Press review: Biden losing traction amid student protests and EU's right-wing prospects

MOSCOW: Student protests in the US could cost President Joe Biden his re-election bid; the European Parliament may find itself leaning more ...


MOSCOW: Student protests in the US could cost President Joe Biden his re-election bid; the European Parliament may find itself leaning more right after the upcoming election; and the EU remains split on whether to send draft-age men back to Ukraine. These stories topped Friday’s newspaper headlines across Russia.

Izvesta: Student protests could cost Biden re-election bid

Pro-Palestinian protests sweeping through dozens of US universities are spiraling into violent clashes with police. The Biden administration is facing increased difficulty in financing the Jewish state’s operation in the Gaza Strip amid a wave of anti-Israeli sentiment, which may spill over into the upcoming Democratic and Republican conventions, Izvestia writes.

The situation in Gaza continues to be a hot-button issue in Washington, particularly within the Democratic Party, despite the recent passing of a bill on aid to Israel by the US Congress. Continuing to support Israel could be a problem for the Biden administration going forward as it may decide that any additional assistance should be tied to changes in the country’s policies, Professor Richard Bensel of New York’s Cornell University told Izvestia.

On the election front, the incumbent US president is already losing young voters. Recent opinion polls show that Biden’s support in the under 30 cohort has dropped from 60% to 45% in the past four years. Many Americans are likely either to not vote in the November presidential election at all or cast their ballots for independent candidates, which could cost Biden his re-election bid. Robert Francis Kennedy Jr. (RFK Jr.), who comes from a famous political dynasty, and philosopher Cornel West are most likely to take votes away from Biden.

Peter Kuznick, Professor of History at American University in Washington, D.C., believes that the student demonstrations will die down as summer vacation draws near. However, more protests are to be expected during party conventions this summer, when the Democratic and Republican parties will select their presidential candidates. Still, the situation is unlikely to escalate into outright rebellion as the majority of ordinary Americans are too busy with their daily lives to worry about the Gaza crisis, the expert noted.

Vedomosti: European Parliament may lean more right following upcoming election

The European Parliament election set for June 6-9 will lead to a significant rise in the number of far-right lawmakers, Vedomosti writes, citing a report by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR).

"Although the European Parliament is not the most prominent of the European Union's institutions, its members will influence a number of important things, including the ability of the European Commission and the Council of the EU to implement green policy measures," Artyom Sokolov, a researcher with the European Studies Institute at Moscow State Institute of International Relations, points out. Right-wing and far-right parties are seeing high approval ratings ahead of the election, a sign that EU citizens are dissatisfied with the current policies of Brussels and their national governments, he noted.

The right-wing enthusiasm in the European Parliament election is not based on the rising popularity of right-wing parties per se but on an increasing number of people wanting to vote as a form of protest, Vladislav Belov, deputy director of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Europe, explained.

EU citizens usually "vote with their heart" in the European Parliament election, while they are more cautious in national elections, Russia in Global Affairs Editor-in-Chief Fyodor Lukyanov added. The reason is that when voting for far-right candidates, voters don’t risk anything because in fact, the European Parliament’s activities in no way affect their everyday life.

The upward trend in the number of far-right populists in the European Parliament may carry some intrigue but it will hardly change anything, Lukyanov said. Belov agrees that the election’s outcome will not lead to radical changes for the EU leadership.

Izvestia: EU divided on whether to send draft-age men back to Ukraine

Ukrainian refugees seeking to avoid compulsory military service are not welcome in the Czech Republic, the country’s Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky told Izvestia, meaning Prague may join the list of countries seeking to send draft-age men back to Ukraine.

Experts point out that the European Union is divided on the issue. Warsaw said in late April that it was ready to help Ukraine get men aged between 18 and 60 years back. Lithuania was amenable to the Polish initiative. However, Estonia said it had no plans to deport Ukrainians liable for military service. Austria and Hungary stressed last fall that they would not send draft dodgers back to Ukraine. In mid-April, Ukraine passed a law tightening mobilization rules. Now, men between the age of 18 and 60 will be able to receive consular services abroad only upon presenting a military ID. If they don’t have one, they will have to go back to Ukraine and visit an enlistment office.

