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SnapshotsApr 15, 2021 | 18:57 GMT
A bird flies past the flag outside the Russian embassy in Washington D.C. on April 15, 2021.
More U.S. Sanctions Portend Russian Retaliation
New U.S. sanctions on Russia will worsen the two countries’ already fraught relations and compel the Kremlin to respond to what it will perceive as an escalation. On April 15, the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden announced new sanctions on Russian financial markets, individuals and entities in response to Russia’s involvement in the 2020 SolarWinds cyberattack, attempted interference in the 2020 U.S. presidential election, and ongoing occupation of Crimea. These new sanctions follow those that the United States and European Union imposed in March over Russia’s attempted assassination and subsequent jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny. At the time, the Biden administration pledged to impose separate penalties for grievances specific to the United States, including the SolarWinds cyberattack and election interference.
AssessmentsApr 14, 2021 | 19:16 GMT
Iran and China’s foreign ministers (right to left) sign a partnership agreement in Tehran on March 27, 2021.
Iran Will Pursue Its New China Partnership With Caution
Iran’s strategic partnership with China will lead to increased security and economic cooperation, but Tehran will avoid fully siding with Beijing for fear of becoming too dependent on a single partner and alienating itself from the West. The March 27 signing of their 25-year Comprehensive Strategic Partnership is reflective of the mutual interest between Tehran and Beijing, including collaboration on Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), as well as on energy and defense matters. But Iran loathes becoming strategically dependent on any power and will seek to balance its partnership with China with improving ties to Western countries, to ensure Tehran remains as a “neither East, nor West, Islamic Republic,” as Supreme Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini put it. 
AssessmentsApr 13, 2021 | 18:28 GMT
Voters stand in line to cast their ballots in the parliamentary election in Greenland's capital of Nuuk on April 6, 2021.
Pro-Environment Politics Won’t Deter Demand for Greenland's Resources
The appointment of an environmentalist government will temporarily delay mining operations in Greenland. But a combination of economic needs, pressure from great powers and opportunities created by climate change will result in growing international competition to exploit the island’s natural resources. Greenland is an autonomous territory within the Kingdom of Denmark. The left-wing environmentalist Inuit Ataqatigiit (IA) party won an April 6 parliamentary election on the island with roughly 37% of the vote, while the center-left Siumut party came in second with around 29% of the vote. While Greenland controls most of its own policy areas, its currency, defense and foreign policies are decided by Denmark. Greenland’s strategic position between North America, Europe and the Arctic explains foreign powers’ historic interests in the island. More recently, the prospect of vast mineral resources, including rare earth elements (a key component in high-tech products from smartphones to electric vehicles and defense equipment)
AssessmentsApr 12, 2021 | 21:58 GMT
Iranian flags fly along a highway in Natanz in June 2014.
What an Attack on Iran’s Nuclear Facility Means for JCPOA Talks
Iran’s need to secure sanctions relief in newly restarted nuclear talks will limit its response to the suspected Israeli attack on Iran’s Natanz facility. Any act of Iranian retaliation, however, will increase overall global scrutiny on the negotiations between Tehran and the West. Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility south of Tehran suffered an overnight electricity blackout early April 11 after an explosion reportedly destroyed the internal power system that supplies the underground centrifuges. The timing of the incident follows the first indirect diplomatic engagement between the United States and Iran in three years, and comes amid ongoing tit-for-tat maritime and regional escalations between Israel and Iran. This further indicates the incident was intentional sabotage, with the intent to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program progress, as well as potentially spoil talks between Iran and the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany), which are set to continue in
SITUATION REPORTApr 12, 2021 | 19:25 GMT
China: Government Fines Alibaba $2.8 Billion, Increases Scrutiny of Ant Group's Activities 
China’s central bank demanded Ant Group subject its financial activities to Beijing regulators and address financial risks after China’s State Administration of Market Regulation (SAMR) levied a record $2.8 billion antitrust fine against Ant Group subsidiary Alibaba for limiting e-commerce competition and harming the interests of sellers and consumers, Bloomberg reported April 12.
AssessmentsApr 8, 2021 | 20:44 GMT
A computer monitor with the portrait of Chinese President Xi Jinping is pictured in Berlin, Germany, on July 9, 2018.
