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eyes on the U.S.

Iowa-To-New Hampshire, Through The Eyes Of Foreign Media

Marco Rubio emerges as the international media's aspirational GOP nominee.

At a Marco Rubio rally on Jan. 25 in Des Moines, Iowa
At a Marco Rubio rally on Jan. 25 in Des Moines, Iowa

PARIS — The left-to-right political spectrum is always relative to where you stand. And if you're standing in Denmark, notes the Copenhagen-based daily Politiken, Marco Rubio would be considered "far to the right." But with the Florida Senator emerging as a kinder, gentler — and yes, less right-wing — alternative to Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, the Danish newspaper acknowledged his presidential potential following a surprisingly strong third-place showing in the Iowa caucus. "He is a serious politician, and one of few candidates who has actually presented serious solutions to some of the structural challenges the U.S. faces: increasing social inequalities, globalization and the stagnated wage levels among middle-class workers," Politiken writes.

Around the world this week, echoing conversations whispered among Republican Party elites for months, Rubio is now seen as a viable GOP moderate compared to Cruz, an evangelical opportunist with a tenuous relationship with the truth, and Trump, the xenophobic real estate mogul making it up as he goes along.

Between now and November's general election, Worldcrunch will deliver a regular sampling of global coverage from all languages and corners of the world.

Between last Monday's Iowa caucus and next Tuesday's New Hampshire primary, here is a roundup of worldwide coverage of the race for the White House:

Madrid-based ABC writes that Rubio made "slow, silent" progress toward becoming a "third path" away from Cruz and Trump. The conservative daily notes that his campaign team hoped to land him second behind Trump in the upcoming New Hampshire primary. "From there, Rubio's team believes, all the options of victory will open up."

[rebelmouse-image 27089913 alt=""Capture" original_size="492x543" expand=1]

Los Angeles-based Spanish-language newspaper La Opinion dedicated an Obama-esque front page to the 44-year-old Cuban-American senator.

During a Republican debate last month, Rubio earned some cheers and laughs by quipping that Democratic Party challenger Bernie Sanders would make a great president ... of Sweden. And maybe he's right, noted Swedish daily Aftonbladet: "He wants free education, a Scandinavian-style health care system and increased minimum wages. He speaks to both the white working-class and young intellectuals, and, he produces nostalgic campaign videos with music from Simon and Garfunkel."

But Aftonbladet writes that, in truth, it isn't necessarily that simple. Hillary Clinton's politics are also quite well aligned with the way Sweden is governed.

"Sanders policies are more ambitious — but also more unrealistic … Basically, the Clinton vs. Sanders debate is about something else, namely whether it is possible to carry out reforms within the existing system, or if a popular uprising is needed to create opportunities for ‘real change.' ... Sander's response in a way reflects the Republican candidate Donald Trump's grim message, that the country is broken and dysfunctional. Small changes at the margin is meaningless."

French business newspaper Les Echos writes that the Iowa caucuses highlighted two phenomena, "the radicalization of traditional parties and the ever-growing distrust of the establishment." World affairs editor Virginie Robert describes a shrinking American white working class that "feels humiliated and abandoned" and for which "immigration, globalization and the establishment's contempt are an ordeal." She writes that Trump has committed "an authentic heist on a dying party in which bigwigs" are concerned only with lower taxes and deregulation.

"Trump's genius lies in the fact that he's brought back to the GOP people who had withdrawn from the political process altogether, galvanizing bitter and disillusioned Republicans."

But that doesn't make Trump "eligible" to be president. Instead, the journalist sees Rubio as the real winner in Iowa and potentially the "most dangerous candidate for Hillary Clinton."

Immigration, religion … and sexy first ladies?

After Bernie Sanders' surprise showing in the Democratic caucus in Iowa, where he finished in a virtual tie with Hillary Clinton, Polish radio RMF 24 noted that Sanders is the son of a Polish immigrant who came to the United States in 1921 and whose Polish relatives died during World War II. Asked how his parents would react to his candidacy, Sanders said, "For my father and mother, being a senator would already be something impossible to believe in, never mind running for president."

