Biden’s Unstable Midterm Position

As the war in Ukraine continues, President Joe Biden and his European allies’ conflict with Vladimir Putin grows by the day. At the same time, the military and political buildup between the U.S. and China have become a subject for discussion in many circles. The General Assembly of the United Nations also recently reconvened with a near unprecedented air of lifelessness, and the secretary-general continues to warn about two great dangers: the collapse of the decision-making power balance at the U.N. and the serious potential of a nuclear weapon strike in Ukraine, along with the danger of a troop buildup between the U.S. and China.

Amid such global chaos, and with confrontation looming among these three global superpower members of the U.N. Security Council who hold veto power, two news stories have stood out and made international headlines.

First, the U.S. midterm elections have garnered global attention due to the unprecedented level of competition between the two political parties. The history of party-based political races in the U.S. shows that midterm elections, which decide which party holds a majority in the House of Representatives and Senate, are just a prelude to the economic, political and security agenda the U.S. will pursue in the ensuing presidential election. Previous election cycles between the Democrats and Republicans have shown that predictions remain in flux and can change up until Election Day. With less than a month before elections take place, the latest predictions are that either party could pull ahead and pick up a fragile majority with just a few seats in the House or the Senate. This relatively unstable situation speaks to how Americans are dissatisfied with both parties and the state of the government in Washington.

The approaching midterms project an aura of uncertainty, particularly because there is a growing trend of voter apathy among Americans. A Tehran newspaper recently published an article entitled “U.S. Elections under an Aura of Uncertainty,” which mentioned that “The U.S. faces one of its strangest midterm election cycles ever. If the election had taken place a month ago, we could have predicted the makeup of Congress between Democrats and Republicans. Democrats had the upper hand in the Senate and the Republicans in the House, but now everything has become uncertain.”

After analyzing U.S. and European media, the article concludes that the upcoming elections will be abnormal and unpredictable. “Exactly one month remains until the day of the elections and Republicans are trending toward taking the House of Representatives in November. But in the Senate, the results depend on the millions of dollars that are expected to play a pivotal role in the so-called battleground states. According to The New York Times, for nearly two decades, midterm elections have been filled with alternating party waves: ‘toward Democrats in 2006; toward Republicans in 2010 and 2014; and back toward Democrats in 2018.’ However, as the first mail-in ballots go out to voters, the results of the 2022 midterm elections on Nov. 8 seem to be unusually unpredictable.”

The results of these elections will mark a change in foreign and domestic policy in the United States. Traditionally, we see that the midterms determine future policy in two ways: by influencing the presidential election that follows two years later and by influencing domestic and foreign policy in the meantime. Domestically, the midterms will change the federal government’s economic and monetary policies, and in foreign policy, we will have to wait and see how they affect ongoing crises (the war in Ukraine and the conflict with China). In the meantime, European governments — including the U.K., France, and Germany — are worried about how the midterms might affect the current and future war in Ukraine.

The second story making headlines is the ongoing energy war over gas and oil prices. Since the beginning of the war between Biden and Putin in Ukraine, many governments, in particularly Germany and France, have suddenly sounded the alarm that an energy crisis is looming for this fall and winter. The alarm has only grown louder since Saudi Arabia, Russia and the rest of OPEC+ announced a decrease in oil production of 10 million barrels daily.* The story, which many media outlets say is a manipulation of international markets by OPEC+, is this: “The OPEC+ group of nations, which includes the members of OPEC as well as several of their allies, took the unprecedented decision in 2020 to decrease their oil production by 10 million barrels per day because of a decrease in oil demand, with the goal of strengthening the price of oil. As demand increased, the group set on gradually increasing production. But with current market trends, the group plans to decrease production by 2 million barrels a day.”

In addition to its effects on the world economy, this decision by OPEC+ will also have political and even security ramifications, in particular, because the European nations are always frightened by the prospect of a cold winter and a lack of fuel. Several articles, critiques and analyses in Western media have mentioned that OPEC’s decision could even have a negative effect on the upcoming U.S. midterms for Biden and his party. One Tehran-based economic daily criticized the decision by OPEC+, saying that, “The price of the OPEC Basket has recorded significant growth over the past few days. The OPEC Basket contains 13 types of raw oil from the members of the group including Iran Heavy, Angolan Grassol, Indonesian Minas, Arab Light from Saudi Arabia, Basra Light, Saharan Blend from Algeria, Kuwait Export, Rabi Light from Gabon, Es Sider from Libya, Bonny Light from Nigeria, Murban from the U.A.E, Djeno from Congo and Merey from Venezuela. Under these circumstances we will have to wait and see what effect this new decision by OPEC+ will have on the price of oil, as well as what consequences it will have for the world economy!”

President Biden expressed his concerns about the move by OPEC+, which he says was designed and carried out by Saudi Arabia and Russia, adding that he is currently reviewing potential responses to this decision.

*Translator’s Note: OPEC announced it will decrease production by 2 million barrels per day.

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