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Paige Fusco

De-facto ruler no more — UAE’s new president is ambitious, sophisticated

One of the world’s richest men and arguably the most powerful political player in the Arab world has ascended to the presidency of the Middle East’s most dynamic Islamic state. Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, 61, was appointed on Saturday as the ruler of the oil-rich United Arab Emirates, after the death Friday of Sheikh Khalifa, his elder half brother.

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Models of oil barrels and a pump jack are seen in front of EU and Russia flag colors.

REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

What We’re Watching: Drawdown pledge, Europe veers away from Russia, Ethiopian peace hopes dashed, a Gulf non-starter

Fighting continues despite Russia’s drawdown pledge

The Pentagon said it believes the Kremlin was starting to reposition some of its troops away from Kyiv. But Russia continued to pound the Ukrainian capital with airstrikes and artillery while maintaining its ferocious bombardment of the besieged port city of Mariupol. Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that bilateral peace talks were making “substantial progress,” but Ukrainian officials immediately disputed his claim that Kyiv had accepted the loss of Crimea and the Donbas as a “resolved question.” President Zelensky late Wednesday released a new video in which he said "we don't believe in fancy rhetorical constructions, we believe in what happens on the battlefield."

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What We’re Watching: Russian and NATO intentions, US strikes Syrian prison, UAE-Houthi escalation

Russian and NATO intentions. To prepare to meet a perceived military threat, planners try to understand both the intentions and the capabilities of the other side. Russia says it does not intend to invade Ukraine, but NATO planners can see it has built the capability for an attack by amassing 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian border. In response, the alliance has decided to underline its own capacities. On Monday, NATO announced it had put troops on high alert and ordered the reinforcement of Eastern Europe with additional ships and fighter jets. It has beefed up defense of the Baltic states and is publicly mulling the idea of deploying more troops to southeastern Europe. NATO commanders hope this shift in the alliance’s own capabilities will send Moscow a clear message: Any aggressive military action taken by Russia will come at a steep cost for Moscow. The UK government claims to have exposed a Russian plot to install a pro-Kremlin leader in power in Kyiv in hopes of forcing Russia to abort any such plan. The perceived Russian threat has also reinvigorated debate within Sweden and Finland about possible membership in NATO for those countries. In sum, both sides have boosted their capabilities, and bystanders are considering doing the same. It’s Russian and NATO intentions that Ukraine, and the rest of us, will be watching.

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What We’re Watching: Ukraine’s tumultuous politics, Netanyahu’s endgame, escalation in Yemen

Ukraine’s political woes. While Russia maintains tens of thousands of troops on the Ukrainian border, domestic politics in Kyiv are becoming increasingly contentious. This week, former President Petro Poroshenko — who was elected in 2014 after the Maidan Revolution ousted a longtime Putin ally and then defeated for re-election in 2019 — has now returned to Ukraine after a month abroad to face a host of criminal charges. Those charges include treason, an alleged crime related to his decision to sign government contracts to buy coal from mines held by Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine in 2014. Poronshenko, a businessman worth $1.6 billion, says the deal was necessary to keep Ukraine from economic collapse and that the charges are an attempt by current President Volodomyr Zelensky to distract from unfavorable perceptions of the country’s (currently lousy) economic outlook. He also calls it a manufactured crisis and a “gift” to the Kremlin, because it distracts from Russia’s ongoing aggression. Also, on Friday US Secretary of State Tony Blinken will meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to continue talks on resolving the Ukraine standoff.

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Annie Gugliotta & Jess Frampton

What We’re Watching: China's problems, UAE vs Houthis, Nord Stream 2 split

China's mounting problems. Xi Jinping is not off to a good start in 2022. First, Chinese economic growth slowed down to 4 percent in the last quarter of 2021, almost a percentage point less than the previous period. While annual GDP was up 8.1 percent year-on-year, beating government expectations, the trend is worrying for the world’s second-largest economy. Second, annual population growth fell in 2021 to its lowest rate since 1949, when the ruling Communist Party took over. Although Xi probably saw this one coming, he's running out of ideas to encourage Chinese families to have more children — which the government needs in order to sustain growth and support the elderly over the long term. Third, and most immediate: the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics canceled ticket sales for domestic spectators — foreigners were not invited — as the more transmissible omicron variant has driven up COVID infections in China to the highest level since March 2020. It's only the latest sign that Xi's controversial zero-COVID policy is setting itself up for failure against omicron without mRNA vaccines. What'll it take for China to reverse course?

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Inequity and Conflict in Yemen | UN's David Gressly | GZERO World

Inequity and conflict in Yemen: interview with UN's David Gressly

Why you should remember Yemen’s forgotten war In Yemen, the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis you’ve probably never heard of, 80 percent of people need international aid just to survive.

Two-thirds are hungry, and half don’t know where their next meal will come from.

Life is very hard in Yemen, UN Resident Coordinator David Gressly tells Ian Bremmer. Most infrastructure is destroyed, few can access clean water or health care, and many Yemenis are afraid to go outside because of landmines.

Meanwhile, 1.2 civil servants continue to show up to work, with little or no pay. If they stayed home, the state would cease to exist. The UN is asking for $3.6 billion simply to feed Yemenis and keep the lights on through 2022, but is now still short $1.6 billion. Gressly says that means many Yemenis will go hungry next year.

Regional powers Iran and Saudi Arabia have turned Yemen into a seven-year proxy war, with civilians paying the price. The country is divided between the Houthis, an Iran-backed Shia militant group, and the internationally recognized government with Saudi Arabia on its side.

It’s unlikely the conflict will end anytime soon. The Biden administration has delisted the Houthis as a terrorist organization and stopped selling weapons to the Saudis. Gressly thinks that’s a step in the right direction, but not enough.

Watch the episode of GZERO World on Yemen's forgotten war: https://www.gzeromedia.com/gzero-world-with-ian-bremmer/caught-in-the-crossfire-yemens-forgotten-war

Why Yemen’s Doctors and Teachers Work Without Pay | UN's David Gressly | GZERO World

Why Yemen’s doctors and teachers work without pay

Around 1.2 million government employees, including teachers and doctors, show up to work every day in Yemen with unpaid or partially paid salaries, committed to their fellow Yemenis. UN Coordinator David Gressly emphasizes that if their contributions are lost, the state will collapse.

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The Proxy War (Still) Raging in Yemen | GZERO World

The proxy war (still) raging in Yemen

For seven years, regional powers Iran and Saudi Arabia have fought each other... in Yemen. As usual, civilians are paying the price.

The Iranians back the Houthi rebels, who control Sanaa, while a Saudi-led coalition supports the internationally recognized government in Aden.

Unfortunately, neither side seems willing to back down, as recent fighting in Marib suggests. There's no road to peace.

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