An appetite for change. Multiple polls across Russia show that an increasing percentage of the population is in favor of some type of political transformation, according to a report by Russian daily Rossiyskaya Gazeta. A recent poll conducted by the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Sociology Institute found that 62 percent of Russians 30 years old and younger and 51 percent of Russians aged 31-40 years want to see reforms. Those over 41 years old tend to favor the status quo. The poll also found that people who favor reforms are concentrated in large cities, regional capitals and, surprisingly, rural areas. According to RAS, those demanding change tend to associate the status quo with worsening living conditions. Another poll, conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation, found that the number of Russians who favor significant changes in the way the country is managed increased from 44 to 48 percent in the past six years, though the number of people who believe no reforms are needed also rose from 14 to 20 percent. Russia’s Public Opinion Research Center found similar results: 59 percent of respondents in a recent poll said reforms are needed in many areas, while a third said some reforms are needed, and 2 percent said no changes were necessary. The Rossiyskaya Gazeta report also noted that pollsters have found that 62 percent of Russians support democracy but a “special type in line with national traditions.” Nearly half of respondents said that Western-style democracy would be bad for Russia.
Punishing Turkey. The European Union followed through on sanctions on Turkey for Ankara’s drilling activities off the coast of Cyprus. The sanctions will mean the suspension of a 146 million-euro payment for pre-accession assistance, high-level dialogues in multiple strategic areas, and European Investment Bank lending. Additional sanctions on specific companies and individuals have not been ruled out. Turkey’s Foreign Ministry downplayed the move and said Ankara plans to continue its hydrocarbon activities in the Eastern Mediterranean. The sanctions come just as a Turkish drilling ship reported its first discovery of an offshore gas reserve estimated to hold up to 170 billion cubic meters of gas in the waters near the Greek Cypriot city of Paphos. In addition, the Greek Cypriot Parliament recently approved new regulations for foreign companies drilling for oil and gas in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone. Most notably, they allow the government to extend indefinitely licenses issued to energy companies.
Washington pushes ahead on immigration. After failing to convince Central American governments to agree to “safe third country” agreements, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security adopted an interim measure that blocks asylum claims from those who pass through another country before reaching the U.S. The measure will ensure that no Central American migrants attempting to enter the U.S. through Mexico are granted asylum (save for some in exceptional circumstances). The move came shortly after Guatemala’s Constitutional Court ruled that President Jimmy Morales cannot alone declare Guatemala a safe third country and that such a designation would require congressional approval. Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said Mexico, which has repeatedly refused U.S. requests to declare itself a safe third country, will maintain current asylum practices and confirmed that existing asylum claims must be processed.
Preparing for the worst. The Chinese government continues to brace for impact from the U.S. trade war with a series of measures targeting insolvent businesses. Thirteen ministries jointly announced a new regulation that makes zombie companies (including state-owned ones) ineligible for subsidies or loans from central government agencies and local governments. The goal is reportedly to better manage resource allocation and reduce market distortions, of which there are many in China. Local governments will be responsible for determining if this regulation is applicable, putting its efficacy in doubt. The Chinese government is also preparing an early warning system that will help ailing financial institutions access legal support for restructuring or bankruptcy filing. Something similar may be under consideration for Chinese individuals considering bankruptcy.
- A United Arab Emirates oil tanker that crossed into Iranian waters while traversing the Strait of Hormuz has not transmitted a location signal in over two days.
- U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order that calls for an increase in domestic content for select U.S.-made goods from 55 percent to 75 percent. For iron and steel, it will be 95 percent. The new measure will take effect in 180 days.
- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Ankara wants to participate in the production of Russian-made S-400 missile defense systems.
- The EU’s top official for foreign affairs said the EU did not consider Iran’s recent breaches of the nuclear deal to be significant. The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran said it currently does not plan to enrich uranium beyond 4.5 percent.
- Kyrgyzstan will hold the Sary Tash 2019 military exercises on July 18-20. About 600 people and more than 100 military equipment units will participate in the drills.
- A controversial Ukrainian language law, which gives special status to the Ukrainian language and makes its use mandatory for public workers, came into effect on July 16.
- There are reports that Hezbollah has set up new bases along the Syria-Lebanon border and that Israel has sought Russian assistance to expel the fighters from the area.
- Greece’s Finance Ministry said it did not anticipate a fiscal gap for this year, implying that Athens will meet budget targets promised to its international lenders.