The resilience of the Maduro regime. The Strategic Operational Command of Venezuela’s military announced that, at the order of President Nicolas Maduro, it had deployed to various “strategic installations” to defend the country. Venezuelan TV reported that the command was deployed to guard the country’s national electricity system and water distribution network. Both Venezuelan opposition forces and foreign anti-Maduro countries lambasted Venezuela for failing to avert a power outage that shut off electricity in the country for almost five days. Not only does the Maduro regime seem no worse for wear, but it is also demonstrating that it still has the military’s loyalty.

The persistence of Algeria’s protesters. Despite securing a major concession from octogenarian Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to drop his bid to run for a fifth term, Algerians took to the streets again yesterday to demand the president’s resignation. So far the Algerian military has taken a fairly hands-off approach to managing the domestic unrest, and indeed, for a country of about 41 million people with an economy highly dependent on oil, the protests themselves have been relatively peaceful. If the protesters keep the pressure up, Algeria’s political and military institutions will soon face a choice between a crackdown or removing Bouteflika from the picture entirely.

Watching the global economy. The governor of the Bank of Japan warned yesterday that Japan’s exports and domestic production had been weak recently and that the bank was reversing its January assessment that both were on an “increasing trend.” The governor said the most likely scenario is still that China and European economies will stabilize and begin to recover in the second half of the year, but it’s hard for us to figure why it would. Meanwhile, the Financial Times reports that German automaker BMW revealed a decline in 2018 company profits including a roughly 22 percent decline in the company’s automotive division. GPF readers will know that these kinds of data points from the German economy confirm our views on the headwinds Europe’s largest economy is facing.

North Korea lashes out. North Korea’s vice foreign minister accused the United States of “gangster-like” behavior and said that it was putting the entire U.S.-North Korea negotiation process at risk. The official did not dismiss the possibility that North Korea might even resume missile testing and reiterated that North Korea has no intention of compromising with the U.S. The typically bombastic rhetoric followed the U.S. secretary of state’s statement that Kim Jong Un had assured U.S. President Donald Trump that North Korea would not resume testing, and that the U.S. was hoping to continue talks. We’re on record as having predicted no resumption of missile testing in 2019 and despite North Korea’s flair for the dramatic, that remains our forecast.

Crimean anniversary. On this day five years ago, Crimea held a referendum in which over 90 percent of voters expressed their desire to join the Russian Federation. The margin was met with some skepticism at the time, although a Gallup poll conducted a few months after the referendum seemed to suggest the figure was close to an accurate reflection of Crimean popular sentiment. Five years later, Russia is well-entrenched in Crimea despite the fact that many countries don’t recognize Russia’s rule there. Yesterday, the U.S., European Union and Canada all slapped new sanctions on Russia for the Kerch Strait incident late last year. Turkey this morning released a statement re-affirming Crimean sovereignty and rejecting Russia’s annexation of Crimea, a position held by a number of countries including the United States. Recognized or not, Russia is in control of Crimea, and it has every interest to make sure it remains so.

Honorable Mentions

  • The Seventh Turkish-Russian Joint Strategic Planning Group Meeting has been postponed for a second time; the reason is not immediately clear.
  • The Pakistani army claims to have shot down an Indian spy drone in Kashmir.
  • Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are holding talks to end a border conflict that broke out earlier this week over water resources, leaving at least two dead.
  • China’s premier announced several new price cuts, including for internet services and electricity for industrial companies, in a bid to boost Chinese domestic consumption.