who helps business leaders, policy makers, and the general public make sense of the world around them. He is president and founder of Eurasia Group, the world’s leading political risk research and consulting firm, and GZERO Media, a company dedicated to providing intelligent and engaging coverage of international affairs. Ian is an independent voice on critical issues around the globe, offering clearheaded insights through speeches, written commentary, and even satirical puppets (really!).

A prolific writer, Ian is the author of eleven books, including the New York Times bestsellers, “Us vs Them: The Failure of Globalism” which examines the rise of populism across the world, and his latest book “The Power of Crisis: How Three Threats—and Our Response—Will Change the World” which covers a trio of looming global crises (health emergencies, climate change, and technological revolution) and outlines how these crises create global prosperity and opportunity.

He serves as the foreign affairs columnist and editor at large for Time magazine, and is the host of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer, which airs weekly on US national public television. Ian is also a frequent guest on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and many others globally.  

Ian also teaches at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs and previously was a professor at New York University.

Find him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and regularly tweeting from @IanBremmer.

Image of Susan M. Angele
Susan M. Angele
Senior Advisor, KPMG Board Leadership Center, KPMG US

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