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Protestors gather outside the U.S. Supreme Court ahead of the oral arguments in two cases that challenge President Joe Biden's $400 billion student loan forgiveness plan.

Megan Smith-USA TODAY via Reuters Connect

What We’re Watching: SCOTUS mulling student debt relief, Blinken visiting Central Asia, Biden's partial TikTok ban, Petro’s post-honeymoon phase

US Supreme Court weighs student loan forgiveness

The US Supreme Court began hearing arguments on Tuesday in a pair of cases that will test the limitations of presidential power and could derail Joe Biden’s plan to forgive $400 billion in student debt. Biden campaigned on debt relief, promising to help families burdened by the pandemic-fueled economic crisis. But now the court will decide whether Biden has the authority to forgive student loans. The White House cites a 2003 law aimed at alleviating hardship suffered by federal student loan recipients following a national emergency, but opponents say debt relief should require congressional approval. Biden hopes to fulfill his campaign promise ahead of next year’s presidential race, and millions of millennials and Gen-Z scholars – many of whom could see up to $20,000 of their federal student loan debt wiped away – will be waiting with bated breath. A decision will drop before the court adjourns in June, but so far, justices in the conservative majority seem critical of Biden’s move.

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Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon, and Turkmen President Serdar Berdymukhamedov pose for a picture during the Central Asia-Russia summit in Astana, Kazakhstan.

REUTERS/Turar Kazangapov

Bickering picks up steam in Russia’s backyard


Since it invaded Ukraine, Russia hasn't just been making enemies – it’s also been losing friends. Some Central Asian countries – considered part of Russia’s backyard thanks to their Soviet heritage – have begun distancing themselves from Moscow.

Tensions have been building: In October, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon told Vladimir Putin at a summit that his country needs “more respect.” At September’s Shanghai Cooperation Organization conference, Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov kept Putin waiting before a meeting. And last week, four of Russia’s treaty allies – Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan — abstained from a vote in the UN General Assembly that demanded Moscow pay war reparations to Ukraine.

“Central Asian Republics have always wanted to be free of Russian influence. Seeing Russia falter in Ukraine, they sense their opportunity,” says Husain Haqqani, director for Central and South Asia at Washington’s Hudson Institute.

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