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SnapshotsJun 25, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
The Worst Global Recession in 80 Years Is Here. Where’s the Bottom?
Prospects for a quick global economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic are officially dead, with all major international financial institutions and private forecasters now projecting huge cumulative losses and an uneven, prolonged climb out of the world’s steepest recession in 80 years. Economic models have proven incapable of dealing with uncertainties and discontinuities of the current unprecedented global lockdown. But even though magnitudes vary, recent forecasts are headed in the same direction -- down. 
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On SecurityApr 14, 2020 | 11:00 GMT
When an Economic Crisis Collides With an Unprecedented Espionage Threat
I've seen a number of news reports discussing how the lockdowns and travel bans resulting from COVID-19 are hindering the ability of intelligence officers to do their jobs by preventing them from being able to conduct in-person source meets. The inability to conduct face-to-face source meets, and to make personal contact with recruitment targets to develop relationships with them, is a valid concern. I would like to suggest, however, that the economic crisis resulting from COVID-19 will also provide intelligence officers a golden opportunity to spot and recruit new agents.
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GuidanceMar 19, 2020 | 15:38 GMT
This photo shows a lone Pakistani soldier patrolling the Line of Control, the de facto border between Pakistan and India, in Pakistan-administered Kashmir on Aug. 29, 2019.
COVID-19: Where Most See Crisis, Some See Opportunity
As the coronavirus pandemic monopolizes more of the world’s time, money and attention, the latest surge of violence in Kashmir between India and Pakistan highlights the potential for countries to act more aggressively with less scrutiny. But state actors aren't the only ones who will be tempted to capitalize on the current chaos. As more governments become bogged down by the virus and the economic fallout from containment efforts, jihadist groups and other non-state actors will also have the opportunity to advance their positions in security hotspots around the world. This could not only raise the risk for military escalations in those areas in the short term, but could allow militias to resurge once the global health crisis eventually subsides.
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AssessmentsFeb 24, 2020 | 09:00 GMT
This photo shows a dry irrigation canal in Crimea.
Under Russia, Crimea’s Future Grows Dimmer -- and Drier
Water scarcity is quickly dimming Russia's hopes for economic growth on the Crimean Peninsula. Reservoirs throughout the region are at record lows for this time of year, with only a few months of reserves left to cover the Crimean population's daily consumption. But while an unusually dry winter is partially to blame, Russia's annexation has been at the core of Crimean water woes by prompting Ukraine to close off the North Crimean Canal in 2014.  Without access to external fresh water resources, permanent relief for the peninsula can be obtained only by either desalinating water from the Black Sea, or by building pipelines to feed water from Russia's Kuban River directly into Crimea. But unless Moscow coughs up the capital needed to fund such costly infrastructure projects, Crimea risks becoming a mostly barren military bastion as its industries, agricultural lands and population shrivel alongside its water reserves.
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AssessmentsFeb 11, 2020 | 10:30 GMT
Employees of PetroChina Southwest Oil & Gasfield Co., a CNPC subsidiary, work at a natural gas purification plant in Suining in southwest China's Sichuan province on Jan. 15, 2020.
In Response to Coronavirus, Russia Will Back Only Modest Action by OPEC+
It is now clear that the impact of the new coronavirus on the world oil market will be substantial, but much uncertainty remains about the total impact on demand in 2020. The most probable scenario is a "sharp but short" hit to demand, but a wider spread could deepen and lengthen the impact. OPEC and other producers will attempt to at least partially mitigate the impact on oil prices, but Russia will likely insist on a cautious approach that does not last long.
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AssessmentsFeb 5, 2020 | 09:00 GMT
Turkish-backed Syrian fighters man an anti-aircraft gun in Saraqeb, in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib on Feb. 1, 2020.
Turkey Digs In Its Heels in Idlib
Moscow and Ankara’s long-standing alliance of convenience is set to face a trial by fire in northwestern Syria. A Russian- and Iranian-backed Syrian offensive to retake Idlib appears poised to roll back Turkish influence in the area and send a new wave of refugees to Turkey, which is already hosting 3 million Syrians. On Feb. 3, Syrian government shelling killed five Turkish soldiers in Idlib, prompting Turkey to respond with an array of strikes against Syrian government positions. The tit-for-tat strikes herald a new, dangerous phase for the conflict in Idlib, as Syrian government forces, with Iranian and Russian support, push deeper into the province, leading Turkey to respond with the deployment of new forces directly in the path of advancing Syrian troops. For Turkey, it's a game of high-stakes military pressure to buy time for negotiations to ensure that there is no new flood of refugees to Turkey and
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AssessmentsDec 30, 2019 | 10:00 GMT
A natural gas line runs outside Donetsk, Ukraine, on March 11, 2015.
A New Gas Transit Deal Won't Keep Ukraine and Russia Together for Long
For the short term at least, Ukrainians and Europeans won't have to worry about shelling out more to heat their homes this winter. An eleventh-hour extension to an energy transit agreement will guarantee the continued flow of natural gas from Russia to Europe through Ukraine over the next five years, but there is little indication that the current deal will presage longer-term cooperation between Moscow and Kyiv. Indeed, lingering distrust between the two capitals will lead Ukraine down the path of producing its own natural gas to achieve self-sufficiency in the longer term, while Russia will strive to shift shipments to pipelines in the Baltic and Black seas that don't present as much of a political nuisance. Ultimately, the emergence of other transit routes will reduce the calming effect that natural gas transit deals have had on the two countries' larger political disputes over hot-button issues like Crimea, eastern Ukraine
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Contributor PerspectivesNov 29, 2019 | 09:30 GMT
In this photo, authorities raid a fashion storefront in downtown Los Angeles on Sept. 10, 2014, as part of an investigation into the alleged laundering of narcotics profits by Mexican drug cartels.
