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AssessmentsOct 14, 2021 | 21:28 GMT
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers an address in the East Room of the White House on Oct. 13, 2021.
The Obstacles Facing the U.S.-Led Fight Against Ransomware Attacks
U.S.-led multilateral efforts to counter growing ransomware attacks will likely increase law enforcement coordination, sanctions restrictions and overall threat awareness. But such diplomatic efforts will ultimately struggle to make significant progress on curbing ransomware and other financially motivated cyberattacks. The United States hosted the first meeting of the Counter-Ransomware Initiative on Oct. 13-14, bringing together more than 30 countries (mostly U.S. allies or partners) to discuss their shared ransomware threat and ways to disrupt and prevent future attacks. Neither China nor Russia was invited to attend, with senior U.S. officials specifically noting that they had other mechanisms through which to discuss ransomware threats with Russia. 
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AssessmentsOct 14, 2021 | 11:00 GMT
U.S. Naval Update Map: Oct. 14, 2021
The Naval Update Map shows the approximate current locations of U.S. Carrier Strike Groups (CSGs) and Amphibious Ready Groups (ARGs), based on available open-source information. No classified or operationally sensitive information is included in this weekly update. CSGs and ARGs are the keys to U.S. dominance over the world's oceans. A CSG is centered on an aircraft carrier and includes significant offensive strike capability. An ARG is centered on three amphibious warfare ships, with a Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked.
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AssessmentsOct 13, 2021 | 21:20 GMT
The logos of the U.S.-based social media platforms WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook (left to right) are seen on a smartphone screen in Moscow, Russia, on Oct. 5, 2021.
What’s Next for Russia’s Crackdown on Big Tech?
With parliamentary elections now behind it, the Russian government will maintain its pressure campaign against Big Tech, threatening companies to coerce them into compliance while diluting their influence with domestic analogs in the coming years. Last year, the Kremlin launched a crackdown on political dissent to prevent the September elections for the Russian State Duma from resulting in opposition victories or mass protests. As the crackdown sought to narrow permitted political speech and information accessible in Russia, one of the focal points of the campaign became U.S.-based “Big Tech” companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter and Amazon, as well as other smaller tech companies. Russian independent media and political activists rely on these platforms to spread their message and demand more democratic governance in Russia, which the regime views as a threat. Moscow envisions sufficiently pliable domestic entities -- such as Russia’s large tech conglomerates like Yandex, VK, and Sber
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Regions & CountriesOctober 13, 2021 | 18:26 GMT
Portugal
Portugal
Portugal is a country in southwestern Europe that is surrounded by Spain to the north and east and by the Atlantic Ocean to the west and south. Portugal also controls the Atlantic archipelagos of Azores and Madeira. Mountain ranges run through northern Portugal, while hills and plains mark the center and the south. Because of its long coast and many islands, Portugal possesses the third largest exclusive economic zone in the European Union. Some of the longest rivers on the Iberian Peninsula, including the Douro and the Tagus, also enter the ocean in Portugal after flowing from east to west. These rivers have traditionally contributed to the prosperity of some of Portugal’s main cities, including Lisbon (the capital) and Porto (the second largest city). Portugal’s position on the Atlantic has made the country a nation of sailors and explorers. It became a global empire starting in the late 15th century, establishing colonies and trading posts in places as diverse as South America, Africa, the Middle East, India and South Asia. While Portugal eventually lost control of all its colonies, it retains close economic and cultural ties with many of them, including Brazil and Angola. The country's rivalry with neighboring Spain, another colonial power, has ultimately fostered close ties between Lisbon and London. Portugal entered a period of political turbulence and economic decline in the early 19th century. The country languished under a military dictatorship during a significant portion of the 20th century, only transitioning to democracy in 1974. The country subsequently joined the European Economic Community, the Schengen area and the eurozone. The financial crisis of the late 2000s hit the Portuguese economy hard, forcing Lisbon to request a rescue program from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. The country's main geopolitical challenge is to reconcile its competing interests as a former colonial empire, Atlantic nation and member of the European Union to secure economic prosperity and political stability for its approximately 10 million inhabitants.
