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AssessmentsMar 8, 2021 | 21:27 GMT
French soldiers monitor an area along Burkina Faso’s border with Mali and Niger on Nov. 10, 2019.
In the Sahel, a French Exit Will Be Easier Said Than Done
France is seeking to reduce its military commitments in the Sahel region of sub-Saharan Africa, but its failure to instill political stability will impede Paris’ ability to do so without worsening the region’s deteriorating security situation. France hopes to shift the military burden to regional countries and other European countries. Any reduction in French operations, however, will risk aiding the geographic expansion of militants in the Sahel by damaging counterterrorism efforts in the region. France’s desire to develop an exit strategy may eventually give Mali and Burkina Faso the political cover that they need to entertain negotiations with certain jihadist and insurgent elements. 
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SnapshotsMar 5, 2021 | 22:49 GMT
A woman pushes a cart down a street in Beijing, China, on March 5, 2021.
China’s GDP Targets Don’t Reflect a Booming Economy
China’s newly announced GDP growth target for 2021 indicates that China is reverting to past growth drivers at the expense of reforming and reorienting its economy toward innovation and sustainable growth. This conservative approach could be an early indicator that China’s post-COVID economic recovery is not as solid as raw data indicates. In his speech to the National People’s Congress on March 5, Premier Li Keqiang set a growth target of “above 6%” well below most forecasts, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) projection of 8.1% and consensus forecasts of 8-9% GDP growth in 2021. 
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SITUATION REPORTMar 5, 2021 | 21:29 GMT
U.S.: White House Sanctions Powerful Ukrainian Oligarch Over Corruption Allegations
The U.S. State Department has barred Ukraine’s most powerful oligarch, Igor Kolomoisky, and his immediate family from entering the United States due to Kolomoisky’s “involvement in significant corruption” while he was the governor of eastern Ukraine’s Dnipropetrovsk region in 2014 and 2015, Reuters reported March 5. 
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SnapshotsMar 5, 2021 | 21:18 GMT
Riot police approach protesters' barricades in an attempt to disperse a March 4, 2021, demonstration in Naypyidaw, Myanmar, against the military coup.
On Myanmar, Washington Moves Cautiously to Avoid Losing More Ground to China
Without the prospect of international cooperation, the United States is proceeding cautiously with pressure on Myanmar's military government in spite of a week of deadly crackdowns on anti-coup protesters. For now, it is stopping short even from imposing sectoral or deeper country-level trade restrictions, to say nothing of more aggressive financial sanctions, in order to keep Chinese influence in Myanmar from growing.
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SnapshotsMar 5, 2021 | 18:43 GMT
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken discusses his recent call with Russia’s foreign minister on Feb. 4, 2021. U.S. President Joe Biden stands behind him.
Gauging Russia’s Response to Potential New U.S. and U.K. Sanctions
For Russia, potential new U.S. and U.K. sanctions targeting its economic interests would be seen as a significant escalation and compel a range of responses, calibrated according to the perceived aggressiveness of London and Washington’s actions. On March 4, Bloomberg reported that U.S. and U.K. officials are considering additional sanctions against Russia over the poisoning and subsequent jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Although officials have refused to comment publicly, the options on the table reportedly include sanctioning Russian business elites and imposing restrictions on trading Russia’s sovereign debt. Between these two options, the latter would likely be a last resort, while the former is more likely in the near term.
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SnapshotsMar 4, 2021 | 22:16 GMT
Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele delivers a press conference at a hotel in San Salvador on Feb. 28, 2021.
An Election Brings El Salvador’s President Closer to Complete Control
With Congress now firmly in his corner, Salvadorian President Nayib Bukele will be free to implement sweeping reforms that may strain his relationship with the new U.S. administration. While votes are still being counted, preliminary results from El Salvador’s Feb. 28 elections show Bukele’s New Ideas party and its allies winning a congressional supermajority, with 61 out of 84 seats in the Legislative Assembly. The surprise landslide victory has vastly bolstered the 39-year-old president’s hold on Congress, where New Ideas previously held only five seats. The win also reflects Salvadorians’ widespread support for the president’s first two years in office despite the country’s ongoing COVID-19 and economic crises, and marks the first time a single party has controlled both executive and legislative branches since El Salvador returned to democracy in 1992. 
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SnapshotsMar 4, 2021 | 21:32 GMT
Officers man a checkpoint at a harbor in Larne, Northern Ireland, on Feb. 10, 2021.
Northern Ireland Tensions Risk Upending the EU-U.K. Trade Deal
Disputes over customs controls in Northern Ireland threaten the trade and security agreements the European Union and the United Kingdom reached in 2019 and 2020, and risk a reignition of sectarian violence. They will also make it hard for Brussels and London to find deals on issues such as financial services. The U.K. government announced on March 3 that it plans to unilaterally extend a grace period before health certificates and other controls are required for agrifood products moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland from April 1 to October. According to U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, this is necessary to secure deliveries to Northern Irish supermarkets and their suppliers. In response, the European Union and the government of the Republic of Ireland warned that London is violating its commitments to the Northern Ireland protocol of the 2019 EU-U.K. Withdrawal Agreement, according to which there should be customs controls at
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SnapshotsMar 4, 2021 | 19:02 GMT
An illustration shows the Chinese flag overlaying stock prices.
Has China’s Economy Hit a Speed Bump?
Recent data suggests China’s economy may be struggling rather than roaring back from a seasonal slump, and that its impressive headline growth numbers in 2020 hid an incomplete and unbalanced recovery. Forward-looking purchasing manager indices (PMI) reported by China after the Lunar New Year were just slightly above 50, which shows a growing economy, but possibly at a slowing rate that could be worrying to Chinese officials. It’s too early to tell if the recent dips are temporary, cyclical or symptomatic of a greater slowdown, but dependence on the old model of credit-fueled investment and exports may not be sustainable. If not, then projected supercharged growth of 8-9% in 2021 could be unattainable and inconsistent with the Chinese government’s official narratives.
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On StratforMar 2, 2021 | 22:22 GMT
People stand over a world map at the Monument to the Discoveries in the Belem parish of Lisbon, Portugal, on Aug. 21, 2014.
How Many Countries Are There in the World?
How many countries are there in the world? It’s a seemingly simple question. But like so many things in geopolitics, the answer is, well...complicated. The 1933 Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States listed four requirements for statehood: a permanent population, a defined territory, a government and the capacity to enter into relations with other states. The issue, however, is defining who meets that criteria, which varies depending on who you ask. 
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