What We’re Watching: Ukraine's gains, Democrats' midterm odds, IMF to offer food aid

Ukrainian troops in the midst of the conflict to take back control of Kharkiv province from Russian forces.

Reuters

Jubilant Ukrainians continue to advance

Ukraine’s military gains of the past few days have emboldened its fighters and leaders. An attack meant to test Russian strength at various points along the front in northeast Kharkiv province became a major counteroffensive when many Russians simply abandoned their equipment and ran. As of Monday, Ukraine has grabbed more territory in five days than the Russian military captured in the past five months. To demonstrate it can still inflict punishment, Russia responded with an artillery blitz aimed at knocking out electricity and water, initially causing widespread outages across Ukraine. But President Volodymyr Zelensky captured the Ukrainian mood on social media with a response aimed at Moscow: “We will be without gas, lights, water and food … and WITHOUT you!” Ukraine’s defense minister has warned his forces to brace for a Russian counterattack, though it appears Russia lacks the manpower and the weapons for an effective near-term military response in Kharkiv province. Russia’s war effort is not collapsing. Its forces remain dug in across much of the Donbas region and along the Black Sea coast. Though Ukraine has seized momentum, this war is far from finished. But Ukrainian forces have again demonstrated that, whatever the Kremlin claims, Putin’s war is not going to plan.


US midterm elections: Do Dems stand a chance?

Political analysts long predicted that midterm elections this November would be a washout, with Republicans slated to gain control of both chambers of Congress. It’s a common trend in midterms, which are seen as a referendum on the current president – and a poor showing for Dems would be consistent with President Joe Biden’s record-low polling numbers in recent months. But some surveys now suggest that after a series of legislative wins over the summer, the Democrats could retain a narrow majority in the Senate and lose the House – but only just. According to FiveThirtyEight’s aggregation of polls, support for Democrats in a general election is currently running at 45%, just ahead of the GOP's 43.7%. However, some analysts are questioning whether the polls could be wrong … again. After polling proved to be dismal in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election, forecasts for 2020 were more accurate. Still, they overstated Biden’s lead in several swing states, including Ohio and North Carolina, that Trump ended up winning. Yet other pollsters say that this year’s vote could buck the midterm trend in part because of one key issue: abortion. The Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade already proved to be a galvanizing force in Kansas. Will it affect Dems' chances in crucial districts come November?

IMF to unveil food aid program

The International Monetary Fund will reportedly issue emergency funding to emerging-market economies suffering from shortages due to the global food crisis caused largely by the war in Ukraine. Though details remain scarce, the IMF board is reportedly weighing whether to dole out funds to help import-reliant countries acquire food at a time when much of the world’s grain supply has been stuck at Ukrainian Black Sea ports because of a Russian blockade. (A recent deal brokered by Turkey has seen some grain shipments start to resume.) Before the war, Ukraine and Russia accounted for almost one third of global wheat exports, but food prices have surged and supply has dwindled since Russia invaded Ukraine, leading some crisis-ridden countries, like Somalia, to the brink of famine. Importantly, the IMF deal would not impose the strict conditions of regular IMF funding, which often requires cash-strapped governments to impose unpopular reforms. What’s more, it would temporarily lift low-income country's borrowing quotas by 50%. Indeed, this sort of temporary no-strings-attached lending could boost the image of the notoriously strict IMF at a time when China has emerged as an “IMF competitor,” doling out billions of dollars to at-risk nations without demanding structural reforms in return.

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