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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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Ukraine Corruption Scandals Won't Affect War Efforts | World In :60 | GZERO Media

Ukraine anti-corruption moves won't hurt war effort

Will resignations and a political shake-up in Ukraine negatively affect its war efforts?

No, not at all. This is anti-corruption efforts, getting rid of a bunch of people that are seen as problematic in terms of skimming money within the government. Russia's been more corrupt than Ukraine historically, but actually, it's quite close. There's a lot of work to be done, and as people start thinking about Ukraine attracting major funds from the Europeans, the Americans, others, multilaterals to rebuild the country, they really need to make sure that the money is going where it needs to, and that means running the economy well. So this is the effort that's being tried here, but it doesn't really matter with the war effort at all.

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How Close Did We Get to Another Chernobyl-Style Disaster in Ukraine? | GZERO World

Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant at risk of disaster, says top nuclear watchdog

Weeks ago, the head of the top global nuclear watchdog visited the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine. He saw two big holes on the roof caused by high-caliber ammo that could have impacted the fuel.

On GZERO World, International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Grossi gives Ian Bremmer a first-hand account of the precarious situation there — and how close we came to "dramatic" consequences.

For Grossi, a major problem right now is that both the Russians and the Ukrainians consider the facility as part of the battlefield. He doesn't care who's doing the shelling now, whether it's Russians or Ukrainians, because his mission is to prevent disasters.

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TITLE PLACEHOLDER | World In :60 | GZERO Media

Slim GOP majority traps McCarthy in US House speaker standoff

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week on World In :60.

Why is the GOP, the Republican Party, having difficulty electing a House leader?

Well, it's because they have like a razor, razor thin margin and that means that Kevin McCarthy cannot afford to lose votes even though he has 90% of the GOP ready to vote for him. That's not enough to get it done, and the Democrats are more than happy to watch the Republicans flail around for days or weeks to lose votes while they are in the majority. So as a consequence, we're going to keep having votes. Last time you had more than one vote for a house speaker was in 1923. So congratulations to the GOP on making history.

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New Year, New Me! | PUPPET REGIME | GZERO Media

New Year, New Me!

What do Vladimir Putin, MBS, Joe Biden and others want out of 2023? Don’t ask.

Watch more PUPPET REGIME!

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2022’s Geopolitical Twists and Turns: Anne-Marie Slaughter & Tom Nichols Discuss | GZERO World

2022's geopolitical twists and turns: Anne-Marie Slaughter & Tom Nichols discuss

From the rise and fall of the Roman Empire to the blink-of-an-eye tenure of British PM Liz Truss, political power is fleeting.
Just look at Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelensky.

Putin, who started 2022 as one of the most powerful leaders in the world, in many ways has now become a global pariah. Zelensky, a former comedian few trusted with a crisis, is now TIME Magazine's Person of the Year.

On GZERO World, Ian Bremmer looks back at 2022 and forward to 2023 with frequent guests of the show: New America CEO Anne-Marie Slaughter and The Atlantic staff writer Tom Nichols.

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