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, Belarus: Some officials in Europe have raised concerns over the Zapad military exercises between Russia and Belarus. Estonia’s defense chief said that the exercises are an attempt to draw Belarus’ armed forces closer to Russia and that this is an indication of Moscow’s plan to take military action in Belarus if the political dynamics there shift. This raises some important questions about the relationship between the two countries. Would Belarus really be able to make a shift to the West? Can its economy decouple from Russia and align instead with Western countries? And will Germany in particular permit this destabilization to take place? In other words, would the Russians really need to carry out such a move? We also need to look at what offensive challenges are facing Russia. How many troops are participating in this exercise, and are they in a position to launch an attack? Would the consequences of an attack justify the benefits for Russia? What is Russia’s assessment of the risk involved?
- Turkey: Turkey said it may stop oil exports from Iraq’s Kurdish region if the Kurdistan Regional Government goes through with its planned independence referendum. How significant a vulnerability is this for the KRG? How would this hurt Turkey? How easily could the KRG redirect its exports? And does Turkey have the political clout to get regional powers to agree to blocking oil exports?
- Venezuela: Venezuela’s state-owned oil company PDVSA is reportedly encountering financial problems that have made it difficult for the company to import fuel. This would mean that PDVSA would be unable to meet domestic demand for refined petroleum products like gasoline. Fuel shortages have been reported in the interior of the country and are now creeping into urban areas. Further complicating its finances is news that PetroChina advised its U.S. unit to avoid any involvement in future loans to PDVSA in the wake of U.S. sanctions against Venezuela. In the past decade, PetroChina Americas has been a major intermediary for much of the $45 billion worth of oil-for-loans that China has provided Venezuela. We need to watch for any resulting unrest in Venezuela and see if PDVSA can get funding.
- Russia: Russian private-owned bank B&N Bank has asked the central bank to consider rescuing it from possible bankruptcy. What caused the bank’s instability? Will it affect Russia’s financial system?
- Spain: Spanish police have raided the regional Economy Ministry in Barcelona, as well as other government offices that have helped organize Catalonia’s independence referendum, and detained a dozen senior officials. Catalan leaders continue to say they will defy Madrid’s demand to halt the referendum. Madrid appears increasingly willing to use force to prevent it, but how far are authorities willing to go?