Digging Deeper Into Russia’s Slumping Grain Yields

July 21, 2017 Russia relies on wheat more than any other foodstuff as an important component of its food supply. In fact, roughly 70 percent of wheat produced in Russia annually is consumed domestically. From Siberia to the westernmost regions bordering Europe, wheat is a staple in most parts of the country.

In 2016, Russia became the world’s top grain exporter with a record production of 120 million tons of wheat, according to Russian statistics agency Rosstat. But poor weather conditions have affected this year’s production. Russia’s grain harvesting season normally starts in June, but this year, it started in July. Cold temperatures have delayed crop ripening and have slowed down field work. As a result, total output is expected to be 17 percent lower than was originally anticipated.

Moving Toward Korean Cooperation

The two Koreas are gradually reducing defenses along the Demilitarized Zone and exploring possibilities for major cross-border infrastructure projects.

Asylum Claims in Europe

Aug. 27, 2016 This week’s graphic shows asylum claims in Europe in 2015, when over 1.3 million people sought refuge in Europe. To prevent an intensification of the migration crisis, the EU signed a deal with Turkey. In exchange for 3 billion euros (with the possibility of 3 billion more by 2018) and the promise of visa-free travel in the EU, Turkey said it would accept returned migrants from Greece. Before the deal, more than a thousand refugees were arriving in Greece every day. Since the deal, the number has dropped to approximately 60.

Foreign Holders of U.S. Treasury Securities

Dec. 30, 2016 The biggest myth surrounding the issue of China as a holder of U.S. debt securities is the outsized role China is perceived as playing. U.S. government debt currently totals $19.89 trillion. This is a somewhat misleading figure, however. Intragovernmental holdings make up $5.47 trillion of that figure, which means that almost 30 percent of the debt is money that the U.S. government owes itself. Of the remaining $14.41 trillion, $6.15 trillion is held by foreign sources, and the rest is held by various U.S. pension funds, insurance companies and other investors. Of the amount held by foreign sources, only $1.84 trillion is held by China, 61 percent of which is held in U.S. Treasury securities. (The rest is in equities and corporate or U.S. agency securities, as shown below.)

South Korean Exports

Dec. 21, 2015 South Korea’s economy is exposed to substantial risk due to the economic slowdown in its largest trading partner, China, and some concerns of resulting political instability are beginning to emerge. The country’s economic difficulties can be seen through its export figures. South Korean exports are thought of as a bellwether in the global financial community because they are released consistently at the beginning of the month and because South Korea is a producer of a wide variety of goods. These numbers have been negative all year and year-to-date South Korean exports are down 7.5 percent.

In Iran, Protests Are Nothing New

On Dec. 28, Iran’s second-most populous city, Mashhad, situated in the northeast near the border with Turkmenistan, was the site of protests that would soon expand to dozens of towns, villages and urban centers throughout the country. On the first day, three cities held demonstrations. (Some reports say it was five.) On the second day, an additional nine cities saw protests. By the sixth day, they had spread to all corners of the country.

Central Asia Pipelines

Feb. 3, 2017 In 2017, economic issues tied to reduced revenue from energy exports and Russia’s weakening economy will further destabilize the entire region. Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are the most vulnerable countries, and the map below makes it easy to see why. The countries are rich in hydrocarbon deposits and built national economies around hydrocarbon exports. As oil prices fell, so did government revenue, which in turn hurt domestic economies.


South America’s Geographical Importance

April 12, 2016 South America is an island, connected to North America by a land bridge. We all know that. But South America is not a single entity. It is made up of smaller islands, divided not by the ocean, but by impassable jungles and mountains. The Amazon and the Andes create three islands. The eastern island consists of parts of Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia, as well as Paraguay and Uruguay. The second island is Venezuela and Colombia. The third is a long, thin island in the west, running from Ecuador through Peru and Chile.

If you have ever wondered why South America was never formed into a single entity like North America, or into transcontinental countries, think about the Amazon and the Andes. South America only looks like a single landmass. It is deeply divided by these barely passable barriers. In a real sense, the center of South America is a blank. A great deal of South American history can be explained by this.

Maps can deceive. They can also reveal. It all depends how you look at it and what you see. Geopolitical Futures sees deep, and seeing deep, it will surprise you.

China’s Vision for a New Silk Road

July 14, 2017 China’s ambitious One Belt, One Road initiative, unveiled in 2013, is really two plans combined to form a larger framework of new trade routes. The first of these is One Belt, which refers to the development of new infrastructure, particularly railroads and highways, to connect China’s interior provinces with Europe by way of Russia, Central Asia and the Middle East.

Of course, insufficient regional infrastructure has tempered expectations of increasing overland exports. But the bigger problem with One Belt is geopolitical: Eurasia is in a state of crisis, and several of the countries China borders will feel the crisis particularly acutely in the coming years.

Central Asia, a patchwork of states whose borders were drawn to make the countries more easily controlled from Moscow during the Soviet era, is hardly a promising market for Chinese goods. Furthermore, it is one of the most politically unstable regions in the world. One Belt is not a long march into prosperity – it’s a long march into disaster.

Ottoman Empire Borders Versus Modern-Day Borders

May 3, 2016 This map is designed to show some of the hidden fault lines underlying the states of the Middle East, and the reasons these states, which were held together by foreign powers and domestic tyrants, disintegrated.

The Ottoman Empire lasted for about six centuries before it collapsed after World War I. Towards the waning years of the 17th century, its forces had penetrated as far west as Vienna. Its power and reach were enormous and enduring. The green areas of the map show what remained of the empire in the mid-19th century, after it was long past its prime. Its power had declined, but the extent of its rule, even in decline, bound together a region reaching from the Balkans to the Arabian Peninsula and to a large part of North Africa.

Yemen: War in the Time of Cholera

The fighting has discouraged reconstruction efforts, leaving much of the population at risk of disease.

Terrorist Trends in Europe

Aug. 25, 2017 Terrorism is a phenomenon with which Europe is all too familiar. Consider World War I. The proximate cause of the conflict was an act of terrorism – the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. Consider the year 1972, when, in Munich, Black September, a secular Palestinian militant group, killed members of the Israeli Olympic team. That same year was also among the bloodiest of the Troubles of Northern Ireland.

Just 13 years later, terrorist organizations carried out multiple attacks on civilian targets: TWA Flight 847, an Italian cruise ship, airports in Vienna and in Rome. In 1986, the Libyan government, led by Moammar Gadhafi, sponsored an attack at a club in West Berlin. Ronald Reagan said 1986 was the year “the world, at long last, came to grips with the plague of terrorism.” Two years later was the Lockerbie bombing.

The times we live in are not special. Terrorism has long been a part of European life. In fact, more people died from terrorist attacks in the 1970s and 1980s than in any recent decade.