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AssessmentsAug 4, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
Plainclothed Belarus' security forces and riot police officers detain a protester at an opposition demonstration in Minsk, Belarus, on July 14, 2020.
In Belarus, an Election Fuels the Fight for Russia's Borderlands
The likely tumultuous aftermath of Belarus's upcoming presidential election could significantly shake up the balance of power in the strategic borderland region between Russia and Western Europe. Amid the growing popularity of opposition movements in Belarus, the outcome of the country's Aug. 9 presidential election is widely expected to be heavily contested. The likely emergence of post-election protests will cast doubt over President Alexander Lukashenko's grasp on power and could open the door to a potential regime change. Belarus's importance to Russia's external security strategy will make Moscow extremely invested in the outcome of any power struggle in the country, which could prompt Russia to intervene directly.
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SnapshotsAug 4, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
In Jordan, a Government Crackdown on Civil Dissent Risks Backfiring
The arrests of teachers union leaders in Jordan risks fueling unrest in the typically politically stable country against a government the United States relies on for its regional counterterrorism efforts. On July 25, Jordanian security forces arrested over a dozen key members of the Jordanian Teachers Syndicate and charged them with corruption, incitement, financial irregularities and criminal activities. Forces also raided the union’s offices and shut them down for two years. Nasser Nawasreh, acting head of the Teachers Syndicate, was charged with incitement specifically over a speech he gave on July 22 that sharply criticized Prime Minister Omar Razzaz’s government. A government spokesman said that the arrests were conducted to prevent the union from staging planned sit-ins and demonstrations that risked harming “the state’s essential services and their functioning.”
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SnapshotsJul 31, 2020 | 18:13 GMT
The Eurozone's Shrinking GDP Growth Solidifies a Slow Recovery
Rising COVID-19 infections will slow the eurozone's economic recovery by forcing governments to reintroduce lockdown measures that undermine business activity. Recessions across the bloc could last well into 2021 -- keeping consumption, investment and trade below pre-pandemic levels for several more months, while increasing the chances of business uncertainty and social unrest. The economic recovery will be particularly slow in Southern Europe due to the disproportionate impact of lockdown measures on the region's tourism-based economies, some of which were already in recessions before the pandemic. Ongoing uncertainty about future lockdown measures and the potential lifting of national stimulus efforts also means the risk of bankruptcies, financial crises and social unrest across Europe will remain high in the coming months.
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SnapshotsJul 31, 2020 | 16:39 GMT
A Year-Long Election Delay Extends Hong Kong’s Political Crisis
The one-year delay of the Hong Kong election appears to be an attempt to exhaust the opposition pro-democracy camp, though it may instead serve as a rallying point domestically and internationally. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced July 31 that the Legislative Council elections would be delayed by a year, to Sept. 5, 2021, citing the COVID-19 pandemic and her prerogative under the Emergency Regulation Ordinance. The delay, however, was more likely a desperate move by Lam and her pro-Beijing camp, who was facing the real possibility of a much larger win for the pro-democracy camp. As such, the move may embolden the opposition to keep up pressure through international contact and domestic resistance -- whether via organized rallies and protests, or in the Legislative Council before its current term ends Sept. 30. 
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SnapshotsJul 31, 2020 | 14:48 GMT
The U.S. Economic Recession Grows Deeper and Bleaker
The United States is likely to experience a weak economy for a prolonged period, which, when combined with high debt levels, will have long-lasting effects on federal spending and perhaps even Washington's ability to exercise global influence as the country turns inward. The United States' pandemic-induced recession may have bottomed out in the April-June quarter, with GDP shrinking at a record pace. But with growth sluggish even before the pandemic, prospects for the U.S. economy remain stark. Base effects alone probably ensure positive growth in the third quarter of 2020, though signs the U.S. recovery is already slowing means another contraction in the fourth quarter cannot be ruled out. And with infections on the rise across America, there's an increasing chance that U.S. GDP growth could remain below pre-pandemic levels for years to come. 
