Sign up for our newsletter: GZERO Daily

{{ subpage.title }}

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.

Read more Show less

A tank with a Polish flag.

Annie Gugliotta

Poland bulks up to defeat history

There’s a story that people sometimes still tell about the Polish military. It’s the one where the cavalry makes a suicidal charge against Nazi tanks in September of 1939 and gets cut to pieces.

Although that version of the Battle of Krojanty isn’t quite true – in reality the Poles did better than it sounds – the romantic version of it, fueled by an overzealous Italian journalist’s account, has stuck for decades. Some see it as a tale of heroism, others as a proverb of recklessness, but in either telling, Poland’s basic problem is the same: They didn’t have enough weapons to fend off the Nazi onslaught.

Eighty years later, Poland is on a mission to ensure that myths of this kind are never created again. The country is in the middle of an “unprecedented” military build-up that, if successful, would make it the largest land army in the European Union, and an Eastern flank superpower in its own right.

Read more Show less

A US M1 Abrams tank fires a round during a live-fire exercise in Germany.

ABACA via Reuters Connect

Ukraine tanks up

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced on Wednesday that Germany will (finally!) send Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine.

Read more Show less
The Crimea Problem | GZERO Media

The Crimea problem

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hi everybody. Ian Bremmer here. And a Quick Take to start off your week. Just back from Davos in New York City, rainy and cold, and Russia, Ukraine is once again in the headlines. It is closing in on a year since the invasion started on February 24th, or for those of you really keeping accurate score, closing in on a decade since the Russians illegally annexed Crimea and sent their little green men in Southeast Ukraine. The Russians and Ukrainians certainly feel like they've been fighting for a decade, but the West recognized it much more recently. Since February 24th, and certainly very clear to me over the last week, we have seen almost consistent escalation from all sides involved, from, of course, the Ukrainians in trying to throw everything they can at getting the Russians out of the territory, at the Russians, from bringing more troops into the field and attacking civilians and broadening their efforts to in inflict pain upon the Ukrainians as their land war has met with significant challenge.

Read more Show less
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.

Read more Show less

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?

Read more Show less

Polish soldiers build a fence on the border between Poland and Belarus near the village of Nomiki.

Reuters

Hard Numbers: Polish razor wire, Ecuadoran cop killers, drug deal of the century, Cairo’s COP crackdown

3: To head off a potential migrant crisis, Polish authorities are laying three rows of razor wire fencing along the border with the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad. The issue isn’t Russians fleeing the draft but Kaliningrad airport’s welcoming of flights from the Middle East and Africa, which Poland fears may carry refugees and asylum-seekers. Last year, a Poland-Belarus border crisis erupted when Minsk pulled a similar move.

Read more Show less

A TV monitor announces the news of North Korea's ballistic missile launch in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo.

Reuters

Hard Numbers: NK missile test, aid for Puerto Rico, China's concrete collapse, Chechen leader’s children, Poland's WWII-linked demand

5: Early Tuesday, North Korea reportedly launched a single intermediate-range ballistic missile over Japan, where residents in Hokkaido and Aomori were urged to seek shelter. The missile — Pyongyang’s most provocative test since January, and its first test over Japan in five years — is believed to have landed in the Pacific Ocean.

Read more Show less

Subscribe to our free newsletter, GZERO Daily

Latest