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How The Chaos In Washington Emboldens Moscow And Beijing

The deep dysfunction of American democracy is bringing smiles (and big ideas) to autocratic regimes around the world, convinced that it is a sign of the West in decline.

photo of biden speaking from lecturn

Biden tries to calm the waters

Shawn Thew - Pool Via Cnp/CNP via ZUMA
Pierre Haski


PARIS — Imagine you are in Vladimir Putin’s office in the Kremlin, or with Xi Jinping at Chinese government headquarters in Beijing, and you're watching political events unfold in the United States.

You see the President of the United States entrenched in a political crisis that is preventing him from passing additional aid to Ukraine, and is facing the threat of a government shutdown. The Speaker of the House has just been impeached by members of his own party. Pure political chaos, in other words, is threatening to paralyze a global superpower.

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In Moscow and Beijing, these images are enough to reinforce their view, which has been ingrained for years, that the West is facing irreversible decline. Rightly or wrongly, this view dictates their military, diplomatic and political calculations, and could lead them to make risky decisions as a result.

The most recent round of political frenzy in Washington has taken everyone by surprise. Just last week, after a compromise deal between House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Democratic Party leaders stripped $6 billion of Ukraine aid from the government budget, President Joe Biden called his European allies to reassure them that he reached a separate deal with the Republican leader to provide aid to Ukraine through a separate avenue.

But when far-right members of the House of Representatives found out about the deal and voted to impeach McCarthy, the future of aid to Ukraine has now become uncertain.

Ukraine as a domestic issue 

Biden’s tone has since changed, and he has announced a “major speech” to remind Americans of the importance of this issue. The presidential campaign, which will continue to heat up from now until November 2024, is already having far-reaching consequences. For now, it leaves 13 months of uncertainty about Ukraine aid before Americans head to the polls.

The Biden administration has workarounds, namely Executive Orders, which are presidential decrees that don’t require approval from Congress. But the president’s power is limited in this regard, and the uncertainty weakens Ukraine.

The threat of Donald Trump returning is too real to ignore.

On Thursday, at a European summit in Granada, Spain, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed confidence, but there is undoubtedly cause for concern.

photo of xi and putin walking

Xi and Putin in Moscow last March

The Kremlin Moscow/dpa via ZUMA Press

China is taking notes

The crisis in Washington shows how the subject of Ukraine has become a domestic political issue. A majority of Americans still support aid to Ukraine, but Republicans are increasingly opposed. The bipartisan approach to supporting Ukraine, which has worked until now, is in jeopardy.

Concern about the mess in Washington has also spread elsewhere in the world, notably in Taiwan, which relies on the United States to defend itself against China. The bipartisan approach against China remains intact, but the threat of Donald Trump returning to the White House is too real to ignore.

As the different American disaster scenarios begin to come into focus —in Moscow and Beijing, they are watching it all with delight.

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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

What Are Iran's Real Intentions? Watch What The Houthis Do Next

Three commercial ships traveling through the Red Sea were attacked by missiles launched by Iran-backed Yemeni Houthi rebels, while the U.S. Navy shot down three drones. Tensions that are linked to the ongoing war in Gaza conflict and that may serve as an indication as to Iran's wider intentions.

photo of Raisi of iran speaking in parliament

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi at the Iranian parliament in Tehran.

Icana News Agency via ZUMA
Pierre Haski


PARIS — It’s a parallel war that has so far claimed fewer victims and attracted less public attention than the one in Gaza. Yet it increasingly poses a serious threat of escalating at any time.

This conflict playing out in the international waters of the Red Sea, a strategic maritime route, features the U.S. Navy pitted against Yemen's Houthi rebels. But the stakes go beyond the Yemeni militants — with the latter being supported by Iran, which has a hand in virtually every hotspot in the region.

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Since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, the Houthis have been making headlines, despite Yemen’s distance from the Gaza front. Starting with missiles launched directed toward southern Israel, which were intercepted by U.S. forces. Then came attacks on ships belonging, or suspected of belonging, to Israeli interests.

On Sunday, no fewer than three commercial ships were targeted by ballistic missiles in the Red Sea. The missiles caused minor damage and no casualties. Meanwhile, three drones were intercepted and destroyed by the U.S. Navy, currently deployed in full force in the region.

The Houthis claimed responsibility for these attacks, stating their intention to block Israeli ships' passage for as long as there was war in Gaza. The ships targeted on Sunday were registered in Panama, but at least one of them was Israeli. In the days before, several other ships were attacked and an Israeli cargo ship carrying cars was seized, and is still being held in the Yemeni port of Hodeida.

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