Turkey expands its influence in the Middle East. Ankara has signed a series of economic and cooperation agreements with Azerbaijan and has expressed interest in improving ties with Armenia – provided the latter pulls its troops from the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Turkey also has plans to build naval bases in Trabzon, along the Black Sea, and in Northern Cyprus. Its navy is currently deployed as part of Operation Mediterranean Shield in the eastern Mediterranean, and it’s facing increased tension with Greece over offshore oil drilling.
The grim economic outlook spreads to Asia. In the third quarter, Japan’s economy posted a 0.6 percent contraction compared to the previous quarter. The poor performance has been blamed on earthquakes and weather events, and analysts expect the economy to rebound. South Korea’s Hyundai Research Institute and state-run Korea Development Institute both warned of decelerating economic performance after a mere 0.6 percent growth in the third quarter. And a prominent Chinese economist warned that China’s economy is at risk of growing less than 6 percent without a fiscal stimulus. An official with the International Monetary Fund, meanwhile, has warned of the next financial crisis, saying that current efforts are insufficient to slow its arrival and avert a systemic crisis. Of particular concern are economies’ vulnerabilities to sovereign and corporate debt, tighter financial conditions, incomplete reforms and geopolitical tensions.
Brexit stalls – again. British Prime Minister Theresa May delayed a parliamentary vote on a proposed Brexit deal and set off on another European trip to shore up support for the proposed agreement: She will meet with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The British Parliament, meanwhile, is holding an emergency session for further debate on the deal. Northern Ireland has called on May to secure substantive changes in the agreement with Europe, though the European Council president made it clear the EU does not plan to renegotiate. Brexit is threatening to tear apart not just the Tory party but the United Kingdom itself. British law gives the government less than six more weeks to decide how it will proceed, and given the complete absence of progress, hopes are fading that an agreement will be passed by the time the U.K. leaves the union.
The U.S.-Russia rivalry is getting closer to home for Washington. Four Russian military aircraft, including two strategic bombers, arrived in Venezuela on Monday for military exercises. Russian Tu-160 bombers previously visited Venezuela in 2008 and 2013, according to Venezuela’s Defense Ministry. This comes just days after the editor-in-chief of Russia’s National Defense magazine, Igor Korotchenko, told the Tass news agency that Russian submarines could respond to the appearance of the USS McCampbell in Russian-claimed waters by sending its own submarines to the Gulf of Mexico. Both of these developments serve as reminders to Washington that Moscow can retaliate against U.S. moves in places like Ukraine in areas that matter most to U.S. security at home. But neither side wants a full-fledged war. The country that stands to gain the most from the latest development is Venezuela, which wants to capitalize on Russia’s search for allies in its rivalry with the U.S. by securing more aid and investment. Last week, Washington floated the idea of imposing new sanctions on Venezuelan crude and refined petrol products, so Caracas too is looking for support against U.S. pressure.
- The U.S. established observation posts in the Syrian cities of Kobane, Tell Abyad and Ras al-Ain in an effort to prevent fighting between Turkish and Syrian Kurdish forces along the Turkey-Syria border.
- Responding to another weekend of protests, French President Emmanuel Macron said the government plans to increase the minimum wage, expedite tax cuts and cancel plans for a pensioner tax hike, which would push France’s budget deficit well above the EU limit. He insisted, however, that he will push forward with his reform agenda in 2019.
- Iraq’s prime minister and oil minister met with the U.S. secretary of energy to discuss an exemption from Iran sanctions, energy investments and Iraq’s reconstruction.
- The new Mexican government plans to spend $30 billion over the next five years to address the influx of migrants from Central America.
- The governor of India’s central bank resigned over an ongoing battle with the government, which has reportedly encroached on the bank’s autonomy.
- The Brazilian government has intervened in Roraima state to address problems related to public security, the penitentiary system and Venezuelan migration.
- Chinese authorities arrested a former Canadian diplomat, the International Crisis Group’s Michael Kovrig, ostensibly in retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou.
- China and the U.S. opened their latest round of trade talks between U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He.