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Regions & CountriesOctober 13, 2021 | 18:21 GMT
Ireland
Ireland
The Republic of Ireland lies on an island to the northwest of continental Europe and is separated from Great Britain by the Irish Sea. The island itself is a low plain surrounded by a ring of coastal mountains. Western Ireland, exposed to harsh weather from the Atlantic, is less habitable than the east. The River Shannon, the longest river in the British Isles, bisects the island and has been important for both navigation and as a strategic boundary. Agriculture historically was Ireland’s primary economic activity and a lack of coal and iron delayed industrialization. The great famine of the mid-19th century caused mass immigration and by 1911, Ireland had only about half of its peak population. The country’s rugged coast prevents natural ports, restricting trade in all but a few places. One of those places is Dublin, the capital. Dublin’s vicinity to Great Britain has also helped make it Ireland’s economic center. But Ireland’s reliance on Britain has been a source of conflict for hundreds of years. Currently the island is split between the predominantly Catholic Republic of Ireland, which has about 80 percent of the island’s territory and accounts for 70 percent of its population, and the predominantly Protestant Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. In 1973, Ireland joined the European Community, the entity that preceded the European Union. In the early 2000s, Ireland became one of the founding members of the eurozone. Modern-day Ireland is a services-based economy with an important presence of foreign direct investment. Because of Ireland’s relative isolation from mainland Europe, rugged topography and lack of natural resources, the island has struggled to form a united country capable of defending against outside powers, especially the United Kingdom.
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Regions & CountriesOctober 13, 2021 | 18:22 GMT
Kosovo
Kosovo
Kosovo is a landlocked, partially recognized country in the Western Balkans. It is surrounded by mountains, including the Sar Mountains in the south and southwest and the Kopaonik Mountains in the north. In the center of the country, the Metohija and Kosovo plains provide some of Kosovo's most fertile lands. Kosovo's economic and political core is Pristina, the country's capital and most populated city. Kosovo is one of the smallest countries in Europe, with a population of roughly 2 million people. In the Middle Ages, Kosovo's territory was the heart of the Serbian medieval state and was the seat of the Serbian Orthodox Church. But the territory fell under Ottoman control in the 15th century, a situation that lasted for five centuries. After World War II, Kosovo became an autonomous province within Yugoslavia. The 20th century saw frictions between ethnic Serbian and Albanian communities in Kosovo, which peaked during the Kosovo War of 1998 and 1999. The war only ended after the intervention of the United Nations and NATO. Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008. While the country is recognized by more than a hundred members of the United Nations, including the United States and most members of the European Union, several countries such as Russia and China do not recognize it as a sovereign state. Under EU sponsorship, Serbia and Kosovo are negotiating a normalization of their relations, but significant problems remain, including the status of areas with significant Serbian populations. Kosovo has introduced some reforms since independence, but it still has weak economic and political institutions and a large informal sector, while remittances and foreign aid remain important for the economy. Kosovo's partial recognition is a significant obstacle in the country's bid to join international organizations such as the United Nations and the European Union and to better integrate into the global economy. Its main challenge is therefore to gain full international recognition and to reach some degree of stability after decades of turbulence.
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SnapshotsOct 13, 2021 | 17:48 GMT
India’s national flag waves above a rally in New Delhi.
The Importance of India’s 2022 State Elections
Upcoming state elections in India will be key in gauging whether opposition parties can form a united front to challenge Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on a national scale. Seven Indian states are scheduled to hold assembly elections in 2022. The northern state of Uttar Pradesh, where 80 lower house seats will be up for grabs, will be especially instrumental for any party looking to increase their presence in the lower house of India’s national parliament in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
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SnapshotsOct 12, 2021 | 18:36 GMT
A woman walks to cast her ballot in Iraq’s parliamentary election at a polling station in Dohuk on Oct. 10, 2021.