Hard-line U.S. Policies Push China To Up Its Cyber Game
U.S. attempts to build an anti-China coalition will compel Beijing to expand its cyber campaign, leading to more cyberattacks on regional governments and Western corporations, particularly in strategic tech sectors. Cyber industrial espionage and coercive cyberattacks will be essential in limiting the fallout from global tech restrictions against China and undermining U.S. alliance-building. China will flirt with information campaigns in its periphery, but may struggle to weaponize such campaigns with the same success as Russia due to its inexperience and limited cultural overlap with Western countries. 
SnapshotsApr 6, 2021 | 14:26 GMT
Men read local newspapers in Amman, Jordan, on April 4, 2021.
In Jordan, Private Royal Grievances Go Public
In Jordan, the arrest of a former crown prince reveals a kingdom uncertain of how to address its pandemic-induced economic crisis, which could harm Jordan’s reputation for stability if the monarchy fails to deter further high-profile displays of dissent from its own family members, as well as the general public. On April 3, Jordanian authorities arrested 20 people for an alleged plot to overthrow the government deemed to be a “threat to the country’s stability.” The most high-profile of the arrests include the former crown prince and half-brother of Jordan’s King Abdullah II, Hamzah bin Hussein, and his mother, who were both reportedly under house arrest as authorities conduct an investigation. Prince Hamzah released a video late on April 3 to the BBC claiming he was being silenced because he spoke out about corruption in Jordan and the “incompetence that has been prevalent in our governing structure for the last
On GeopoliticsApr 5, 2021 | 09:00 GMT
A U.S. Navy EP-3 surveillance plane.
The U.S. and China, 20 Years After the Hainan EP-3 Incident
Twenty years ago, the United States and China faced off after a collision of military aircraft. The events of 9/11 rapidly reprioritized Washington's attention several months later, providing Beijing two decades to manage internal problems and reshape its foreign posture. As the United States is once again defining China as a strategic competitor, it does so opposite a China much stronger, more capable and more confident than it was in 2001.
SITUATION REPORTApr 1, 2021 | 22:10 GMT
China: March Economic Data in
Official and privately compiled figures showed economic expansion in March. Specifically, the official Purchasing Managers Index for manufacturing was up slightly to 51.9 from 50.6 in February. Nonmanufacturing PMI, which includes services and construction, was up to 56.3 after a 51.4 reading a month earlier. Meanwhile, the privately compiled IHS Market-Caixin PMI had its lowest reading in a year, dropping from 50.9 to 50.6.
Quarterly ForecastsMar 29, 2021 | 00:00 GMT
2021 Second-Quarter Forecast
COVID-19 will again dominate in the second quarter of 2021. With new viral variants and staggered or stalled vaccine rollouts, the global economic rebound will be uneven around the world.
SnapshotsMar 26, 2021 | 18:01 GMT
The Suez Canal Blockage and the Risks of Shipping Bottlenecks
Even after the ship blocking the Suez Canal is eventually dislodged, the congestion impacts will ripple through global supply chains for several weeks, underscoring the ever-present risk associated with transiting large amounts of global trade through a small number of key bottlenecks. On the morning of March 23, the Ever Given -- one of the world’s largest class of container ships, with space for over 20,000 containers -- became lodged across the width of one of the world’s busiest maritime trade routes, the Suez Canal. A combination of high wind and relatively low water levels appear to be what grounded the mega-ship, which, as of March 26, remains stuck in the Egyptian waterway, with estimates ranging from days to weeks for when it will be freed. The blockage has since shut down traffic in both directions, leaving more than 200 other ships stuck in and around the Suez Canal. 
SnapshotsMar 25, 2021 | 20:28 GMT
TV screens show the launch of North Korean missiles on March 25, 2021, in Seoul, South Korea.
What to Make of North Korea’s First Missile Tests Under Biden
North Korea’s first ballistic missile test since U.S. President Joe Biden took office suggests that Pyongyang will seek to advance the development of key weapons systems without jeopardizing the prospect for long-term U.S. outreach or unifying the international community around a harder-line stance against the regime. On March 25, South Korean officials confirmed that North Korea had tested two devices, likely short-range ballistic missiles, early that morning from the eastern town of Hamju. The devices were both launched around 450 kilometers (280 miles) eastward into the Sea of Japan at an altitude of roughly 60 kilometers (37 miles). If confirmed to be a short-range system, such a test does not represent an escalation from those that North Korea conducted during former U.S. President Donald Trump’s term. The testing of ballistic missiles also technically violates U.N. resolutions but does not violate promises made during the Trump administration to refrain from intercontinental
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