"THIS is not a time to be complacent; that is why I am running for re-election.” The words of Joe Biden as he unveiled his 2024 presidential re-election campaign last Tuesday, four years to the day since he launched his successful bid to knock Donald Trump out of the White House.

With Biden’s announcement and current polls showing Trump the most likely Republican nominee, we could be set for a rematch that most Americans do not want. That much was borne out in an NBC News survey last week that showed 70% of respondents ¬saying Biden shouldn’t run and 60% saying Trump shouldn’t.

Americans it seems have a certain trepidation as to what such an election sequel would bring. As the Boston Globe and MSNBC columnist Michael A Cohen observed last week, the US political landscape right now is one characterised by apprehension.

“We are living in an era of extreme polarisation in which fear, not hope, is the great driver of electoral outcome,” Cohen wrote, highlighting too why it’s precisely this atmosphere of fear that both men will harness as part of their campaign strategies.

For Biden the rematch will be framed in terms of an existential threat to US democracy from Trump and his “Make America Great Again” (MAGA) Republicans. That much was clear from a video posted last Tuesday to coincide with Biden’s announcement to stand.

Against images of the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol, Biden said the question the US was facing “is whether in the years ahead we have more freedom or less freedom, more rights or fewer”. He added that “around the country … extremists are lining up to take on those bedrock freedoms”.

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According to Democrats framing the rematch around the fear of what another Trump presidency would bring is ¬helpful to them. Not that Trump is the only Republican to have thrown his hat into the ring, with other hopefuls either having committed or expected to announce their contention in due course.

Among them is former governor of South Carolina and Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley. Then there is Trump’s vice president Mike Pence who broke with his former boss over the 2021 attack by Trump supporters on the US Capitol.

The other notable Republican contender Florida governor, Ron DeSantis who has styled himself as Trump but without the drama that surrounds the former president, has yet to announce but has made all the traditional moves of a would-be presidential candidate.

That said, DeSantis, perhaps while arguably the most credible rival for the 2024 GOP nomination, has recently been seriously flagging behind Trump in the polls.

In other words, wildcards remain here and only the foolhardiest this early on would cast next year’s battle for the White House as a straight Biden-Trump contest.

But should it come down to that, what would be the likely outcome?

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The inescapable fact remains that for much of his presidency Biden has battled persistently low approval ratings. Still, most national opinion polls suggest Biden would beat Trump in a rematch even if they suggest too that he would be more likely to struggle against a different Republican candidate.

These lacklustre approval ratings and concerns about his age have undoubtedly generated scepticism over his candidacy. At 80 years old, Biden is already the oldest president in United States history and if elected, he would be 86 at the end of his second term – nearly a decade older than the US male life expectancy.

In response to such concerns Biden’s allies and most Democrats believe he is very much still up for the job, given that he has received clean bills of health from his doctors. They point out too that age-wise, only three years separates him from Trump. But voter perception -matters here, and the talk of Biden’s age is markedly more than that surrounding Trump.

The latter is sure to make much of this in his campaign speeches, but ultimately, should it come down to a contest ¬between the two men, it will be their track records in office and trust that will count more than anything.

The one thing certain is that once again it would be a bitter political contest in which the gloves will come off.

Writing in The New Yorker magazine a few days ago, columnist Susan B Glasser described it thus: “In theory, the attack ads should write themselves: Joe Biden, calm, cool, and collected in his trademark aviator sunglasses, governing from the centre, while the Trump circus, with all its chaos and extremism, plays on.”

Only the coming months will tell if that’s how it plays put. After all, we’re not quite at that stage yet.

Risk of regional spillover grows as fighting continues

SITTING as it does at the crossroads of the Indian Ocean, Horn of Africa and Arab world, it’s difficult to overstate Sudan’s geostrategic importance.

“What happens in Sudan, will not stay in Sudan,” was how one analyst summed up the ongoing crisis tearing apart what territorially is Africa’s third largest country.

“All of Sudan’s neighbours are struggling with political instability, civil wars and insurgencies. The longer the fight drags on, the more likely it will spill over,” explained Mucahid Durmaz, senior analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, a risk intelligence company, speaking to the Financial Times last week. It’s a view shared by many regional observers who believe the violent power struggle between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) led by respective rival generals Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, better known as Hemedti, will almost certainly spill over.

In many ways, it already has, with tens of thousands of refugees crossing borders into neighbouring countries like Chad and South Sudan.

Sudan borders seven nations – Egypt, South Sudan, Chad, Central African Republic, Libya, Ethiopia and Eritrea – each of which have faced war, violent civil unrest or political upheaval in recent years. In the north, Egypt relies on Sudan as a bulwark against political upheaval and a partner in regional water disputes. Egypt and Sudan, which both rely on the Nile for fresh water, are concerned about threats to their supplies from the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) project upstream on the Blue Nile. The two nations have pushed to regulate the Ethiopian dam’s operation. Any tension in ties between Khartoum and Cairo could disrupt their efforts to secure a deal.

READ MORE: Government agrees to include NHS doctors on flights out of Sudan

The fighting in Sudan, and resulting power vacuums, could also fuel political instability in its western neighbour Chad which hosts refugees, most of whom are from Darfur. During the Darfur conflict, Chad faced cross-border raids from Sudan’s Arab militias, known as the Janjaweed, which morphed into the RSF. Chad also worries that Russia’s mercenary Wagner Group in neighbouring Central African Republic, who are reported to have close ties with RSF, could back Chadian rebels and threaten its government. W agner mercenaries are also reportedly active in Sudan’s north-western neighbour, Libya, which has been in a state of armed chaos since the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi in 2012. According to recently leaked secret US intelligence documents Wagner is moving to establish a “confederation” of anti-Western states in Africa and are already believed to be involved in Sudan’s conflict according to US secretary of state, Antony Blinken.