Iraq’s Parliamentary Vote Reflects a Disillusioned Electorate
Iraq’s Oct. 10 parliamentary election has left Shiite groups with the most seats, portending several more years of political continuity. But the loss of seats by Iran-aligned groups, combined with the anti-government sentiment indicated by low voter turnout, will also increase the likelihood of social unrest. Iraq’s latest parliamentary election will yield little change in the country, despite being held months early to satisfy activists’ demands for reform. Results released by Iraq’s High Electoral Commission on Oct. 11 indicate that the parliamentary group aligned with Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr won 73 seats, significantly more than any other group, followed by two established Sunni and Shiite coalitions. Sadrists (followers of al-Sadr) will thus play the dominant role in the government formation process, just as they did following the last election in 2018. This, along with Iraqis signaling their lack of trust in Baghdad by not voting, will contribute to stagnant politics
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Regions & CountriesOctober 11, 2021 | 21:14 GMT
North Korea
North Korea

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea, or North Korea, lies on a peninsula extending outward from northeast Asia. The country borders China and Russia to the north, the Republic of Korea to the south, and Japan across the sea to the east. North Korea's primary geographic challenge is securing its northern and southern borders from the threat of its much larger regional neighbors. The Kaema Plateau and Hamgyong Mountains comprise much of the northern border region, providing a strong but not unbreachable geographic barrier. The Taebaeck Mountains run along the east coast, limiting the potential for invasion from the sea. Since the time of earlier North Korean kingdoms including Koguryo, The Dandong-Sinuiju gap across the Yalu River in the northwest and the wide Imjin-Han river valley in the south leave the country vulnerable, particularly with the lack of geographic barriers along the north-south axis. North Korea's mountains do provide ample hydropower, and the country also has numerous natural mineral resources and coal, but its terrain and climate limit agricultural activity. Given its larger neighbors, North Korea has two core imperatives. It must secure its southern and northern borders via political accommodation, defensive lines or outward expansion, and it must engender a strong sense of national unity and exploit differences among its neighbors to balance external political pressure. From the launching of the Korean War to the heavily fortified DMZ, from the exploitation of relations between China and Russia to the development of a nuclear deterrent, North Korea's actions in many ways are shaped by similar constraints and pressures as felt by its predecessor kingdoms due to its location and geography.

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Regions & CountriesOctober 11, 2021 | 21:13 GMT
Mongolia
Mongolia
Mongolia is a landlocked nation, currently squeezed between two neighbors, Russia and China. Much of it lies on a plateau, but in the west the Altai Mountains rise to Mongolia’s highest point — more than 14,000 feet — while the Gobi Desert stretches across the country’s southern border. Mongolia’s most prominent geographic feature is the vast steppes that create both opportunity and vulnerability. From these steppes, Mongol horse-archers in the 13th century led by Genghis Khan extended control over the agricultural civilizations of Eurasia. But as their technological advantage eroded, these flatlands left Mongolia with few geographic barriers and the empire began crumbling within 60 years. Today, part of the majority Halh Mongol population and traditional Mongolian lands lie within the borders of China, undermining security of Mongolia’s southern border. Because of its climate and geography, Mongolia has the world’s lowest population density. There are fewer than three million people, with a third living in the capital. Traditionally a herding society, agriculture is now less than 15 percent of the economy. Instead, vast deposits of coal, copper, gold and uranium, as well as rare earth elements, have drawn significant international investments but have left Mongolia dependent upon foreign capital and expertise. And without ports, it must rely on China and Russia to export its resources. This leaves modern Mongolia seeking a third neighbor to balance their influence, but isolation limits the ability of an outside power to offset these geographic constraints. As a result, Mongolia remains trapped between its much stronger neighbors.
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AssessmentsOct 11, 2021 | 20:41 GMT
People wait outside the entrance to the annual meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) outside the IMF headquarters in Washington D.C. on Oct. 11, 2021.
This Year’s World Bank-IMF Meetings Are Unlikely to Yield Progress
Internal leadership problems at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, combined with domestic issues facing both institutions’ main shareholders, will severely limit room for substantive progress during this year’s IMF-World Bank meetings. The lack of a clear path forward for international policy coordination in the transition to a post-pandemic world will, in turn, leave their 190 member countries to mostly fend for themselves in addressing risks and vulnerabilities.
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SnapshotsOct 7, 2021 | 22:07 GMT
Peruvian President Pedro Castillo arrives at the 76th session of the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 21, 2021, in New York.
With a Cabinet Reshuffle, Peru’s Castillo Tries to Free Himself From the Far-Left
Peruvian President Pedro Castillo’s move to appoint a more moderate prime minister and cabinet will increase political stability and investor confidence in the country. The removal of leftist officials, however, could trigger more disruptive actions against multinational organizations operating in Peru’s extractive industries. Mirtha Vasquez, the former head of Peru’s Congress, was sworn in as prime minister on Oct. 6, just hours after Castillo unexpectedly announced the resignation of her predecessor Guido Bellido (and, by association, his entire cabinet) after just two months in office. Castillo’s own Peru Libre party quickly denounced the shake-up, calling it “treason” in a recent press conference. But the decision to replace Bellido, who leads Peru Libre’s far-left faction, was widely supported by other centrist and opposition parties in Congress, and will likely temporarily shield Castillo from the threat of impeachment.
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