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SITUATION REPORTOct 20, 2020 | 19:14 GMT
Japan: Prime Minister’s Trip to Vietnam, Indonesia Yields Progress on Arms Deals
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga reached an agreement in principle to export defense technology and equipment to Vietnam during his first official visit to the country, Reuters reported Oct. 19. Suga has since arrived in Indonesia, where he’s also promised the government $473 million in low-interest loans to help manage the economic fallout from COVID-19 and agreed to speed up talks toward arms deals. 
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SnapshotsOct 19, 2020 | 20:14 GMT
A man holds new South African banknotes of the South African rand on July 13, 2018, in Pretoria, South Africa.
South Africa’s Economic Reality Will Dim Any Hopes of a Quick Recovery
Domestic political and financial constraints will thwart South Africa’s new economic recovery plan, prolonging the country’s five-year financial crisis while exacerbating its current levels of inequality and poverty. In an Oct. 15 speech to parliament, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa unveiled his government’s Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, which ambitiously targets an average of 3 percent GDP growth over the next decade -- a level South Africa has not seen since 2011. The plan seeks to meet that goal by implementing structural reforms, boosting infrastructure investment and reducing bureaucratic red tape. Critically, however, the plan does not abandon the government’s strategy of fiscal consolidation over the medium term.
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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 14, 2020 | 17:11 GMT
A pile of briquettes, which are compressed blocks of coal dust, is seen in Melbourne, Australia, in March 2017.
With an Apparent Coal Ban, China Ups the Cost of Australia’s Political Defiance
Reports that China has halted purchases of Australian coal suggest Beijing is increasing economic pressure to curb Canberra’s more confrontational stance. Such moves, however, are unlikely to inhibit Australia’s greater strategic shift to rebalance against Chinese encroachment in the region. On Oct. 14, leaks indicated that around 850,000 tonnes of Australian coking coal on ten Panamax vessels bound for China was being diverted to other markets. This follows an Oct. 13 confirmation from Australia's trade ministry that it was determining whether Beijing has suspended purchases of Australian coking and thermal coal. Reports from the day before indicate that Chinese officials told most large power stations and steel mills in early October to halt the use of Australian coal. Many ports were also reportedly told not to offload the product, causing buyers to respond by halting purchases for fear they wouldn’t clear customs. If confirmed, China's suspension of Australian coal purchases
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AssessmentsOct 9, 2020 | 21:25 GMT
A view of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) building from the street in Washington D.C. on Sept. 25, 2020.
Zambia’s Imminent Debt Default
Zambia is expected to default on its external debt when the southern African country misses $118 million in interest payments on eurobonds due from Oct. 14 to March 2021. Hopes for a comprehensive debt restructuring are overly optimistic without major help from China, its largest creditor, as well as a substantial macroeconomic adjustment program supported by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Zambia is the first comprehensive case involving all creditor classes this year, and neither the Paris Club nor bondholders will restructure debt without appropriate burden-sharing by China.
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SnapshotsOct 9, 2020 | 18:52 GMT
An Indian fighter jet flies over Leh, the joint capital of the union territory of Ladakh, on June 26, 2020.
China Moves to Freeze Its Border Dispute With India Before the Winter Does
China’s recent reassertion of its 1959 border line with India has left little room for a compromise in the two countries’ territorial dispute in Ladakh ahead of the approaching harsh winter, which will enable Beijing to both reinforce its claims in the Himalayan region come spring, as well as test Indian resolve with actions at other areas along the border. In late September, the Chinese Foreign Ministry sent a statement to the Hindustan Times confirming it still recognizes its unilateral 1959 line along the Indian border as the Line of Actual Control (LAC), which was drawn before the two countries’ war in 1962. Military officials from the two sides are set to meet Oct. 12 for the seventh round of Corps Commander talks aimed at resolving the border standoff in the eastern section of Ladakh, but China’s reassertion of the 1959 line makes any resolution difficult before the winter season sets in
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SnapshotsOct 8, 2020 | 20:19 GMT
The Turkish Stars, the aerobatic demonstration team of the Turkish Air Force and the national aerobatics team of Turkey, perform Aug. 30, 2015, during the ceremony marking the 93rd anniversary of Victory Day, at Anitkabir, Ataturk's mausoleum, in Ankara.
F-16s Reveal Turkey's Drive to Expand Its Role in the Southern Caucasus
Confirmation of Turkish F-16 fighter aircraft operating out of Azerbaijan amid conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh illustrates Turkish commitment to challenging Russian hegemony in the Southern Caucasus. This will increase Russo-Turkish tensions, but these ultimately will prove manageable under Russian and Turkey's existing model for bilateral mediation and deescalation.
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AssessmentsSep 11, 2020 | 15:40 GMT
An external view of the building of the European Union in Brussels, Belgium.
What the Fading Promise of EU Accession Means for the Balkans
The European Union will not accept any new member states for the foreseeable future, which will erode the promise of EU accession that has made the bloc an influential political and economic force in the Western Balkans. As the fallout from the COVID-19 crisis forces the European Union to remain focused on recovering (and not enlarging) its economy, candidate countries risk veering off from the reforms they had been pursuing to earn their place in the bloc. Non-EU players such as the United States, Russia and China, meanwhile, will likely become more active in the region, seeing European Union's waning presence as an opportunity to assert their own influence in the Balkans.
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AssessmentsAug 25, 2020 | 18:58 GMT
Army vehicles patrol the roads on the outskirts of a village in northern Mozambique on May 26, 2016.
To Protect Its Energy Projects, Total Joins Mozambique's Counterterrorism Fight
Total's decision to support Mozambique's fight against insurgents may help protect its energy facilities from direct attacks, even as it risks the French oil major's reputation while doing little to reduce escalating militant activity in the country's north. On Aug. 24, Toal signed a security agreement with the Mozambican government to protect the $20 billion liquified natural gas (LNG) project it's developing in the country's northernmost province of Cabo Delgado. Under its new pact, Total has agreed to provide logistical support to a newly established joint task force focused guaranteeing the protection of the company’s planned onshore LNG facility, which is located in the Afungi Peninsula near the northern town of Palma. 
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AssessmentsAug 25, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
A vintage map of the Middle East.
What's Driving Muslim Countries to Normalize Their Ties With Israel?
The waning influence of the pan-Islamism and pan-Arabism movements, combined with increasing U.S. pressure, will cause Oman, Bahrain and Morocco to soon join the United Arab Emirates in formalizing ties with Israel, accelerating a longer-term normalization trend that no longer hinges on the formation of a Palestinian state. The allure of Israel's technology and defense capabilities could also compel other Muslim states with covert ties and limited histories of overt conflict with Israel, such as Pakistan, to follow suit. Israel will, in turn, see expanding global economic ties that strengthen its post-pandemic recovery, as well as stronger regional allies that bolster its position against Iran should the upcoming U.S. election yield a less hawkish administration in Washington.
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SITUATION REPORTAug 20, 2020 | 21:26 GMT
U.S., Iraq: Al-Kadhimi Visits White House in Second Round of Strategic Dialogue 
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi met with U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House after five U.S. companies (Chevron, Honeywell, Baker Hughes, General Electric and Stellar Energy) signed agreements with Iraq’s ministries of oil and electricity, Reuters reported Aug. 20. 
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