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SnapshotsOct 20, 2020 | 17:49 GMT
A satellite image shows Europe at night.
The U.S. Ramps Up Financial Support to Central and Eastern Europe
U.S. financial support for the Three Seas Initiative shows the White House remains committed to its security and economic engagements in Central and Eastern Europe, with an eye on countering China and Russia’s presence in the region. On Oct. 19, the United States announced that it will contribute $300 million to the Three Seas Initiative Investment Fund, which finances cross-border energy, transport and digital infrastructure projects in the regions between the Baltic, Black and Adriatic Seas, raising its capital base to over $1.3 billion. The United States will use cooperation with the Three Seas Initiative to compete with China and Russia for influence in Central and Eastern Europe, as well as promote its foreign policy agenda in the region (which does not always align with that of the European Union). However, internal divisions among Three Seas Initiative countries will limit the effectiveness of such U.S. influence campaigns by weakening the group’s
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SnapshotsOct 19, 2020 | 22:14 GMT
A protester uses a loudspeaker to talk to the crowd during an anti-government rally in Bangkok, Thailand, on Oct. 19, 2020.
Gauging the Thai Government’s Response to Growing Protests
The recent escalation of the monthslong Thai student protest movement will compel the government to step up its restrictions on dissent and intensify efforts to co-opt the protesters’ less controversial demands through a limited constitutional reform process. This could cause protests to drag on amid continued controversy over the scope and pace of such amendments, even as it eases overall public support for demonstrations. Between Oct. 13 and Oct. 19, Thai protesters turned out on the streets of Bangkok for the most sustained period of protest-related disruptions since the movement kicked off in earnest in July. Demonstrators also appeared in 20 other locations nationwide in smaller numbers. 
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AssessmentsOct 15, 2020 | 16:08 GMT
A close-up view shows the Alipay logo in Ant Group’s office in Shanghai, China, on Aug. 28, 2020.
The U.S. Sets Its Eyes on Chinese Fintech Companies
The U.S. government will likely increase restrictions on the use of Chinese payment systems in the United States, but any decisions regarding broader action on Chinese data acquisition is unlikely ahead of the U.S. election in November. On Sept. 30, senior Trump administration officials reportedly discussed imposing new restrictions on WeChat Pay and Alipay -- the two payment apps owned by the Chinese fintech giants Tencent and Ant Group, respectively. Some White House officials have advocated for wider restrictions that could affect the use of the payment apps outside the United States as part of the administration’s push to limit China’s overall access to the U.S. market due to national security concerns. But any initial U.S. restrictions will likely be limited to WeChat Pay and Alipay’s specific use in the United States and its access to U.S. technology in order to limit the risk of provoking Chinese retaliation and/or self-inflicted
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SnapshotsOct 13, 2020 | 15:52 GMT
The Turkish military activates the S-400 missile system from Russia at an airbase in Ankara on Nov. 25, 2019.
What to Expect From Turkey’s Upcoming Missile System Test
Turkey is poised to soon test its new Russian S-400 missile system, betting that the immediate U.S. pushback will remain symbolic and not include sanctions. Turkey has signaled it will test the S-400 missile system near the Black Sea province of Sinop from Oct. 13-16, according to a “notice to airmen” from the Turkish government that warned of unspecific missile testing. Washington already ended Turkey’s participation in the F-35 program as punishment for purchasing the S-400 system, which it fears will provide Moscow with a backdoor to gain information on advanced NATO weapon systems, such as the F-35, in addition to fostering overall greater security cooperation between Turkey and Russia. U.S. President Donald Trump, however, has yet to signal any plans of enacting new sanctions on Turkey, which -- while popular in Congress -- would have to overcome a presidential veto. 
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AssessmentsOct 12, 2020 | 20:57 GMT
A picture taken during a helicopter tour organized by the government of the United Arab Emirates shows an aerial view of Dubai on July 8, 2020.
A Larger UAE Citizenry Would Mean Smoother Policymaking and Rockier Regional Ties
The United Arab Emirates is considering offering citizenship to its large expatriate population, which would significantly alter the country’s political economy, as well as its regional relationships, by assimilating non-Arab Gulf residents into its middle- and upper-classes. Over time, this new group of foreign-born Emirati citizens would likely erode the tribal and ethnic dynamics that have long shaped the governance of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, along with the cultural foundations driving many aspects of cooperation in the Arab Gulf. On Sept. 30, the Emirati government unveiled proposed changes to the country’s citizenship law that would ease the way for investors, long-term residents and wealthy foreigners to earn a permanent place in the country. With foreigners far outnumbering its local population, the United Arab Emirates’ current citizenship laws have offset the country’s long-standing demographic imbalances by ensuring the influence and prominence of its minority Emiratis via special legal and political protections. Changing
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AssessmentsOct 8, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto (left) and opposition leader Raila Odinga (right) listen to President Uhuru Kenyatta (center) give a speech in Nairobi, Kenya, on Nov. 27, 2019.
