US on track for August 31 withdrawal; House passes $3.5T plan

Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

Is the US on track for the August 31st withdrawal from Afghanistan?

The US is actually doing a pretty good job, getting its own citizens out of Afghanistan despite the chaos that's been seen at the airport and across the country over the last two weeks. It's estimated on Wednesday afternoon, there were about 1,500 citizens of the United States, still in Afghanistan. And some of them, according to Secretary of State Tony Blinken, may not want to leave. The US has been evacuating enormous numbers in the last several days. Over 21,000 people have gotten out. And even though Biden sent his CIA director, William Burns, to potentially negotiate a longer withdrawal date than August 31st with the Taliban, he says, he's going to stick to this deadline. The people who may not get out are the interpreters and helpers that aided the American military, who are native Afghanis, who are probably going to be left behind when the US leaves at the end of the month.


The House narrowly passed the $3.5 trillion budget plan. What's next for the Democrats?

Well, the House has to start putting some details now, underneath that top-line number. Some Democrats have said they're uncomfortable spending as much as $3.5 trillion. And other Democrats have said they're willing to spend that much, but it has to be fully paid for by most likely tax increases. The list of tax increases that Democrats have available to them is very long, but politically, a lot of these things can't get done. There's been a lot of pushback on things like raising the top capital gains rate, raising the top corporate tax rate, and they still have other tax cuts they want to do including reinstating the SALT tax deduction and new tax credits for low-income families and families with children. So what's next is that the House goes back on recess. They're going to reconvene the first or second week of September and start marking up bills to hit that $3.5 trillion number with a goal of passing both, the bipartisan infrastructure bill and, the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, out of the House by the 27th of September. Then it goes over to the Senate to see what they do there. There's a couple of moderate members who have been real holdouts on a lot of these points in this bill to date.

The key for small business growth? More digital support.

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Iran’s nuclear program runs hotter

Talks between Iran’s government and world powers over the future of Iran’s nuclear program continue. The US and Iran are still not communicating directly; Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia are shuttling between them.

The good news is that they’re all still talking. The bad news is that, after eight rounds of negotiations, the main players haven’t agreed on anything that would constitute a breakthrough.

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January 6 laid bare "the deep divisions, the partisan infighting, the polarization within our society," says Fiona Hill, the former US senior director of the National Security Council. In a GZERO World interview, she spoke with Ian Bremmer about her concerns about the state of democracy in the United States.

Hill famously testified against her impeached boss, Donald Trump, who stayed in power after being acquitted by the Senate of abuse of power and obstructing Congress. She also notes that divisions actually make America look weaker on the global stage — particularly to someone like Russia’s president Vladimir Putin.

Watch this episode of GZERO World: American strife: Will US democracy survive? Fiona Hill explains post-Jan 6 stakes

Kevin Allison, director of geotech at Eurasia Group, is concerned about the rise of very powerful tech companies disrupting centuries of geopolitics led by the nation-state.

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The problem with China’s Zero COVID strategy: GZERO World with Ian Bremmer - the podcast

Listen: Xi Jinping's zero-COVID approach faces its toughest test to date with omicron. Why? Because China lacks mRNA jabs, and so few Chinese people have gotten COVID that overall protection is very low. A wave of lockdowns could disrupt the world's second-largest economy — just a month out from the Beijing Winter Olympics.

That could spell disaster for Beijing, Yanzhong Huang, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, tells Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast. If things get really bad, though, Huang believes China will pivot to living with the virus, especially as the cost of keeping zero COVID in the age of omicron becomes too high.

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Kiev, Ukraine

First question, how is the crisis in this part of Europe developing?

Not good. There's been a week of intense diplomacy with talks in Geneva, and Brussels, and Vienna that produced virtually nothing. The Russian, sort of key demands are outrageously unrealistic. They know that is the case. The US is trying to engage them on somewhat different issues. We'll see if there's any prospect there, but it doesn't look too good. I think the likelihood is that we gradually will move into the phase of what the Russians call military technical measures, whatever that is.

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For Angela Hofmann, practice head for Industrial & Consumer at Eurasia Group, the world's most visible brands are in for a very rocky year.

Navigating culture wars will be very tricky, as well as fighting with competing demands from consumers, employees, and regulators on issues like China, diversity, and voting rights.

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Political polarization in the US isn’t just a problem within the country, points out former US national security official Fiona Hill. Deep divisions, she says, actually make America look weaker on the global stage — particularly to someone like Russia’s president Vladimir Putin.

“Putin loves our disunity," Russian expert Hill tells Ian Bremmer. "It's incredibly useful as a tool to exploit in that toolkit that he has.”

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An emboldened Putin thrives on American disunity

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