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SnapshotsJul 31, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
Yemen’s Separatists Pause Their Push for Autonomy to Advance It Later
Yemen's Southern Transitional Council (STC) will temporarily implement the terms of a previous peace deal with the Yemeni government to gain political leverage before ultimately returning to its pursuit of an independent southern Yemen. The STC, which is an umbrella force of southern militias and secessionists, announced July 29 that it would abide by a Saudi-brokered political reconciliation agreement with its rivals in President Mansoor Hadi's internationally recognized government. The announcement came a few hours after Saudi Arabia announced its plans to “accelerate” the implementation of the power-sharing agreement signed last year in Riyadh, which demands the STC end its attempts at self-rule in exchange for more posts in the government.
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SnapshotsJul 30, 2020 | 17:16 GMT
A Year On, China's Tech-Focused Stock Market Is Making Strides
The STAR Market, China's equivalent to a tech-focused Nasdaq, is fueling growth in China's tech sector, but Beijing's regulation and fears of both domestic speculation and industry bubbles will constrain the exchange's potential for growth. A recent string of launches is demonstrating the STAR Market's potential power to raise capital and draw investment into the Chinese technology sector. China will likely continue to liberalize the market faster than its other domestic stock markets, as the exchange becomes increasingly central to China's overall technology ambitions amid its tech war with the United States. The success of the STAR Market, however, will depend on the innovativeness and quality of the companies involved in it, as well as the broader constraints to China's tech sector.
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On GeopoliticsJul 30, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
A display shows the national flags of China and the United States at the Group of 20 (G-20) Summit in Osaka, Japan, on June 29, 2019.
The U.S.-China Ideological Divide and the Challenge of Cohesion
A series of foreign policy speeches by key officials in U.S. President Donald Trump's administration has sought to redefine the U.S.-China strategic competition as one based on conflicting core ideologies between those of the Chinese Communist Party and those of the free world. But to be effective, the United States needs to revive domestic unity and engender global cooperation, while China only needs to maintain domestic unity and exploit global divisions. 
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SnapshotsJul 29, 2020 | 18:37 GMT
Is Uganda's 30-Year Run of Political Stability Nearing an End?
The presidential candidacy of Ugandan pop star Bobi Wine represents the most significant challenge to the country's longtime president, Yoweri Museveni, whose failure to address growing youth unemployment and disillusionment with the current ruling elite is placing the country on a long-term trajectory of political unrest. Wine has been able to connect with younger Ugandan voters in a way that previous opposition figures could not. Museveni and his ruling NRM party will pull out all the stops to ensure they remain in power, including crackdowns on Wine and his party's rallies, which will increase the risk of pre-and post-election unrest. But even if Museveni can control the outcome of the next election, his failure to address increasing political and economic grievances suggests Uganda’s 30-year run of political stability is nearing an end.
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AssessmentsJul 29, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
Ukraine's new central bank chief, Kyrylo Shevchenko, wears a face mask as he watches lawmakers vote on his candidacy during a parliamentary session on July 16, 2020.
Is Ukraine on Thin Ice with the IMF?
A potential falling out with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) over monetary policy and independence of the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) would be highly damaging, but not catastrophic, to Ukraine's economic recovery efforts. The economic fallout from COVID-19 has made Kyiv heavily dependent on the bailout money it's receiving from the IMF, as well as the European Union. The IMF has placed Kyiv on a fairly short leash, warning that the recent appointment of Kyrylo Shevchenko -- an advocate of easier monetary policy and ally of President Volodymyr Zelensky -- raises questions regarding the NBU's independence and possible politicization. Zelensky and Shevchenko's political views are unlikely to cause the IMF to suspend its assistance to Ukraine, though the actions of the NBU will be monitored closely.