Tariffs, Sanctions and the Problem of Trade-Based Money Laundering
"Value touches everything," an anti-money laundering specialist once said. This motto conveys the nuanced interconnectivity of supply chains, finance and politics. The "anti" in anti-money laundering is somewhat misleading as simple prohibitions in this area, for the most part, do not work. After all, liquidity often follows the path of least resistance, making a world of dams impractical. Trade-based money laundering (TBML) exploits the fungibility of value in something often referred to as an art form by investigators. TBML schemes can involve misrepresentations of prices, quality or quantity in trade invoices. TBML designs use any good with any value and typically incorporate traditional money laundering methods, such as structured payments, or common laundry tools like shell companies. The challenge of anti-TBML is so widespread and common that some describe it as searching for a needle in a haystack.
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AssessmentsNov 18, 2019 | 10:00 GMT
Color satellite image of the Niger Delta region in Nigeria. The city of Lagos, the second-most populous city in Africa, can be seen west of the river on the Atlantic coast.
Nigeria's Risky New Oil Revenue Plan
Life just got harder for major oil companies operating off the coast of Nigeria. On Nov. 4, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari signed a law updating the terms of the country’s production-sharing contracts that, among other changes, increase royalties on international oil firms. As Africa's top crude producer, Nigeria is almost entirely financially dependent on its petroleum operations, which account for 90 percent of government revenue. The current oil glut has thus hurt Nigeria's pocketbooks particularly hard, forcing it to consider drastic measures to squeeze out more money from its growing offshore operations. But by placing international companies in its crosshairs, Nigeria instead risks driving away the crucial deep-water investments in needs to keep its lights on.
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On SecurityOct 15, 2019 | 09:30 GMT
Mourners place flowers at a makeshift memorial on Oct. 10, 2019, at the market square in Halle, Germany, one day after a deadly anti-Semitic shooting.
Protective Intelligence Lessons From a White Supremacist Attack in Germany
Far more people are alive in Halle, Germany, thanks to a locked door and a shooter's amateurishness. On Oct. 9, a heavily armed white supremacist attacked a synagogue in the eastern German city but failed to gain entrance to the building despite firing several shots. One of the narratives that has emerged from this case is that the attacker was a lone attacker who came from nowhere, ostensibly suggesting that there was no way to detect or prevent his attack. This is utter bunk.
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AssessmentsOct 2, 2019 | 09:00 GMT
The sun rises over an LNG terminal at sea.
Pakistan Strives to Switch to Natural Gas
Hoping to quench its economy's growing thirst for energy, Pakistan has turned to several multinational companies for an ambitious expansion of its liquefied natural gas terminals on the Arabian Sea. On Sept. 20, Petroleum Minister Omar Ayub Khan said Pakistan had chosen ExxonMobil, Trafigura, Royal Dutch Shell, Gunvor and Tabeer Energy to build five LNG facilities. Ayub's announcement touches upon a broader plan to boost the country's LNG processing capacity while shifting the economy's reliance away from oil. With a shortfall in domestic production expected to persist as more customers sign on to the grid, Pakistan's burgeoning demand for natural gas will drive ever-more LNG imports in the next few years. And though some might hesitate to invest in Pakistani LNG lest local partners run afoul of a far-reaching (and allegedly politically motivated) anti-corruption campaign, the growth of the country's LNG demand creates major opportunities for international energy companies looking
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AssessmentsSep 19, 2019 | 09:30 GMT
A Saudi Defense Ministry official speaks in Riyadh on Sept. 18, 2019, following Sept. 14 attacks on Saudi Aramco facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais.
Saudi Oil Infrastructure Offers a Target-Rich Environment for Iran
For years Iran has threatened that if it were no longer able to export oil because of U.S. sanctions, then no one else would be able to either. The Sept. 14 attacks on Saudi Arabian Oil Co.'s Abqaiq and Khurais oil processing complexes and two earlier attacks on the Saudi oil sector gave life to longstanding fears of Iranian attacks on Saudi critical infrastructure. Iran has clearly made the strategic decision to escalate its attacks against oil industry targets in the region in response to U.S. sanctions pressure and Washington's departure from the Iranian nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The challenge for Saudi Arabia will be trying to protect a large number of critical targets across its large territory. But unfortunately for Saudi Arabia, the billions of dollars it spends annually on defense -- including a planned $51 billion in 2019 -- simply cannot protect all Saudi infrastructure
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AssessmentsJul 17, 2019 | 10:00 GMT
A worker constructs a section of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline near Kingisepp, Russia.
Despite Looming U.S. Sanctions, the Nord Stream 2 Pipeline Will Likely Proceed
For the first time, U.S. President Donald Trump directly acknowledged that Washington was, in fact, considering sanctioning Nord Stream 2 on June 12. This comes less than a month after U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry warned that a U.S. sanctions bill targeting the project could come into effect in the "not too distant future." These statements could mean the White House is seriously considering a proposed sanctions bill that, if fully imposed, would have the power to essentially grind construction a screeching halt. However, such a move would risk angering Germany at a time when the White House is trying to sway Berlin on a number of other important issues, including increasing its defense spending and barring Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei from rolling out its 5G network. Thus, the United States is more likely to stick with a more middle-of-the-ground approach that still throws a wrench in the project's timeline, without completely killing it. 
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