The Mexico City-based columnist of América Economía writes that Trump is neither a "fascist" nor "crazy," and that his anti-Mexican tirades are intended to win and keep his voters. Mexico, Luis Rubio writes (no relation to Marco!), has so far been "wisely" restrained in responding to Trump, and should consider building bridges "without giving him more fuel." He argues that the logic of rapprochement is very simple: "It is not meant to convince or dissuade him, as that is impossible, but as with all candidates in countries of key importance to us, bridges are indispensable."

Lebanon's French-language daily L'Orient-Le Jour writes that while Iowa was crucial in gauging the preferences of America's white, Protestant voters, many voters are nevertheless shedding religion as the "crux" of their electoral choice. Historian Nicole Bacharan tells the newspaper that Cruz has only recently discovered his evangelical calling, while Trump "has divorced twice and married three times, and becomes confused when citing the Holy Scriptures."

Taking an election angle that only The Donald himself could appreciate, Spain'sEl Confidencial regards Melania Trump as someone who would be possibly the "sexiest" first lady ever.

See other Melania art here.

The credibility issue

Israel's Jerusalem Post writes that "all the factors that broke against Hillary Clinton" when she lost against fellow Democrat Barack Obama in 2008 "are breaking for her in 2016." The newspaper ascribes Sanders' strong showing in Iowa to "a flirtation with socialism within the Democratic Party — a flirtation with a specific brand of liberalism that has ebbed and flowed for decades." But, the newspaper cautions, the danger for Clinton is her credibility problem and how that might impact the general election. "According to exit polls, fully one quarter of Democratic caucus-goers voted based on which candidate they deemed most honest and trustworthy — Clinton earned 10% of those voters to Sanders's 83%."

The South China Morning Post suggests that Trump is on target when he talks about the U.S. losing out on China trade deals. But writer Cathy Holcombe also implicitly notes that Trump is a prevaricator. "Here's an unsettling thought: What if Tim Cook is a liar, and Donald Trump a truth-teller," she writes, referencing Apple's chief executive. Cook's recent comments that labor costs had nothing to do with why the iPhone is manufactured in China are disingenuous, she argues. "China's huge population was its chief comparative advantage when it first opened to the world," she writes. "In the three decades that followed, the wages of U.S. low-end workers stagnated, then fell in real terms. Common sense would indicate there might be a connection."

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Wagner Group 2.0: Why Russia's Mercenary System Is Here To Stay

Many had predicted that the death last month of Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin meant the demise of the mercenary outfit. Yet signs in recent days say the private military outfit is active again in Ukraine, a reminder of the Kremlin's interest in continuing a private fighting formula that has worked all around the world.

Photograph of a Wagner soldier in the city of Artyomovsk, holding a rifle.

Ukraine, Donetsk Region - March 24, 2023: A Wagner Group soldier guards an area in the city of Artyomovsk (Bakhmut).

Cameron Manley


“Let’s not forget that there is no Wagner Group anymore,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov had declared. “Such an organization, in our eyes, does not exist.”

The August 25 statement from came less than two days after the death of Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of the infamous Russian mercenary outfit, as questions swirled about Wagner's fate after its crucial role in the war in Ukraine and other Russian military missions around the world.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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How could an independent military outfit survive after its charismatic founder's death? It seemed highly unlikely that President Vladimir Putin would allow the survival of a group after had launched a short-lived coup attempt in late June that most outside observers believe led to Prigozhin's private airplane being shot down by Russian forces on August 23.

"Wagner is over,” said the Kremlin critic and Russian political commentator Maksim Katz. “The group can’t keep going. There’s the possibility that they could continue in parts or with Defense Ministry contracts, but the group only worked with an unofficial agreement between Putin and Prigozhin.”

Yet barely a month later, and there are already multiple signs that the Wagner phoenix is rising from the ashes.

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