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U.S. Elections 2016: "An American Spring" — The View From Abroad

When they're not warning us that Trump would put the world in grave danger, foreign media are trying to explain him.

Hillary Clinton cutouts in San Diego on March 22
Hillary Clinton cutouts in San Diego on March 22

Whether calling him an "imposter" and purveyor of "caveman politics," an "anti-intellectual" or a "brave" leader who's ready to face down the media establishment, newspapers around the world continue to delve into the drama of the GOP front-runner as the 2016 presidential campaign's primary story line. The phenomenon that was once a punchline, from Latin America to Asia, has instead given rise to unrestrained scolding and castigation. And occasionally attempts to explain him.

"All kinds of historical explanations have been offered for the rise of Donald Trump, but I now see a simpler one," U.S.-based British law professor Niall Ferguson writes for the Hong Kong daily South China Morning Post. "Leave aside terms like populism and fascism: This is caveman politics — not just male, but aggressively, crassly masculine. Vladimir Putin is the Russian version. Narendra Modi is the Indian version. Xi Jinping is China's macho man. Recep Tayyip Erdogan is Turkey's. They talk tough. They strike tough poses." And, he writes, contrasting Trump with the nurturing German Chancellor Angela Merkel, he "would never, ever comfort a crying girl," as Merkel once did.

Ferguson concludes, however, that Trump's tough guy act is likely to be his downfall, as women voters will reject him.

The Donald continues to dominate as Worldcrunch gathers its latest roundup of U.S. presidential campaign coverage from all corners of the world.

"From his lips gush bombast and abuse," Yassin El-Ayouty writes of Trump for Egypt's Al-Ahram weekly. "An old adage says ‘loose lips sink ships,' and Trump's lips are sinking the Republican Party. This is the ‘grand old party' (GOP) of the great liberator President Abraham Lincoln."

When he was a boy, El-Ayouty writes, he walked three miles from his Egyptian village of Kanayat in search of a library book about Lincoln. "I was captivated by that bearded and humble man who managed to free the slaves in America through the bloody victory of the North over the South and was then assassinated in 1865. Lincoln's assassination is being repeated today, but this time the assassination is of his party. The assassination is being carried out by a buffoon named Trump whose fascism is worn on his sleeve by calling for the building of a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, ridiculing blacks, women and minorities, calling for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S., even if they are returning citizens, and using his book The Art of the Deal the way Hitler once used Mein Kampf."

Egyptian author Yassin El-Ayouty — Photo: TCNJ

Likewise, Xie Tao writes for China's Economic Observerthat a perfect storm has lifted Trump's boat. "Paranoid and anti-intellectual, he couples internal and external problems with an identity crisis." Xie adds that the flashy businessman with a penchant for fast food has seized on the "deep anxiety" of America's white underclass.

Swedish lawmakers back Hillary

Earlier this month, Swedish daily Dagens Nyheterasked all members of parliament which U.S. candidate they would support. Of the 100 respondents, 47% chose Hillary Clinton and 33% her opponent Bernie Sanders. Erstwhile GOP candidate Marco Rubio, who has since dropped out of the race after losing his home state of Florida, received the most support among Republicans, while Trump received just three nods, all from members of the right-wing Sweden Democrat party. One Swedish Democrat admirer of The Donald explained his support this way: "He is a successful entrepreneur, brave, upright and will not bend to the media. With him, the U.S. will be reborn."

Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, instead, told Dagens Nyheter that he won't pick between Clinton and Sanders, but truly hopes the general election winner is a Democrat. "I'm worried about the tone of the debate on the Republican side," he said. "It's awful."

What Berlusconi begets

From the land of Silvio Berlusconi, longtime Corriere della Sera columnist Beppe Severgnini writes of the stealth emergence of Trump acolytes in Italy. "His ascendancy hasn't just provoked surprise, worry, horror (depending on one's political views and degree of sensitivity)," Severgnini writes. "He has also created, out of nowhere, legions of admirers. The ‘Trumpista': A fascinating new character who deserves to be studied."

Severgnini divides Italian Trumpistas into two categories: politicians, such as Daniela Santanché, Matteo Salvini and Antonio Razzi, who have openly expressed their admiration for him; and amateurs, who have a contrarian streak and are drawn to Trump partly because so many people can't stand him.

"In him, many voters see traces of the early Berlusconi (hair, egotism, incoherence) and the most recent Beppe Grillo (a taste for provocation)," Severgnini notes.

Dum-dum and Van Damme

Writing in Portugal's Público, political columnist Miguel Esteves Cardoso laments that "stupidity" is working. "Donald Trump is a stupid guy followed by more stupid guys. That's the truth," he writes. "And unfortunately, the United States has as many stupid people as us."

On that note, Belgian actor, martial artist and B-movie superstar Jean-Claude Van Damme has joined the long list of awkward Trump supporters.

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With The Chechen War Veterans Fighting For Ukraine — And For Revenge

They came to fight Russia, and to avenge the deaths of their loved ones and friends killed in Chechnya. Not wanting to sit in the trenches, they've found work in intelligence and sabotage.

Photo of members of the pro-Ukrainian Chechen group "Dzhokhar Dudayev Battalion" posing with weapons

Members of the pro-Ukrainian Chechen group "Dzhokhar Dudayev Battalion"

Lydia Mikhalchenko

At least five Chechen units are fighting for Ukraine, with more than 1,000 troops in each unit — and their number is growing.

Most of these Chechen fighters took part in the first and second Chechen wars with Russia, and were forced to flee to Ukraine or elsewhere in Europe after their defeat. Vazhnyye Istorii correspondent Lydia Mikhalchenko met with some of these fighters.

Four of the five Chechen battalions are part of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, and are paid the standard wages (about €4,000 per month for those on the front line) and receive equipment and supplies.

Chechen fighters say they appreciate that Ukrainian commanders don't order them to take unnecessary risks and attack objectives just to line up with an unrealistic schedule or important dates — something Russian generals are fond of doing.

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

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The experienced Chechen fighters have taken fewer losses than many other units. Unhappy sitting in trenches, they mostly engage in reconnaissance and sabotage, moving along the front lines. "The Russians wake up, and the commander is gone. Or he's dead," one of the fighters explains.

Some of the fighters say that the Ukrainian war is easier than their previous battles in Chechnya, when they had to sit in the mountains for weeks without supplies and make do with small stocks of arms and ammunition. Some call this a "five-star war."

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