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U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III at the military camp in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines.

Reuters

What We're Watching: US military in the Philippines, Ecuadorian referendum, Israel's AG vs. Bibi, Ukraine shows EU anti-corruption love, China's snoop balloon

Don't buy hype about the US military in the Philippines to counter China

The Philippine decision to grant the US military access to four more military bases in the country has gotten a lot of buzz that it’s a major move against China. For sure, the archipelago is the closest US ally to Taiwan and the disputed South China Sea – Beijing claims sovereignty over both. But while Xi Jinping is surely not happy about America getting additional places in Southeast Asia to host its troops, the move is no game changer in US efforts to better patrol the region or — yikes — respond to an eventual Chinese attack on Taiwan. Why? For one thing, the US military only really needs to use two old American bases north of Manila because they are both very big and close enough to the action. What’s more, the other sites are either too small or still under construction. There is, however, an interesting domestic political angle. President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., aware that most Filipinos have soured on China over its actions in the South China Sea, wants to show his people that he won't be as chummy with Xi as his predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte. At the same time, Bongbong also knows that the Philippine economy is so dependent on trade with China and that his military is so weak that he can't afford to push Beijing too hard. If he's not forced to pick a side, he'll continue to play both — taking a page from his dictator dad’s old playbook.
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Ukrainian servicemen drill at the Belarusian border, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine near Chornobyl, Ukraine

REUTERS/Viacheslav Ratynskyi

Mission creep or mission critical?

Get ready for the coming American debate over US support for Ukraine.

For now, Americans have Ukraine’s back. In an exclusive new poll conducted by Maru Public Opinion for GZERO, more than three-quarters of respondents say they want the US to remain "involved" in the war, with the majority favoring the supply of weapons and money to help that country repel Russia’s invasion.

But as the newly restored Republican majority in the House of Representatives builds its political agenda, and as GOP presidential candidates look for lines of attack on the Democratic incumbent, we’ll hear more Republicans argue that active support for Ukraine is a prohibitively expensive Biden administration policy. Some Republican lawmakers have already threatened to block further funding. Your GZERO Daily team will be watching these poll numbers in coming months to see just how polarizing this policy becomes.

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A protester near the Invalides during a demonstration against the government's pension reform plan in Paris

REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

What We’re Watching: An encore for French protesters, Zelensky’s growing wish list, Weah’s reelection bid

Round Two: French pension reform strikes

For the second time in a month, French workers held mass protests on Tuesday against the government’s proposed pension reform, which would raise the minimum retirement age from 62 to 64. Organized by the country’s eight big trade unions, authorities say as many as 1.27 million protesters hit the streets nationwide, bringing Paris to a standstill and closing schools throughout France. (Unions say the number was higher.) Meanwhile, President Emmanuel Macron is sticking to his guns, saying that incrementally raising the national retirement age by 2030 is crucial to reducing France’s ballooning deficit. (Currently, 14% of France’s public spending goes toward its pension program – the third-highest of any OECD country.) But for Macron, this is about more than just economics; his political legacy is on the line. Indeed, the ideological chameleon came to power in 2017 as a transformer and tried to get these pension reforms done in 2019, though he was ultimately forced to backtrack. But as Eurasia Group Europe expert Mujtaba Rahman points out, protesters’ “momentum is the key” and could determine whether legislators from the center-right back Macron or get swayed by the vibe on the street. This would force him to go at it alone using a constitutional loophole, which never makes for good politics. More demonstrations are planned for Feb.7 and Feb. 11.

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Paige Fusco

The Graphic Truth: When do Europeans retire?

French workers will flock to the streets in droves this week to protest the Emmanuel Macron’s proposed reforms to the national pension system, which seek to raise the retirement age by two years to 64. Unions aren’t having it: They say the government needs to honor the social contract with French workers who are now being told they’ll need to work for 43 years – up from 41 – to access their full pension. The government is preparing for pandemonium. So how does France’s retirement age stack up against other European states? We take a look here.

Will Europe Respond to US Protectionism With a "War of Subsidies"? | Europe In :60 | GZERO Media

US protectionism could trigger "war of subsidies" with Europe

Carl Bildt reporting from the 2023 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

What's happening in Davos from the European point of view?

I think there are two issues that are discussed quite broadly.

The one is what's going to be the European response, their response, to what's happening in the US with these massive subsidies and slight protectionist tendencies of evolving industrial policy? Is there going to be a European response of the same sort? There's a danger there, in my opinion, of a war of subsidies across the Atlantic that is going to be to the detriment of both the US and the European economies over time. But that's the big issue.

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TITLE PLACEHOLDER | World In :60 | GZERO Media

China is open for business: Chinese Vice Premier at Davos

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week on World In :60 from an undisclosed room at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

What was China Vice Premier Liu He's message at Davos?

The message was that China is open for business, supports entrepreneurship, wants to engage in the global economy. Open, open, open. If you were just listening to the translation, you'd think it was a Western leader. Didn't mention COVID once. Sounds great. Kind of extraordinary given the reality of what China's been through over the last couple of years, but certainly tailored message to the audience that he was seeing.

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Putin’s War Crimes Solidify West’s Military Support for Ukraine | Alexander Stubb | GZERO World

Putin’s war crimes solidify West’s military support for Ukraine

For former Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb, there is no such thing as a partial victory for the Ukrainians. “Ukraine needs to push as far as it possibly can,” Stubb tells Ian Bremmer on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

And at a time when some might be feeling "war fatigue," it seems that Putin's lack of regard for human rights never fails to rally the cause against him. "As long as he continues this, I think the support of the West and the rest of the world is going to be steadfast," Stubb says.

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Dambisa Moyo: Europe Energy Transition Needs More Than a "Band-Aid Solution" | GZERO World

Dambisa Moyo: Europe's energy transition needs more than a "band-aid solution"

Most countries around the world understand that sooner or later they will need to transition to using more clean energy. But in the meantime, they still rely on over a hundred million barrels of oil per day.

What's more Russia's war in Ukraine has underscored our dependence on fossil fuels for energy.

“We hadn't anticipated that there'd be a war that would create these shocks. And that puts us slightly offside,” renowned economist Dambisa Moyo tells Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.

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