In Kenya, the Stage Is Set for Another Tumultuous Election Season
A growing rift between Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto could break up the ruling Jubilee Party ahead of 2022 elections, raising the risk of ethnic violence that could damage investor confidence in one of Africa’s leading economies. On Oct. 2, the Jubilee Party’s National Management Committee recommended that Ruto be removed from his post after he and his allies stormed the party’s headquarters to try to hold a meeting. A scenario where Kenyatta backs an opposition leader and Ruto is removed from office would likely result in localized levels of violence in the lead-up and aftermath of the ballot. Such violence would likely also remain concentrated in the country's more ethnically-dominated rural areas. But demonstrations and attacks in cities such as Nairobi and Mombasa that result in short-term shutdowns of ports, roads and rail travel cannot be ruled out, as metropolitan areas are also home to all
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AssessmentsOct 7, 2020 | 17:00 GMT
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro attends the inauguration ceremony of Supreme Court Justice Luiz Fux on Sept. 10, 2020, in Brasilia, Brazil.
What Bolsonaro's New Spending Push Means for Brazil’s Fiscal Future
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s announcement of a new social cash-support program has raised concerns about the government’s long-term fiscal discipline, as well as its policies to balance the needs for domestic social spending with longer-term debt issues. On Sept. 28, Brasilia announced a new cash transfer social program, dubbed the “Citizens Income,” which offers an extension of current COVID-19 support programs for low-income citizens into 2021. To soften the blow of the COVID-19 outbreak, Bolsonaro’s government has offered multiple fiscal stimulus programs in the past few months at a cost estimated to be more than eight percent of the country’s GDP.
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SnapshotsOct 6, 2020 | 16:32 GMT
A protester is seen in the window of the seized main government building, known as the White House, in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on Oct. 6, 2020. 
In Kyrgyzstan, Protests Challenge the President’s Place in Power
An overnight outbreak of violent protest activity over parliamentary elections in Kyrgyzstan casts doubt over President Sooronbay Jeenbekov’s continued rule, but is unlikely to shift the country’s overall policy direction. Following initial limited and peaceful protests in Bishkek, where opposition demonstrators accused Jeenbekov’s supporters of widespread vote-buying, the situation rapidly devolved into violence during the evening of Oct. 5. The situation in Bishkek has now developed into a tense standoff where protesters control various government buildings and have released jailed political opponents of Jeenbekov, while the president himself has not indicated a desire to resign.
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AssessmentsOct 2, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
A picture taken on Nov. 10, 2019, shows an Iranian flag at Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant.
The Limits of Biden’s Proposed Return to Diplomacy With Iran
U.S. presidential candidate Joe Biden has expressed he’d be open to quickly re-entering the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) if Iran returns to full compliance. But his predecessor’s hardline policies would probably necessitate expanding the scope of negotiations with Tehran beyond the current deal, leading Iran to adopt an even harder position on its nuclear program. Biden criticized the Trump administration’s hawkish Iran policy and 2018 withdrawal from the nuclear deal in a Sept. 13 opinion piece, in which he wrote that returning to the JCPOA could be the start of broader diplomacy between Tehran and Washington. Simply re-entering the JCPOA, however, would be difficult for both Washington and Tehran, as the current U.S. sanctions architecture is now far more complex than it was when the deal was signed in 2015.
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AssessmentsSep 30, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
Farmers in Bangalore, India, stage an anti-government demonstration to protest against the recent passing of new agricultural reforms on Sept. 28, 2020.
In India, Modi Bets the Farm on Controversial Economic Reforms
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s new agricultural and labor reforms may help accelerate the country’s economic recovery from COVID-19, but the likely near-term financial losses for Indian farmers and unionized workers will risk fueling backlash from both protesters and state legislatures. The Indian parliament passed the reforms in an abbreviated monsoon session that ended Sept. 25. By usurping procedural legislative practices to close debate or refine the proposed agricultural reforms, the BJP was ultimately able to quickly push through its proposed legislation through a less precise voice vote in parliament instead of a typical ballot vote. 
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