Going to the moon. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the agency plans to send astronauts to the moon within the next decade. The goal this time would be to set up bases that would enable long-term exploration and that could help NASA prepare for missions to Mars. The statement comes a month after China landed a rover on the far side of the moon. It seems the space race is once again heating up, as major powers try to establish a permanent presence on the moon, possibly for military purposes.

Turkmenistan’s export potential. Work has started on a project to export electricity from Turkmenistan through the Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan-Tajikistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan power network. Last month, Turkmenistan’s State Bank for Foreign Economic Affairs approved a $500 million loan to upgrade the country’s electricity grid so it can be linked to the network. We’ve observed increasing competition between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan for regional leadership, so any developments in cross-border infrastructure projects involving either of these countries are noteworthy. Meanwhile, Iran’s Mehr News Agency reported that Turkmenistan stopped supplying oil to Iran in June 2018 because of “technical reasons.” The two countries have an oil swap agreement, which reportedly provides substantial income for Iran. With Iran’s budget stretched thin, this could place even more stress on the cash-strapped government in Tehran.

Honorable Mentions

  • According to Reuters, which cited an anonymous White House source, the U.S. is in direct contact with members of the Venezuelan military and urging them to pull their support for President Nicolas Maduro.
  • Rating agency Moody’s upgraded Russia’s credit rating to Baa3 from Ba1, citing improved public finances and reduced risk from external shock.
  • Georgia has raised concerns about a lookout tower being built in the breakaway region of South Ossetia, claiming that the tower could be used for military purposes.
  • Talks between the Spanish government and Catalan separatists were scuttled before they even began, reportedly because Spain would not agree to Catalan demands to include an independence referendum on the meeting agenda.