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Local residents at a site of a residential building damaged by a Russian missile attack in Mykolaiv, Ukraine.

Reuters

What We’re Watching: Allies talk “Marshall Plan” for Ukraine, dark clouds brew over France, Medvedev channels his inner James Bond

Ukraine latest: Is it too soon to talk reconstruction?

With Ukrainian forces continuing to push their counteroffensive, winter coming, and Russian attacks crippling the country’s energy infrastructure, it seems like a dicey time to talk about pumping close to a trillion dollars of reconstruction aid into Ukraine. But it’s never too early to plan/hope, so that’s what’s on the agenda this week at two conferences in Berlin headlined by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. They are calling for a 21st-century “Marshall Plan” for Ukraine that could last decades. But who, precisely, is willing to foot the bill for bridges, roads, and power plants that will remain indefinitely in Russian crosshairs is an open question. Meanwhile, in ominous news from Russia, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday wondered aloud whether the fragile UN-backed Ukrainian grain export deal will be renewed next month, citing the Kremlin’s demand for more data on where the grain shipments have actually been going. The grain deal helped to take some of the pressure off record highs in global food prices, which are having a disproportionate impact on the world’s poor.

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French President Emmanuel Macron at a polling booth during the first round of French parliamentary elections

Ludovic Marin via Reuters

What We're Watching: France's final round, ISIS leaders caught

Voters decide Macron’s future

On Sunday, France’s election season comes to a close with the final round of parliamentary elections. The big question: Can President Macron’s Ensemble! Party win a majority of the National Assembly’s 577 seats? If so, or if it gets close enough that a few willing partners from other parties can lend votes on individual pieces of legislation, then he’ll have a chance to advance his ambitious reform agenda. If not, his second-term plans will quickly stall. Macron’s best hope is that a few right-wing voters fearful of potential victory for Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s leftist coalition will limit the number of seats it’s able to win, and that a few leftist voters who adamantly oppose far-right opposition leader Marine Le Pen will back Macron’s centrists for control of seats since there’s no left-wing candidate. Macron has long pledged to boost the government’s financial health by pushing the standard retirement age from 62 to 65. But without at least a near-majority, Macron and his prime minister will struggle even to pass basic reforms meant to cut government spending and help businesses weather tough economic times.
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People participate in the March for Our Lives on the National Mall in Washington, DC.

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

What We're Watching: US gun-control deal, Indian protests, Macron's majority, Biden goes to Saudi

US Senate reaches compromise on guns

On Sunday, a group of 20 US senators announced a bipartisan framework on new gun control legislation in response to the recent wave of mass shootings. The proposal includes more background checks, funding for states to implement "red-flag" laws so they can confiscate guns from dangerous people, and provisions to prevent gun sales to domestic violence offenders. While the deal is much less ambitious than the sweeping ban on assault weapons and universal background checks President Joe Biden called for after the massacre in Uvalde, Texas, it's a rare bipartisan effort in a deeply divided Washington that seeks to make at least some progress on gun safety, an issue on which Congress has been deadlocked for decades. Biden said these are "steps in the right direction" and endorsed the Senate deal but admitted he wants a lot more. The announcement came a day after thousands of Americans held rallies on the National Mall in the capital and across the country to demand tougher gun laws. Will the senators be able to turn the framework into actual legislation before the momentum passes?

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Paige Fusco

Under-the-radar European elections

Over the past year, the biggest story in European politics has been its remarkable unity in response to crises. The EU plan for COVID recovery and the response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have been much more cooperative and effective than the sometimes-ugly debates over managing the sovereign debt crisis of 2009-2010 or the migrant crisis of 2015-2016.

But political pressure is building on the continent. Inflationary pressures, exacerbated by continuing supply-chain disruptions, higher food and fuel costs provoked by the war, and ambitious plans to redraw Europe’s energy map and spend more on defense are stoking public fear that it’s all too much at once. How these concerns play out domestically in a few key countries could impact European unity and progress moving forward.

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Jean Luc Melenchon poster at French leftist movement La France Insoumise's (LFI) headquarters in Paris.

Reuters

What We're Watching: Macron has a left problem, Japan's nuclear option, the election no one cares about

Japan embraces nuclear to wean itself off Russian energy

Russia's war in Ukraine is pushing notoriously slow-moving Japan to make unusually swift policy shifts. In mid-March, Tokyo gave up its decades-long effort to negotiate with Russia over the return of the disputed Kuril Islands. Now, it's ready to ditch Russian energy, which resource-poor Japan needs to keep the lights on. (Tokyo joined Western sanctions against Russia but has not yet banned imports of Russian oil and natural gas.) PM Fumio Kishida announced Thursday that Japan will restart its mothballed nuclear reactors — a big deal because nuclear power is a highly sensitive topic in the only nation to suffer an attack with atomic weapons. Also, a tsunami caused in 2011 the Fukushima disaster, the world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl. That led Japanese public opinion to sour on nuclear, but now a majority support Kishida's plans, which also aim to help the country become carbon-neutral by 2050. Interestingly, the announcement comes just days after a top Japanese investor confirmed a $21 billion natural gas project in Siberia despite uncertainty over Russian sanctions and fears that Russia will cut off Japan first.

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In 1992, supporters of abortion rights mingle with abortion opponents at a State House rally marking the 19th anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision legalizing abortion.

Reuters

What We're Watching: Roe in trouble, Russia Victory Day, ISIS-K terrorizes Afghanistan, Macron vs the left

US Supreme Court reportedly set to overturn Roe vs. Wade

The US Supreme Court is set to overturn the landmark abortion rights decision of Roe vs. Wade, according to a leaked draft of the decision reported by Politico late Monday. The draft, written by Justice Samuel Alito, explains the court’s apparent plan to reverse the 1973 ruling, noting that “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start” and that it’s time to “return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.” If true, this means the court is siding with Mississippi in its push to ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. While SCOTUS drafts do not always reflect final decisions, Eurasia Group’s lead US political analyst Jon Lieber believes the draft is a sneak peek of what’s to come. “Court watchers seem to think the document is a legitimate draft, and given the makeup of the court it sure reads like the majority decision I expected to see,” Lieber says. “So I think this is both real and reflects the reality that Roe vs. Wade will be overturned this year."

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Macron Needs to Secure Parliamentary Majority | Europe In :60 | GZERO Media

Macron's reelection and the future of France

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from New Delhi, India.

What's the number one challenge for President Macron now, when he's been reelected?

First, of course, he has been reelected. That's highly important. He's the first French president to be reelected for a second term in 20 years. That's quite an achievement. But he now needs to secure some sort of parliamentary majority, and that election is coming up in a couple of weeks. That's going to be critical for all of his domestic reform agenda, which remains critical for the future of France.

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French President Emmanuel Macron gestures as he arrives to deliver a speech after being re-elected as president.

REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

Can Macron unite a divided France?

Reflecting on Emmanuel Macron’s victory in France's presidential runoff, Tom McTague, writing for The Atlantic, referred to British PM Winston Churchill’s disdain for another French leader: Charles de Gaulle. Churchill was asked if de Gaulle was a great man. “He is selfish, he is arrogant, he believes he is the center of the world,” Churchill replied. “You are quite right. He is a great man.”

“Something similar might be true of Emmanuel Macron,” wrote McTague.

Macron can afford to be smug about some of his achievements. After all, he is the first French president to win a second term in some 20 years – the French are famous for rejecting incumbents. The 44-year-old centrist, a former banker, has only run for elected office twice – for the presidency in 2017 and 2022 – and he clinched the top job both times.

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