“We do have deep concern about the engagement of the Prigozhin group (the Wagner Group) in Sudan … Its engagement simply brings more death and destruction with it,” Blinken said in a statement.

This weekend, as strikes by air, tanks and artillery rocked Sudan’s capital Khartoum and the adjacent city of Bahri in breach of a 72-hour truce extension announced by the SAF and RSF, fears are growing of outside powers becoming embroiled. “The power struggle in Sudan is lighting a fuse that could detonate across borders, causing immense suffering for years, and setting development back for decades,” warned UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. The days ahead will be crucial if that detonation is to be avoided.

Kyiv stockpiles weapons as spring counteroffensive looms

UKRAINIANS call it “bezdorizhzhya”, which literally translates as the “roadlessness” season. It’s that period between winter and spring when the snow melts and everything turns to mud. Already it is making things difficult for the Ukrainian military as it prepares for a much-anticipated counteroffensive against Russian forces which according to Ukrainian defence minister Oleksii Reznikov is largely ready to go ahead.

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“As soon as there is God’s will, the weather and a decision by commanders, we will do it,” Rezniko told an online news briefing a few days ago. But there is another factor too that will be crucial to the success or failure of Ukraine’s counteroffensive which it hopes will shift the tide in a war that lately has largely been one of attrition – weapons supplies. The United States is by far the biggest single supplier and according to the Pentagon the Ukraine supply mission is the largest authorised transfer of arms in history from the US military to a foreign nation.

According to a detailed article in Time magazine, more than 1400 trucks, 230 planes, and 11 cargo ships ferried arms to Ukraine in the first four months of this year alone. The article also gives some idea of the cost with the price tag being massive. It’s estimated that US taxpayers have spent $35.4 billion on security aid for Ukraine since Russia invaded on February 24, 2022 – more than $3 million per hour. But staggering as such figures are, the recent leak of classified US intelligence documents dating to February and March are said to show substantial gaps in what allies had pledged to Ukraine and what, at least by then, had been delivered.

READ MORE: World military spending hits record high amid war in Ukraine

That said, American and other Western officials have since noted that additional weapons and supplies have been streaming into Ukraine in the weeks since those assessments were made. One top US military commander, European Command’s General Christopher Cavoli, last week said Ukraine’s military forces have all the equipment, weapons and ammunition they need. “I am very confident that we have delivered the materiel that they need and will continue a pipeline to sustain their operations,” Cavoli told US politicians. His assessment chimes with that of Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who confirmed that Kyiv’s foreign allies and partners had delivered almost all their promised combat vehicles to Ukraine.

While the launch of the offensive appears to be coming into focus, it’s unclear whether it will be as successful as previous Ukrainian operations with many analysts saying that even with new armour and weapons, heavy Russian fortifications will prove formidable. The coming weeks look set to be testing ones for both Ukraine and Russia and might well determine the outcome of the war.

Why Taiwan will play a role in today’s tight election

FOR the last three-quarters of a century, the ruling Colorado Party has dominated Paraguayan politics, in power for all but five years. But as this country of just under seven million people goes to the polls today, all that could change. Though it will be a tight race. Polls in Paraguay conducted by Brazilian pollster Atlas between April 20-24 gave Efraín Alegre’s broad centre-left alliance a narrow lead over Santiago Peña of the ruling Colorado Party.

Both candidates were losing ground to a third-placed challenger, the populist Paraguayo Cubas. A single round of voting means that the winner of today’s vote is elected president.

Two issues have dominated the election. The first is corruption after a string of graft allegations against key Colorado Party leaders. The second is the unlikely issue of Taiwan after leading opposition candidate Alegre, has signalled support for forging a new path with China that could bring economic benefits Taiwan can’t match. Paraguay’s conservative candidate Peña meanwhile has pledged to maintain ties to Taiwan.

Paraguay’s close alliance with Taiwan dates to the 1954-89 dictatorship of General Alfredo Stroessner, who admired the Taiwanese autocrat and fellow anti-communist, General Chiang Kai-shek. Admittedly, the Taiwan-China choice has attracted more attention abroad than within Paraguay, where voters are primarily concerned about issues like poverty, the spread of organised crime, and the recent corruption scandals. But for years Paraguay’s powerful farming lobby has complained that recognition of Taiwan rather than China is costing billions of dollars in export revenue and in a farm-driven economy, this matters.

“We’re a food-producing nation that is not selling to the world’s biggest buyer of food,” Pedro Galli, the head of the Paraguayan Rural Association (ARP), told Reuters news agency. His organisation represents some 3000 local farmers.

Among diplomatic circles in Paraguay’s capital Asunción, there is a sense a switch is inevitable, regardless of the election outcome.

“With Paraguay it is a matter of when, not if,” a senior European diplomat told Reuters, adding that given the pressures from the local business community and the fragile global economy, Paraguay could switch “within the next two years”.

Were Paraguay to recognise China it would become the final South American nation to cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan which is facing an uphill battle against Beijing’s economic muscle to keep its remaining 13 allies worldwide. It would also be a fresh sign of China’s growing clout in an area Washington has long regarded as its backyard. But today it’s the people of Paraguay who will decide.