Karine Bechet-Golovko, doctor of public law and visiting professor at Moscow State University, believes that Europe is actively looking for a mechanism to send draft-age men back to Ukraine. "On the one hand, European politicians don’t like the idea of deportation because they don’t want to look like the bad guy, but on the other hand, they are facing a dilemma of either sending Ukrainian nationals back home or conducting mobilization in their own countries," the expert said. Last September, the EU extended temporary protection for Ukrainian refugees until March 2025. The expert says the EU may not prolong temporary asylum for men of military age and stop providing such a status to them.

Currently, the issue of sending Ukrainian men back home is only creating divisions inside the European Union, Bogdan Bezpalko, member of the Russian Presidential Council on Interethnic Relations, emphasized. "There is an apparent contradiction between the desire of European elites to provide Ukraine with an opportunity to replenish combat losses and the need to respect the rights of refugees," he explained.

Vedomosti: New US sanctions against China fuel concerns of escalating trade war

On May 1, the US Department of the Treasury added 20 companies from China, including Hong Kong, to the Specially Designated Nationals And Blocked Persons List (SDN) over their cooperation with Russia. Washington specifically cited their assistance to Moscow in circumventing the existing restrictions and alleged promotion of the Russian defense industry. Chinese officials say that Beijing will continue defending its right to trade with other countries, claiming economic cooperation with Russia is not directed against third countries.

Beijing is highly likely to retaliate against the May 1 sanctions imposed by the US, putting US companies active in China in the crosshairs, Vasily Kashin, director of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies at the Higher School of Economics, said. The expert points out that in 2021, China adopted a law on countering foreign sanctions. The legislation makes it possible to punish any American entity for complying with US sanctions against China. Perhaps, penalizing companies for maintaining ties with Russia was not the actual goal of the US move. The situation around ZTE and Huawei is worth mentioning here: they came under sanctions due to their alleged support for Iran but in fact, US restrictions were aimed at driving Huawei from the global 5G market. That said, the new measures could be part of the ongoing technology standoff between China and the US, Kashin concluded.

Beijing is unlikely to back down to save companies from sanctions. This means that Beijing and Washington will move on to another round in their trade war, Sergey Lukonin, head of the Chinese economy and politics sector at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economy and International Relations, said.

The US authorities are in fact ready to continue imposing sanctions, Sergey Tsyplakov, professor with the Department of the Global Economy at the Higher School of Economics, noted. However, Washington does not have a clear roadmap. The key question at this point is how willing Chinese financial and economic institutions are to follow US demands. Notably, an escalation of economic relations would mean a return to a Donald Trump-era trade war, the expert warned.

Kommersant: Surplus supply pushing oil prices down

The global benchmark Brent crude oil price has dropped below $83 per barrel. The market situation is due to both easing geopolitical tensions and an increase in US oil reserves coupled with the Federal Reserve’s continued clampdown in policy, Kommersant writes.

US commercial oil reserves rose by 7.3 mln barrels to 460.9 mln barrels in the week ending April 26, the US Department of Energy reported. This was the highest weekly increase since early February. Reserve growth is increasing the risk that the US, a major oil purchaser, will withdraw from the market, Tsifra Broker analyst Natalia Pyryeva pointed out.

Easing geopolitical risks are also pushing oil prices down. "Oil prices have grown by $5-7 per barrel since last October amid the war between Israel and Hamas, a Red Sea navigation ban and the possibility of Iran getting directly involved in military operations. However, the risk seems to be decreasing," Ronald Smith, senior analyst at BCS World of Investments, said.

The increasingly harsh rhetoric of the US Federal Reserve is another important factor. This week, the regulator kept the key rate at 5.5%, the highest level in 23 years, and signaled that high rates were here to stay as progress in reducing inflation had stalled. According to Sovcombank Chief Analyst Mikhail Vasilyev, high interest rates continue to slow down global economic growth, which is having a negative impact on commodity prices. "After Russia voluntarily reduced output by another 500,000 barrels per day, the oil market stabilized but the wobbly US economy may throw things off balance," Smith said.

Kirill Bakhtin, senior analyst at Sinara investment bank, does not rule out that prices could slightly rise ahead of the summer season. The OPEC+’s early June discussion of production quotas will be an important event that will largely influence the oil market situation in the second half of the year.


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Local Glob: Press review: Biden losing traction amid student protests and EU's right-wing prospects
Press review: Biden losing traction amid student protests and EU's right-wing prospects
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