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SnapshotsMar 5, 2021 | 22:49 GMT
A woman pushes a cart down a street in Beijing, China, on March 5, 2021.
China’s GDP Targets Don’t Reflect a Booming Economy
China’s newly announced GDP growth target for 2021 indicates that China is reverting to past growth drivers at the expense of reforming and reorienting its economy toward innovation and sustainable growth. This conservative approach could be an early indicator that China’s post-COVID economic recovery is not as solid as raw data indicates. In his speech to the National People’s Congress on March 5, Premier Li Keqiang set a growth target of “above 6%” well below most forecasts, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) projection of 8.1% and consensus forecasts of 8-9% GDP growth in 2021. 
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SITUATION REPORTMar 5, 2021 | 21:29 GMT
U.S.: White House Sanctions Powerful Ukrainian Oligarch Over Corruption Allegations
The U.S. State Department has barred Ukraine’s most powerful oligarch, Igor Kolomoisky, and his immediate family from entering the United States due to Kolomoisky’s “involvement in significant corruption” while he was the governor of eastern Ukraine’s Dnipropetrovsk region in 2014 and 2015, Reuters reported March 5. 
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SnapshotsMar 5, 2021 | 21:01 GMT
Chinese President Xi Jinping is seen on a large screen at the opening session of the National People's Congress on March 5, 2021, in Beijing, China.
China Secures Its Hold on Hong Kong With Sweeping Electoral Reforms
Extensive Hong Kong electoral reforms risk permanently sidelining the pro-democracy opposition by giving pro-Beijing forces free rein to pursue measures that substantially erode the city’s autonomy and limit unrest. On March 5, electoral changes were introduced in China's National People's Congress as legislators convened a weeklong meeting as part of China’s annual “two sessions” policymaking meetings. Although the full details have not been publicly released, the vice chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, Wang Chen, said the reforms would create a "democratic process with Hong Kong characteristics," noting specifically that the Basic Law provisions on the roles of the city’s chief executive and Legislative Council would be amended. The NPC will vote on the changes on March 11. 
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SnapshotsMar 5, 2021 | 18:43 GMT
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken discusses his recent call with Russia’s foreign minister on Feb. 4, 2021. U.S. President Joe Biden stands behind him.
Gauging Russia’s Response to Potential New U.S. and U.K. Sanctions
For Russia, potential new U.S. and U.K. sanctions targeting its economic interests would be seen as a significant escalation and compel a range of responses, calibrated according to the perceived aggressiveness of London and Washington’s actions. On March 4, Bloomberg reported that U.S. and U.K. officials are considering additional sanctions against Russia over the poisoning and subsequent jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Although officials have refused to comment publicly, the options on the table reportedly include sanctioning Russian business elites and imposing restrictions on trading Russia’s sovereign debt. Between these two options, the latter would likely be a last resort, while the former is more likely in the near term.
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SnapshotsMar 4, 2021 | 22:16 GMT
Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele delivers a press conference at a hotel in San Salvador on Feb. 28, 2021.
An Election Brings El Salvador’s President Closer to Complete Control
With Congress now firmly in his corner, Salvadorian President Nayib Bukele will be free to implement sweeping reforms that may strain his relationship with the new U.S. administration. While votes are still being counted, preliminary results from El Salvador’s Feb. 28 elections show Bukele’s New Ideas party and its allies winning a congressional supermajority, with 61 out of 84 seats in the Legislative Assembly. The surprise landslide victory has vastly bolstered the 39-year-old president’s hold on Congress, where New Ideas previously held only five seats. The win also reflects Salvadorians’ widespread support for the president’s first two years in office despite the country’s ongoing COVID-19 and economic crises, and marks the first time a single party has controlled both executive and legislative branches since El Salvador returned to democracy in 1992. 
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SnapshotsMar 4, 2021 | 19:02 GMT
An illustration shows the Chinese flag overlaying stock prices.
Has China’s Economy Hit a Speed Bump?
Recent data suggests China’s economy may be struggling rather than roaring back from a seasonal slump, and that its impressive headline growth numbers in 2020 hid an incomplete and unbalanced recovery. Forward-looking purchasing manager indices (PMI) reported by China after the Lunar New Year were just slightly above 50, which shows a growing economy, but possibly at a slowing rate that could be worrying to Chinese officials. It’s too early to tell if the recent dips are temporary, cyclical or symptomatic of a greater slowdown, but dependence on the old model of credit-fueled investment and exports may not be sustainable. If not, then projected supercharged growth of 8-9% in 2021 could be unattainable and inconsistent with the Chinese government’s official narratives.
