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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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AssessmentsAug 3, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
An oil pumpjack operates in Signal Hill, California, on April 21, 2020, a day after oil prices dropped to below zero amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Amid a Global COVID-19 Resurgence, Oil Prices Are Poised to Stall
The resurgence of COVID-19 infections in many countries around the world has undermined the oil market's notion that the recovery in petroleum product demand will continue upward in the absence of a vaccine. Expectations of a swift demand recovery in recent weeks have also been hampered by concerns about new mandatory lockdowns in places where economic activity had resumed, as well as slower economic recoveries elsewhere. Crude oil prices are thus likely to stall heading into the fourth quarter of 2020 as global demand remains sluggish, while modest rises in OPEC+ supply undermine efforts to rapidly balance the market and drain excess inventories. This means the fiscal position of countries highly dependent on oil export revenues will likely continue to be strained, and that any recovery in drilling activity and the oilfield services sector will also be slow.
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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 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 | 15:46 GMT
Europe Braces for Another Round of COVID-19 Travel Restrictions
Amid rising COVID-19 cases, the reintroduction of travel warnings and quarantine measures in Europe will undermine economic activity, especially in tourism-dependent countries, leading to a slower recovery in the third quarter. These dynamics will probably force governments to introduce additional stimulus measures, which would further worsen their deficit and debt situations. 
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AssessmentsJul 28, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
A photo shows one of the shallow water reservoirs in Simferopol, Crimea.
Russia's Quick Fixes Won't Solve Crimea's Water Woes
Russia's ongoing efforts to stretch Crimea's dwindling water supplies will only slightly delay the need to permanently fix the region's insufficient water resources by either funding expensive infrastructure overhauls, or convincing Ukraine to reopen the North Crimean Canal. The availability of fresh water in Crimea has progressively degraded following Russia's annexation in 2014. But with drought conditions worsening through the summer and beyond, the peninsula's dire water scarcity issues are now increasingly threatening industrial and agricultural consumption.
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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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On GeopoliticsJul 24, 2020 | 15:53 GMT
A skyline view of Anchorage, Alaska, and the Chugach Mountains at dusk.
Remapping the American Arctic
Maps play an important role in shaping national policy, and in shaping society’s consciousness and support. But they can also reinforce ideas of relative unimportance by leaving key areas off, or having areas appear as mere incidental inclusions, which can subconsciously constrain developments in foreign policy. Indeed, it’s perhaps no surprise that many Americans still fail to recognize the United States as an Arctic nation when the majority of U.S. maps place Alaska in a small inset box, relegating the state to a secondary geographic status. The United States, however, maintains a strong interest in a secure and stable Arctic, for its Alaska citizens, for economic reasons, and for core national security. So long as the American Arctic is considered something distant and separate from the United States, it risks being sidelined in the national narrative, and thus sidelined in national priorities and attention. The United States is already playing
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SnapshotsJul 22, 2020 | 16:03 GMT
Scotland Creates a New Pro-Independence Party
The creation of a new pro-independence party in Scotland could weaken the Scots’ push for independence by exposing growing fissures within secessionist camps regarding referendum strategies. In recent days, several members of Scotland's governing Scottish National Party (SNP) have left the party to work on creating a new pro-independence group, the Alliance for Independence (AFI). Scotland must hold a parliamentary election by May 2021, which suggests that the new party wants enough time to prepare for it. The United Kingdom, however, will not authorize an independence referendum, which could lead the AFI to defend unilateral measures as it seeks to differentiate itself from the SNP's milder positions. This would increase political volatility in the United Kingdom at a time when the country is adapting to Brexit and coping with the COVID-19 crisis.
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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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