A Blog by Jonathan Low


Nov 14, 2022

How Ukraine "Won" US Midterm Elections As Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Israel Lost

US support for Ukraine will now continue to be unwavering after Republicans, receiving the favor of dictators such Putin, had signaled less fulsome backing if they won. 

A reminder, in global politics, that if "you come for the king, you best not miss." JL

Max Boot comments in the Washington Post:

If Republicans won power, Ukraine would no longer have a “blank check.” (But) Democrats had one of the strongest showings in midterms in the past century. Dictators and right-wing populists hoping Trump would return to power are disappointed. A U.S. aid cutoff is Putin’s best bet to win the war. The Kremlin again activated trolls and bots before the election to help the MAGA movement. China (also) benefits from a weak president and a divided America. Saudi Arabia refused to maintain high oil production in what was seen as an attempt to hurt Biden politically. Netanyahu, returning as Israel’s prime minister, is another leader who preferred Trump. “You come at the king, you best not miss.”

Democrats just had one of the strongest showings in the past century for a president’s party in midterm elections, while many of the candidates endorsed by former president Donald Trump lost. Those results are not only shaking up domestic politics — they will also reverberate abroad. Dictators and right-wing populists who were hoping that Trump would return to power are sure to be disappointed, while the United States’ democratic allies can breathe a little easier.

Both Kyiv and Moscow were watching the election results closely. Ukrainians were apprehensive that if Republicans won power, U.S. aid to their country would be cut off. That’s a legitimate concern, given that Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who may be the next House speaker, said that Ukraine would no longer have a “blank check.”

In fact, given the Russian army’s dismal combat performance, a U.S. aid cutoff is Vladimir Putin’s best bet to win the war. That helps to explain why the Kremlin once again activated its trolls and bots before Election Day to help the MAGA movement. Russian propagandists even said that Putin avoided announcing the Russian withdrawal from Kherson until the day after the vote so as not to give Democrats a victory.

Another country that might have benefited from a Democratic defeat is China. That’s not because Republicans are pro-China; while there is a lot of sympathy for Putin in MAGA world, there is none for Xi Jinping. But as the United States’ foremost geostrategic challenger, China benefits from a weak president and a divided America.

Xi just won another five years in power from the Chinese Communist Party conference. He would be in a stronger position meeting Biden on Monday, at the Group of 20 summit in Bali, if the U.S. president had just suffered repudiation at the polls. While Biden hasn’t had his term extended, he has been given a new lease on life: He won’t be a lame duck for the next two years. That enables him to parley with Xi from a position of greater strength — all the more so since inflation slowed in October, suggesting that the U.S. economy may avoid a recession.

The election was also being closely watched in the Middle East, where many of the United States’ illiberal allies have been pining for the days when Trump gave them a pass on their atrocious human rights records. I recently talked with a reporter from an Arab country who told me that her government is locking up more journalists while ignoring protests from the State Department because its rulers are counting on Trump to come back in two years. That seems less likely now, which adds to the pressure on Arab states to listen more carefully to what the Biden administration is telling them.


A test case will be in Egypt, where the administration is doing “everything we can” (in the words of national security adviser Jake Sullivan) to secure the release of British Egyptian political prisoner Alaa Abdel Fattah, who is on a hunger strike in an Egyptian prison. Biden just met with Egyptian ruler Abdel Fatah El-Sisi at the climate summit in Sharm el-Sheikh. Sisi may still not do the right thing, but he at least has more incentive to listen to what the U.S. president says now than he might have had a week ago.

Another Middle Eastern regime that has been giving Biden the middle finger is Saudi Arabia. In July, Biden traveled to the kingdom to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman despite his role in ordering the murder of Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi. Biden hoped to win agreement from Saudi Arabia to maintain high oil production to moderate inflationary pressure since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

MBS, as he’s widely known, refused to oblige in what was widely seen as an attempt to hurt Biden politically and usher in the return of his MAGA friends. The Wall Street Journal reported that MBS “mocks President Biden in private … has told advisers he hasn’t been impressed with Mr. Biden since his days as vice president, and much preferred former President Donald Trump.”


Well, as Omar Little said in “The Wire,” “You come at the king, you best not miss.” MBS missed — and now he will have to deal with an empowered Biden.

Benjamin Netanyahu, who is returning as Israel’s prime minister, is yet another Middle Eastern leader who preferred Trump to Biden. Now he will have to listen more carefully when Biden tells him not to annex parts of the West Bank as demanded by the right-wing members of his coalition.

I don’t want to exaggerate the impact of the election. The United States remains divided politically, and Republicans may still take over the House. But the unexpectedly strong showing by Democrats leaves Biden in a stronger position not only at home but also abroad. U.S. democracy looks healthier today than it did a week ago — to the delight of fellow democracies and the dismay of dictatorships.

e a lift to Biden and Democrats. Democrats still did well — and Russia did badly.


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