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On SecurityMar 1, 2021 | 22:20 GMT
Protesters clash with riot police during a rally in support of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Moscow, Russia, on Jan. 23, 2021. Navalny was detained upon returning to Moscow after spending five months in Germany recovering from a near-fatal poisoning.
Russia: A Case Study on the Proliferation of Repression Tactics
Since the beginning of 2021, high-profile protests in diverse locations across the globe have called attention to the tactics governments are using to try to deter, disrupt and reduce the influence of mass demonstrations. Russia’s response to the widespread protests triggered by the arrest of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, in particular, provides a poignant case study on how authorities are increasingly using a wider array of counter-protest tactics beyond physical repression, with implications for security and stability in places where there is significant protest activity.
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AssessmentsFeb 26, 2021 | 21:22 GMT
Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud walks the halls of the U.S. State Department in Washington D.C. after meeting with then-U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Oct. 14, 2020.
Biden Brings More Skepticism Into the U.S.-Saudi Relationship
As the drivers bringing them together weaken, the United States and Saudi Arabia will become more conservative in deepening their strategic ties and more critical of one another’s differences. On Feb. 26, the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden released a report publicly blaming Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the 2018 assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and imposed visa bans on 76 Saudis associated with the act under a new so-called “Khashoggi Policy.” This, along with other recent public statements and arms freezes, indicates Biden preparing to shift U.S.-Saudi ties away from his predecessor’s close personal relationship with the kingdom. The White House appears ready to press Saudi Arabia to engage in more restrained foreign policy, emphasizing U.S. human rights objectives in its Saudi dialogue. That pressure will undoubtedly clash with several of the kingdom’s own deeply set imperatives, creating pushback from Riyadh and turbulence in long-standing U.S.-Saudi
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SnapshotsFeb 25, 2021 | 19:14 GMT
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan addresses his supporters gathered on Republic Square in downtown Yerevan, Armenia, on Feb. 25, 2021. Pashinyan called on the army to fulfill its duty and obey the people after the military called for him to resign.
In Armenia, Anger Over Nagorno-Karabakh Comes to a Head
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan is facing the most significant challenge to his beleaguered rule, although the outcome of the current standoff and any subsequent impact is likely to remain contained to the country. On Feb. 25, Pashinyan warned of an “attempted military coup” after military leaders called on him to resign following months of protests over his widely criticized handling of last year’s war with Azerbaijan over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh territory. Pashinyan was responding to a letter published earlier in the day signed by Chief of the General Staff Onik Gasparyan and three dozen other military leaders, which stated Pashinyan was “no longer able to make adequate decisions at this current fateful and critical moment” and called on him to resign. Pashinyan also announced that he had dismissed Gasparyan, although that formally requires the approval of the country’s largely ceremonial president, Armen Sargsyan, who reportedly has not endorsed the
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SnapshotsFeb 24, 2021 | 17:42 GMT
A health worker administers a dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine at a mobile clinic near Moshav Dalton in northern Israel on Feb. 22, 2021.
COVID-19 Aid Offers Israel an Opportunity for Regional Reconciliation
Israel is using COVID-19 humanitarian support to conduct diplomacy with Syria, and the success of that strategy could prompt similar offers and efforts to thaw Israel's difficult relationship with Lebanon. As part of a recent prisoner exchange with Syria, Israel purchased an undisclosed amount of Russian Sputnik V vaccines for Syria, which has been unable to secure and distribute doses of COVID-19 vaccine due to its crashing currency and battered healthcare system. The deal followed nearly a year of quiet humanitarian cooperation between Hamas and Israel during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has now seen Israel allow limited doses of Sputnik V vaccines to enter the Gaza Strip. 
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SnapshotsFeb 23, 2021 | 21:23 GMT
Norwegian army soldiers use snowmobiles for mobility during a military exercise on March 6, 2013, in Skjold, Norway.
Increased Arctic Activity Sets the Stage for U.S.-Russia Competition
The U.S. military is increasing collaboration with Nordic states in response to expanding Russian military and economic activities in the Arctic, pointing to a future of heightened competition with the potential for both strategic and tactical miscommunication or miscalculation. On Feb. 22, four U.S. B-1 bombers arrived for their first-ever deployment to Norway in a move widely seen as a signal to Russia. Five days earlier, the United States agreed with Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden to continue its participation in the biennial Arctic Challenge Exercise, one of Europe’s largest tactical air exercises and widely seen as practice to counter potential Russian belligerence, next scheduled for June 2021. The U.S. Army is also preparing to unveil its Arctic strategy in the coming weeks, as the changing climate turns the previously inaccessible region into an increasingly busy zone of military and economic activity -- particularly along the Russian frontier.
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