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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. 
SITUATION REPORTMar 8, 2021 | 20:59 GMT
Russia: U.S. Readying to Conduct Cyber Actions in Retaliation for SolarWinds Attack
U.S. officials said the United States will conduct a series of clandestine cyber actions against Russian networks in the coming weeks in response to the December 2020 SolarWinds cyberattack, paired with unspecified economic sanctions and an executive order to improve the U.S. government’s cyber defenses, The New York Times reported March 7.
SITUATION REPORTMar 8, 2021 | 20:40 GMT
Afghanistan: U.S. Outlines Plan for Transitional Government in Letter to Ghani
The United States sent Afghan President Ashraf Ghani a draft plan for a transitional government and cease-fire that recognizes Islam as Afghanistan’s official religion, grants immunity to all citizens and outlines requirements for a presidential election, Khaama Press reported March 8.
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. 
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. 
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.
SnapshotsMar 5, 2021 | 21:01 GMT
Chinese President Xi Jinping is seen on a large screen at the opening session of the National People's Congress on March 5, 2021, in Beijing, China.
China Secures Its Hold on Hong Kong With Sweeping Electoral Reforms
Extensive Hong Kong electoral reforms risk permanently sidelining the pro-democracy opposition by giving pro-Beijing forces free rein to pursue measures that substantially erode the city’s autonomy and limit unrest. On March 5, electoral changes were introduced in China's National People's Congress as legislators convened a weeklong meeting as part of China’s annual “two sessions” policymaking meetings. Although the full details have not been publicly released, the vice chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, Wang Chen, said the reforms would create a "democratic process with Hong Kong characteristics," noting specifically that the Basic Law provisions on the roles of the city’s chief executive and Legislative Council would be amended. The NPC will vote on the changes on March 11. 
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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