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SnapshotsJul 28, 2020 | 19:10 GMT
Lopez Obrador Unexpectedly Moves to Safeguard Mexico’s Pension System
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s proposed overhaul to Mexico’s pension system will preserve investor confidence by maintaining the country’s current individual account system, while still addressing pressing concerns about the system’s long-term sustainability. On July 22, Lopez Obrador announced his proposed pension reforms, which the Mexican Congress will vote on when it reconvenes in September. The proposed changes to Mexico’s current pension system include doubling employer contributions over an eight-year period; increasing total contributions from 6.5 to 15 percent; limiting the commissions charged by Retirement Funds Administrators (AFOREs); and decreasing the number of years a worker needs to contribute to access a minimum guaranteed pension from 25 to 15 years, while increasing the number of such pensions by about 40 percent.
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SnapshotsJul 28, 2020 | 18:54 GMT
Hong Kong Considers Postponing Key Legislative Elections
Hong Kong’s September Legislative Council elections may be postponed amid the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, which would help the city’s pro-Beijing ruling party maintain control and would remove a near-term focal point for protests. But a long delay could also reignite the opposition by creating a legislative vacuum and removing a legal way for citizens to express their level of satisfaction with the government. On July 28, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam met with elements of the Executive Council to discuss a potential delay to the legislative elections, but put off a final decision until after election nominations close at the end of the week. The election could reportedly be delayed anywhere between several months to a full year, with some elements of the ruling camp backing the longer postponement. Pro-democracy politicians have already accused the pro-Beijing camp of using a delay to hold on to power and facilitate a pro-Beijing agenda.
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SnapshotsJul 27, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
Lockdown Fatigue Leaves Israel With More COVID-19 Cases and Fewer Options
On July 21, Israel reported over 2000 new cases of COVID-19, shattering previous springtime records that peaked around 765 on April 2. The escalating new wave of infections recently prompted the Israeli government to roll back its reopening, as well as impose localized lockdowns and new restrictions on business activity, which will risk further hampering the country's economic recovery. Israel's unity government, however, will not enact another national lockdown for fear of prompting additional protests and deepening public resistance to health measures designed to reduce the spread of the virus. The absence of a large-scale containment strategy means COVID-19 will likely continue to spread in the country, straining Israel's healthcare system and economy. 
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AssessmentsJul 24, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
Fighters aligned with Libya's internationally-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) patrol a village located halfway between Tripoli and Benghazi on July 20, 2020.
Egypt Readies to Intervene in Libya as Hifter Struggles
In response to movements from the Turkish-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), Egypt will likely launch a military intervention in eastern Libya, using tribal ties to gain public support for or the deployment to secure Egypt's western borders. While Egypt will seek to avoid engaging in direct combat with rival Turkish forces in the region, its presence on the ground will raise the risk of a wider confrontation that draws Cairo deeper into Libya's increasingly insoluble civil war. 
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AssessmentsJul 22, 2020 | 21:37 GMT
A group of people stand outside the Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas, after the United States ordered Beijing to immediately close the office on July 22, 2020.
What the Closure of a Consulate Could Mean for U.S.-China Tensions
Washington's closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston introduces a new conflict point in U.S.-China relations, but the impact will depend on the narrative and justification for the U.S. decision and whether Beijing retaliates proportionately or further escalates tensions. If it becomes apparent that the United States closed the consulate in response to an immediate security threat, it would indicate a continuation of the administration's more measured approach to Chinese threats in recent months. However, if the move is not linked to particularly egregious activity at the consulate, it may indicate that the White House is adopting a more aggressive posture against Beijing ahead of the November election. 
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AssessmentsJul 22, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
An Indian army convoy makes its way toward Leh, a town near the Chinese border in Ladakh, on June 17, 2020. 
The Nature of China's Military Push Along the Indian Border
After many years of infrastructure development and gradual encroachment, China is accelerating efforts to secure its military presence and access to water rights along the Indian border near Ladakh. But while it appears Beijing has largely achieved this objective for now, the harsh Himalayan winter could again escalate its standoff with India by challenging China's ability to maintain a presence throughout the disputed territory.
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