The items listed below represent potential emerging issues that our analysts are tracking. These can be long term or short term, but will be updated daily. If an item on our Watch List becomes critical, we will email you a full analysis explaining its significance.
Each Saturday, we will follow up our daily Watch List for each week with our conclusions on these issues.
Belarus: Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said during his state of the nation address that there would be no “maidan” protests in Belarus like the one in Ukraine as long as he is in power. He criticized former Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan for making constitutional changes and said Belarus will not be holding a referendum on any such changes in the near future because the time isn’t right. Lukashenko is a longstanding pro-Russia leader, but he has faced some protests over the past few years. His address reflects his nervousness about what happened in Armenia. We need a status update on his hold on the government and the potential for social unrest.
Ukraine: Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s BPP political party said the Russian military has increased its presence in Crimea over the past five years, adding 20,000 personnel, 40 main battle tanks, 588 armored personnel carriers and 151 artillery systems. Poroshenko also tweeted that this year the Ukrainian army will receive the high-precision Vilkha missile. We are waiting for Russia’s retaliation for the U.S.-led airstrike in Syria, and there are good reasons for Moscow to act out in Ukraine. Poroshenko’s party has reason to exaggerate, so let’s verify the numbers. It’s important to know what military assets are in the area and whether there’s been a surge. It would also be useful to know what military equipment Ukraine has nearby.
Turkey, Syria: The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces have paused their offensive operations against the Islamic State due to Turkey’s military operation in Afrin. Reports of a pause go back to early March, but U.S. defense officials confirmed this week that ground offensive operations are on hold. This pause creates an opportunity for IS, so be on the lookout for indicators that the group is taking advantage. Meanwhile, there are signs that Turkey may have begun operations in Sinjar, Iraq. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the Turkey-led forces would cut off and seize the Kurdish town of Tel Rifaat in Syria and warned that if the mainly Kurdish YPG militia is not removed from Manbij, then Turkey will be forced to remove it with the support of the local Syrian people. What effect do Turkey’s latest military operations have on IS?
Iran, U.S.: U.S. President Donald Trump called for a new deal with Iran that would limit the country’s ballistic missile program and support for militant groups in places like Yemen and Syria. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani responded that Trump lacks political skills and does not understand international relations. Iran has been very publicly demonstrating its position on the nuclear deal this week. We need to know whether this is just posturing, catering to a domestic audience, or genuine concern that the U.S. may back out. What will the effect on Iran be if the U.S. does change or leave the deal?
Nicaragua: Protesters in Nicaragua now number in the thousands. They marched through the capital, Managua, even after the government canceled planned social security reforms. They are now making broader demands for an “end of repression, freedom of the press, and the re-establishment of peace in the country.” Protests of this nature are unusual in Nicaragua. We need to evaluate how the protests evolved and who is now leading them. Are we going to see Nicaragua descend into massive social unrest, or is there potential for negotiation similar to what Honduras is pursuing?