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.
- Russia: A political analyst working for the Moscow State Institute of International Relations made a rather sensationalist claim in a Russian newspaper a few days ago, raising the possibility that President Vladimir Putin may “have to be absent from the public space for several months” in 2017. The analyst gave no reasoning and said his information may be completely unreliable. Still, in the context of Russia’s other recent moves, this report raises eyebrows. Let’s not jump to conclusions and instead get an understanding of where this claim is coming from.
- China: Coal prices are continuing their upward climb despite the Chinese government having directed coal companies in the country to increase production. When prices originally spiked, we attributed it to a combination of China cutting too much capacity and bad weather conditions causing mines and transportation infrastructure to shut down. But China should be producing more coal now and the rain has stopped, so bad weather is no longer an issue. We need to figure out what’s going on here and whether there are other reasons for increasing coal prices.
- Russia: The Russian Supreme Court overturned opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s conviction in the so-called Kirovles case, ordering a retrial and making him eligible to stand in elections. The Kremlin has reconfirmed that presidential elections will be held in 2018, as speculation mounted in local media that early elections were being considered for 2017. This comes a day after the economic development minister’s arrest, which is dominating headlines in Russia. These events may not be linked, but we need a better handle on what is going on at the domestic level in Russia right now.
- Turkey: Turkey’s new draft constitution is almost ready. Turkey’s armed forces will recruit more than 30,000 new personnel over the next four years. We need to keep an eye on both developments – the constitution will give a window into the domestic political situation in Turkey, and the recruitment of 30,000 personnel gives a window into the strength of the Turkish armed forces in the wake of the purges following the attempted coup.
- France: An important French primary is coming up this Sunday. The elections will happen in April and May 2017, so we’re a long way off. However, since the anti-immigrant, nationalist National Front party did better than expected in regional elections a year ago, and in the context of Brexit and Donald Trump’s presidential election, we need to keep a closer eye on the domestic situation in the EU’s second largest economy.
- Iraq: Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr threatened the use of force against Turkish troops if Turkey does not withdraw its roughly 500 soldiers from Iraq. Al-Sadr is famous for having led the Mahdi Army militia against U.S. troops in Iraq in 2003, and since then he has remained, at least on the surface, an important political and religious figure in Iraq. We need to examine the level of al-Sadr’s influence to determine whether his statements should be taken seriously.
- Russia-Afghanistan: Another rumor about Russian-Taliban connections has surfaced. This time, a secular Afghan newspaper has claimed that a senior Taliban official met with the Russian defense minister in Tajikistan three weeks ago. This is a difficult topic to get information on, but we need to figure out what this report tells us about Russian-Taliban connections and whether Russia has any real influence in the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan.
- China: S&P Global Ratings reported that the adjusted loan-to-deposit ratio in China climbed to 80 percent as of June 30, while the ratio topped 100 percent for small lenders, contradicting official Chinese statistics.
- European Union: The European Commission said in a statement that six member states are at risk of breaking EU budget rules in 2017. Let’s keep an eye on the EU’s reaction to this.