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US House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) arrives for leadership elections at the Capitol in Washington, DC.
REUTERS/Leah Millis

What We’re Watching: Republican House, Israeli robo-guns, Poland’s back

GOP wins slim House majority

More than a week after the US midterm elections, the Republican Party finally clinched its 218th seat in the House on Wednesday, giving the GOP a razor-slim majority in the chamber. But with several races still not called, the exact margin remains unclear — the tighter it is, the harder it'll be for Kevin McCarthy, who’s expected to replace Nancy Pelosi as House speaker, to keep his caucus together. A Republican-held House effectively kills the Democrats’ legislative agenda, although retaining control of the Senate will keep extremist proposals away from President Joe Biden's desk and allow him to appoint federal judges. For the GOP, it's an opportunity to launch investigations on stuff like the origins of COVID, the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the Republicans' favorite target: Biden's own son, Hunter. It might even lead to impeaching the president. On foreign policy, expect the GOP to penny-pinch US aid to Ukraine and make Congress get even tougher on China — perhaps not the best idea after Biden and Xi Jinping decided to cool things down at the G-20 in Bali.

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Damages from the hits in Przewodów, a village in eastern Poland near the border with Ukraine.

Reuters

What We're Watching: Missiles in Poland, Chinese anger at zero-COVID

Who fired those missiles into Poland?

Explosions apparently caused by rockets or missiles killed two people Tuesday in the Polish town of Przewodów, several miles from the Ukrainian border. The incident occurred amid a barrage of Russian missile attacks on critical infrastructure across Ukraine. Poland went on heightened military readiness as some Polish officials suggested the projectiles might be Russian. An investigation is underway.

But the plot thickened early Wednesday when US President Joe Biden said at an emergency meeting on the subject in Bali, where he’s attending the G-20, that preliminary info suggests it’s “unlikely” the weapons were fired "from Russia." This raises the prospect that malfunctioning Ukrainian air defenses could have been responsible, or that the missiles could have been fired from nearby Belarus, which has supported Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Russia, for its part, says it has nothing to do with the incident at all.

The big questions are: Was it in fact a Russian missile or not? If so, is there any evidence the attack was deliberate, as some Ukrainian officials have friskily suggested, or merely a mistake in the fog of war?

The implications are huge — Poland is a NATO member, so any deliberate attack by Russia would raise the prospect of invoking the alliance’s Article 5 collective defense mechanism, in which all members go on a war footing to respond. That, of course, could set in motion an escalation between the world’s two largest nuclear powers.

In the meantime, an Article 4 response is possible: a much mellower undertaking in which the alliance convenes a formal discussion on the incident but doesn’t take military action.

But a big question remains: Even if this incident was a Ukrainian own goal or a Russian mistake, what would NATO’s response be if Russian President Vladimir Putin tried to tweak the alliance with a bite along the Polish border?

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Biden & Xi Meet in Bali | Quick Take | GZERO Media

Biden and Xi meet in Bali

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: The G-20 of course is in full swing in Bali, Indonesia, and the first face-to-face meeting that Biden has had with Xi Jinping as president. And we shouldn't underestimate this. It's quite unusual. I mean, really unheard of, unprecedented that the two most important leaders on the global stage would have not met in person for two years. And that is indeed the case for Xi Jinping and President Biden. And it's particularly important because these are two leaders that know each other quite well and for a long time. When Biden was vice president, he had a lot of face time in many different venues with then-Vice President Xi, and they got along quite well. They actually like each other, they respect each other. I wouldn't go so far as to say they have a strong relationship of trust, but they enjoy each other's company.

And that's something that you get from Biden when you talk to him. You get the sense that he actually finds that Xi is someone he can deal with. And Biden's perspective on the world is informed by this "great man theory" of international diplomacy, that if you spend enough time with another human being, usually you can improve the relationship. And certainly, I think a big part of this meeting, a three-hour meeting that these two leaders just had on the sidelines of the G-20 is going to make a difference in slowing the escalation and the deterioration of the relationship between these two countries.

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How the Ukraine Paradox Explains Putin's Nuclear Calculus | GZERO World

Putin's nuclear calculus and the Ukraine Paradox


Immediately after Russia invaded Ukraine, the odds of Moscow using nuclear weapons were low because it seemed likely they'd overrun the country with conventional weaponry. New York Times national security correspondent David Sanger credits NATO.

"Without the NATO support, I don't think the Ukrainians would have held on," Sanger tells Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.

But now, he warns, we're dealing with the 'Ukraine Paradox': the more successful Ukraine gets, the more likely Vladimir Putin will consider using non-conventional weapons. Will that include nukes? Perhaps.

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Ian Bremmer: Risk of Nuclear Crisis In 2022: Too High | Asia Society | GZERO Media

Ian Bremmer: Risk of nuclear crisis in 2022 is too high

The White House believes that there is a 20% chance of another Cuban Missile Crisis "in the next eight weeks" with Russia, Ian Bremmer said at an event at the Asia Society in New York on Monday. While Bremmer doesn't see as high a chance that Putin would risk using nuclear weapons, he added, "Either way, those numbers are way too freaking high." The even bigger risk, he points out, is that not enough is being done to manage the unprecedented danger from Russia in the medium term.

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Trump Damaged US Credibility | GZERO World

Susan Glasser: Trump damaged US credibility

The Trump presidency might be over (for now), but The New Yorker staff writer Susan Glasser views it as an "active crime scene" because Trump remains influential in current — and perhaps future — US politics.

What's more, some of his most controversial moves are still having ripple effects today. Like threatening to pull out of NATO.

On GZERO World with Ian Bremmer, recorded for the first time in front of a live studio audience, Glasser explains how Trump's disdain for the alliance caused great uncertainty among its other members, even as NATO has become more united than ever before to respond to Russia's war in Ukraine.

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Melt Down of UK Conservative Party Since Brexit | Europe In :60 | GZERO Media

Truss resigns in continued Tory meltdown

Carl Bildt, former prime minister of Sweden, shares his perspective on European politics.

First, what's really happening in the UK?

It's tragic in a way. Once upon a time, the Conservative Party was the natural governing party of the United Kingdom, and we've seen it in a gradual sort of melt down since Brexit with the one prime minister replacing the others, with the one scandal after the others, with the entire party on the verge of some sort of implosion. It has disturbing implications for the governance of the UK, and it is truly tragic. What will be the end of this is anyone's guess. There has to be a new Prime Minister within a week or so, and we can just wish the suffering British people all the best.

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- YouTube

Should Ukraine be offered NATO membership?

Finnish leaders know how to have a good time, which is probably why Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto recently sat down with Ian Bremmer to discuss Finland’s NATO accession.Threats from the Kremlin had kept Finland (and Sweden) from joining the alliance for 75 years. But the invasion of Ukraine changed all that. In May, Finland’s long-serving President Sauli Niinistö rang his old friend, Vladimir Putin. “It’s not me, it’s you,” Niinistö intimated to the Russian leader.

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