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SnapshotsSep 10, 2020 | 20:29 GMT
Nord Stream 2 Comes Under Fire in Germany
The ongoing debate within the German government on how to respond to the poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny is placing the future of Berlin’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline with Russia in doubt. On Sept. 8, the hospital in Berlin where Navalny is being treated said the Russian opposition figure had been removed from a medically induced coma after being poisoned on a flight to Moscow last month. That same day, Chancellor Angela Merkel told German lawmakers that she believes the European Union needs to react to the incident, but is skeptical of linking that crime to the natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany. Intensifying calls for sanctions within Germany’s coalition government, however -- including from Merkel’s own Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, as well as its governing partner the Social Democratic Party (SPD) -- could potentially shift her position.
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SnapshotsAug 11, 2020 | 19:49 GMT
Beijing Moves to Temper Tensions in Hong Kong With an Extended Legislative Term
Beijing's recent decision to extend the Hong Kong legislature's term creates a cover for Chinese action, which seeks to temper tensions both within the city as well as with the United States, while still emphasizing the continuity of One Country, Two Systems by putting the responsibility in the hands of the Hong Kong government. On Aug. 11, China's National People's Congress Standing Committee approved extending the term of the current Hong Kong legislative council for at least a year, leaving the Hong Kong government to decide whether the four pro-democracy lawmakers disqualified from elections will keep their seats in the legislature. Reports suggest that lawmakers will not be required to swear new oaths of office or make a controversial pledge to uphold the new national security law.
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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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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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SITUATION REPORTMay 20, 2020 | 16:03 GMT
Ukraine: Eastern Separatist Forces Placed on High Alert
Representatives of the Donetsk and Luhansk separatist areas in eastern Ukraine announced May 19 that their armed forces were being placed on high alert, a move confirmed May 20 by the Luhansk military command. The separatists said the move came in response to an escalation of Ukrainian attacks against them since May 1 and to several incidents targeting civilian infrastructure.
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AssessmentsMay 12, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
An image of a gas flare at the Mozyr Oil Refinery in Belarus on Jan. 4, 2020. Russia recently resumed its oil deliveries to Belarus after a pricing dispute prompted Moscow to halt its supplies at the beginning of the year.
By Diversifying Its Oil Imports, Belarus Limits Russia’s Leverage
In recent months, Russia has weaponized its discounted oil deliveries to coerce Belarus into accepting a level of economic and political integration that would essentially guarantee its loyalty. This strategy, however, has only emboldened Minsk’s push to diversify its oil imports. But Belarus’ continued dependence on Russia’s close trade ties and natural gas exports will still leave Moscow armed with other sources of leverage to wield over its smaller neighbor in future negotiations.
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SnapshotsMar 4, 2020 | 23:32 GMT
Ukraine's 'Outsider' President Brings Insiders Into the Fold
Upon taking office in May, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy welcomed in a wave of new faces into Kyiv, creating an administration filled with former entrepreneurs and young tech-savvy professionals. But since then, Zelenskiy's popularity has dwindled. And as a result, Zelenskiy now finds himself reaching back to prior generations of Ukrainian politics to maintain the strength of his presidency through the end of his term. This new team will add to the level of experience and institutional knowledge in the Ukrainian government that his previous cadre lacked. But bringing back those who served under Ukraine's previous political system also risks bringing back those tied to the oligarchs.
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AssessmentsMar 4, 2020 | 19:21 GMT
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy speaks following an outbreak of violence with pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine on Feb. 18, 2020. Ruslan Khomchak, the commander of Ukraine's armed forces, stands behind Zelenskiy.
Kyiv's Push to End Eastern Ukraine's Conflict Risks Prolonging It
With no end in sight to the conflict in eastern Ukraine, Kyiv's desire to forge a new path to peace risks setting it back to square one. In late February, Ukraine's Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that it was actively working on a proposal to replace the 2014 Minsk Protocol. But while the chances of permanently ending the conflict under the current Minsk agreements remain slim at best, the chances that Ukraine can successfully negotiate an entirely new framework with Russia-backed separatists in Donbas are even slimmer. Instead, Kyiv's strategy is most likely to collapse existing diplomatic efforts -- and could potentially even lead to an escalation in fighting along the region's still-active front lines -- by highlighting the very constraints that have prevented progress over the past six years.
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GuidanceFeb 28, 2020 | 21:40 GMT
This photo shows a U.S. Chinook helicopter landing at a provincial capital in Afghanistan.
The U.S. and Taliban Prepare to Take a First Step Toward Peace in Afghanistan
After a weeklong reduction in violence in Afghanistan, the United States and the Taliban are set to sign a peace agreement in Doha, Qatar, on Feb. 29. Both sides hope the deal will be the first step toward ending U.S. involvement in the Afghan war and bringing peace to a land that has been in an almost constant state of war since 1979. Two of the most important points of the agreement include the eventual withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and a promise from the Taliban that it will not allow transnational militant groups to use the country as a base. Once it's signed, the next step will be talks among the Afghan government, the Taliban and other parties to establish a durable cease-fire and eventually end the country's war. But the road ahead will be strewn with pitfalls. 
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AssessmentsFeb 25, 2020 | 20:10 GMT
Kuwaiti Health Minister Sheikh Basel al-Sabah, right, speaks with the media on Feb. 22, 2020, as officials at the Kuwait City airport prepare to take Kuwaitis returning from Iran to a hospital to be tested for the COVID-19 virus.
Iran Is in the Eye of the Coronavirus Storm
With cases in a half-dozen Middle Eastern countries that originated from travel within its borders, Iran has emerged as a regional epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak that causes the respiratory illness the World Health Organization calls COVID-19 just as global fears of a pandemic are amplifying. Not only are there clear negative impacts for Iran politically and economically as well as potential negative economic and health impacts for the surrounding region, depending on how Iran manages the internal and external information flow, the outbreak could also harm and/or help Tehran's already fragile foreign friendships, should it compel Tehran to reach out to the broader world for more help.
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GuidanceFeb 19, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani presents the budget for the fiscal year that starts in late March 2020 on Dec. 8, 2019. Rouhani described it as a "budget of resistance" against crippling U.S. sanctions.
What Iran's Next Vote Means for Policy and the Presidency
On Feb. 21, Iran will hold the first round of parliamentary elections that could usher in the return of a more conservative legislature. With moderates and reformists taking a back seat, such an outcome would nudge Tehran toward more hard-line and hawkish foreign policies, leaving less room for negotiation with the West amid soaring U.S.-Iran tensions. Regardless of its next ideological make-up, however, Iran's incoming parliament will struggle more than ever to answer the economic and social demands of an increasingly desperate and cash-strapped electorate -- a reality that could have dire consequences for Tehran's political stability ahead of the country's crucial 2021 presidential election.
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On GeopoliticsJan 30, 2020 | 09:00 GMT
Construction of a second phase at Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant, part of the Iranian civilian nuclear program, continues.
As the U.S. Squeezes Iran, Europe Is Stuck in the Middle
Tensions between the United States and Iran will almost certainly escalate once again later this year as Iran's nuclear program continues to expand. Iran is likely to continue to be more aggressive on its nuclear policy because of U.S. sanctions despite EU efforts to dissuade Iran from doing so, and if the European Union does not proceed with the dispute resolution mechanism, then the United States may find a way to force sanctions to snap back on its own initiative. It will also exert diplomatic pressure -- backed by threats of punitive measures -- on the E3 to take a harder line against Iran. Iran, however, is unlikely to budge on the U.S. maximum pressure campaign before the November U.S. presidential election. And this creates the potential for a crisis involving a limited military confrontation. 
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