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.
- Serbia, Russia: On Oct. 20, the day Belgrade marks its World War II liberation, top Serbian officials met with Russia’s defense minister and deputy prime minister. Russia delivered MiG-29 planes to Serbia last week, but more interestingly, there are reports suggesting that Serbia is negotiating to buy Russian air defense missile systems. Why does Serbia want these systems, and is Russia really going to provide them? This is not a routine deal.
- China: Roughly 13 percent of all publicly listed companies on the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges have language in their charters that allow the Communist Party to intervene in their businesses. The South China Morning Post reports that 148 of these companies – about 34 percent – have added that language since Aug. 1. This is a potentially huge step in China’s effort to increase control over its economy. How will this affect these companies’ operations, and has there been any kind of pushback?
- Italy: Two regions in Italy, Veneto and Lombardy, held referendums to give them more autonomy on Oct. 22. Both votes resulted in lopsided victories in favor of more autonomy – though, as in Catalonia’s independence referendum, there was a fairly low voter turnout (58 percent in Veneto and 40 percent in Lombardy). These votes were nonbinding and did not appeal for independence; instead, they were aimed at giving the regions more control over their tax revenue. But even so, there has been a secessionist movement in northern Italy led by the Northern League for some time, although it carried little weight until now. This raises two questions. First, is the secessionist movement gaining steam, and are these referendums a sign of things to come? Second, given how closely Europe is watching Catalonia, how will the rest of the Continent react to these events? Are there other regions in Europe that could see similar developments?
- Indonesia: Indonesia’s armed forces commander was blocked from entering the United States even though he had been invited to visit the country by the U.S. chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Indonesia is now demanding an explanation. The U.S. has since apologized and said the Indonesian commander is welcome in the U.S. There are not many who outrank the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when it comes to invitations like this. Could this have been a bureaucratic mix-up? More important, what are the repercussions, if any, for U.S.-Indonesia relations?
- Syria: It appears that the Islamic State is being overrun in Syria, or at least its fighters are retreating and melting back into the civilian population, as it faces sustained attack. The question we must answer now is what will happen militarily in Syria after the fall of Raqqa. Our current model has served well for the past two years, but it has run its course. We must now chart the next phase in the military battle against IS and determine who will participate on all sides and what their strategic goals will be.
- Japan: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s coalition swept lower house elections over the weekend. This is a victory for Abe, who just a few months ago seemed on his last legs. For a number of reasons, Japan is becoming more important on the world stage. In the wake of his victory, we need to look at the status of Abe’s push to change the war-renouncing Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution and examine what the article precludes Japan from doing or developing, if anything. We also need to take a deep look at the Japanese economy and understand what economic changes Abe might make in the world’s third-largest economy.