President of the U.S. Joe Biden said that Donald Trump’s supporters among Republicans are prone to extremism, Germany's chief of defense advises against underestimating Russia, and economists suspect that Moscow is concealing the real contraction of its economy.
Meanwhile, war columnists predict that Ukraine won’t regain its territory this year but note that it has advantages over Russia due to U.S.-supplied weapons and partisans in the occupied territories.
Biden called pro-Trump Republicans "extremists"
Joe Biden has launched a frontal attack on the Republican party as a threat to US democracy because of its subservience to Donald Trump, Financial Times writes.
The U.S. President called the "Make America Great Again" movement and its supporters as a force that threatens the country's safety.
"MAGA Republicans do not respect the constitution. They do not believe in the rule of law, they do not recognise the will of the people. They refuse to accept the results of a free election," Biden emphasized.
Biden’s words reflect growing alarm among Democrats that Trump’s grip on the Republican party has continued to grow, the article’s author believes.
The theme of the speech highlighted the extent to which the White House and many Democrats are pinning their hopes of retaining control of the House and Senate in the November midterm elections, since the victory of Republicans would paralyze the American parliament.
The President has also employed harsh rhetoric earlier: in May, Biden referred to the Republican party as the "most extreme political organization" in recent US history, and last week said Trump’s allies and supporters had embraced "semi-fascism".
Republicans reacted scathingly to Biden’s speech, saying that, instead of trying to bring the country together, the President has chosen to divide it. Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader in the House, wrote this statement on Twitter.
Meanwhile, a poll by Quinnipiac University showed that 67% of Americans think the nation’s democracy is in danger of collapse.
The New York Times also noted that in his speech, Biden warned against "a blind loyalty to a single leader and a willingness to engage in political violence."
At the same time, the U.S. President emphasized that not all republicans are MAGA-republicans and extremists.
Russia can open a second front, says a German general
The West must not underestimate Moscow's military strength, since Russia has the scope to open up a second front should it choose to do so, said Germany's highest-ranking military official, Inspector General of the Bundeswehr Eberhard Zorn, Reuters reports.
"The bulk of the Russian land forces may be tied down in Ukraine at the moment but, even so, we should not underestimate the Russian land forces' potential to open a second theater of war," he said.
Beyond the army, Russia also has a navy and air force at its disposal, the general reminded, and most of the Russian navy has not yet been deployed in the war on Ukraine.
"The Russian air force still has significant potential as well, which poses a threat to NATO too," Zorn said.
According to him, one potential hotspot is Kaliningrad, which hosts Russia's Baltic naval fleet and is a deployment location for Russian nuclear-capable Iskander missiles.
Russia has threatened to station nuclear and hypersonic weapons in Kaliningrad should Finland and Sweden join NATO. The general also supposed that Russia was not about to run out of ammunition any time soon.
Nevertheless, Zorn said he did not anticipate any far reaching offensives deep into Ukrainian territory at the moment.
Russia is concealing the contraction of its economy, analysts say
It’s hard to see how European and American sanctions imposed as a response to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine are working because Rosstat and other government agencies had first blacked out their data and then published unrealistic statements of Russia’s gross domestic product only dropping 4% and its unemployment rate hitting a record low of 3.9%, Wall Street Journal writes.
"The quality of the data is falling off a cliff," says Robin Brooks, chief economist at the Institute of International Finance in Washington.
The experts say these data don’t reflect the real picture, since Russia has long had a system of "hidden unemployment", where companies send workers on mandatory unpaid "vacations" while preserving their status as employed.
Contrary to Russian government data, the exodus of Western businesses and sanctions are devastating Russia’s economy, wrote Jeffrey Sonnenfeld and Steven Tian from Yale University’s School of Management in a July paper.
They tally over 1,000 companies, with revenue exceeding 40% of Russia’s GDP, that have exited the Russian market, resulting in 12% of Russia’s workforce losing their jobs.
Some of those businesses, like McDonald’s, have reopened under Russian owners. So the hit to GDP wouldn’t be 40%, but it is almost certainly more than 4%.
One economic sector that has performed better than the West expected is energy. Oil exports have fallen far less than expected, but Russia hasn’t reaped all the benefits of higher prices because its oil sells cheaper as compared to Western benchmarks.
Ukraine isn’t able to regain its territories quickly but has advantages over the Russians
David Ignatius, a columnist for The Washington Post, thinks that President Zelenskyy’s statements about the liberation of Ukrainian territories can set expectations too high, as he wrote in his column.
He believes that Ukraine probably won’t liberate its territory this year, or even next.
"Still, as Ukrainian forces push toward the Black Sea coast, Zelensky is delivering a defiant response to President Vladimir Putin’s claim that Ukraine is not a real country," the columnist notes.
If Ukraine’s drive toward the coast succeeds, it will restore the country’s economic viability by relieving pressure on Odesa. Moreover, it could threaten Russia’s occupation forces in Crimea.
Ukraine’s opportunity to advance is that the U.S.-supplied High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) and other precision weapons have allowed the Ukrainian military to target Russian rear headquarters, ammunition dumps, bridges, and other transport nodes. Another big advantage in this new phase of the war is the "partisan" campaign behind the lines against the Russian occupiers, the author states.
General Richard Clarke, who is retiring this week as head of U.S. Special Operations Command, explained how the United States built up its Ukrainian special operations forces (SOF) counterparts in anticipation of a coming campaign against Russian invaders.
"When the Russians invaded in February, we’d been working with Ukrainian SOF for seven years. With our assistance, they built the capacity," he pointed out.