(World) State of The Union

(World) State of The Union

Tonight President Trump delivers his first State of the Uniom — er, Union — address. Audiences around the world will be listening in to see if, and how, Trump lays out a coherent policy vision on several global issues that will come to a head in 2018.


Here’s what you’re listening for if you’re…

China: Trump’s been ratcheting up the pressure over unfair trade practices, IP theft, and policies that disadvantage American firms in China. He’s surely going to unleash about how China hurts American companies, but will he contain himself to a fresh round of limited trade measures, or is he about to impose crippling restrictions on Chinese investment in the United States? An ensuing trade war would hit your exporters hard, but US firms and consumers are awfully vulnerable too…

Mexico: US domestic politics affect you more than any other country, and your upcoming presidential election will turn in part on relations with your Northern neighbor. You’ll be watching to see if Trump signals a real willingness to pull out of largely deadlocked NAFTA talks. Also critical: does he repeat his demand for a border wall and immigration restrictions as part of any immigration deal that will affect millions of your citizens.

South Korea: Getting through this speech without hearing a threat of nuclear war is a win in your book.

Iran: Trump has said he’ll pull the plug on the nuclear deal unless Congress and the EU strengthen it. You’ll be looking for further clues about what he’s thinking, while you continue to lay the groundwork for a new deal with the Europeans if Washington walks. The clock is ticking: Trump has to recertify the deal by mid-May.

ISIS: Trump will boast rightly that your “caliphate” has been destroyed. But with a national security strategy that says “great power rivalry” is the main challenge today, does he have a plan to roll back your still-powerful ideology and internet presence? Lots of your soldiers are returning home…

Remember, this will be the more sedate, Teleprompter-Trump who’ll appear “presidential.” But visceral Twitter-Trump is sure to erupt on every one of these issues again before long. So far, there hasn’t been a foreign policy crisis severe enough to reveal which Trump is at the table when the chips are down. How long will that hold?

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Listen: Stanford historian Niall Ferguson joins Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast to talk about the geopolitics of disaster. Throughout human history we seem to be unable to adequately prepare for catastrophes (natural or human-caused) before they strike. Why is that? And as we emerge from the greatest calamity of our lifetimes in the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the plethora of crises that climate change has and will cause, what can we do to lessen the blow?

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.

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:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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