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Forecast: China conducts military drills near Taiwan, Kosovo-Serbia tensions flare, and Colombia swears in new president

Nine political leaders of the United States and Taiwan pose in formal presentation. In the center are Nancy Pelosi and Tsai Ing-wen. Behind them is the flag of Taiwan. They stand on a red carpet.

Welcome to Factal Forecast, a look at the week’s biggest stories from the editors at Factal.

We publish our forward-looking note each Thursday to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead.

Tensions are high at Kosovo’s northern border after a dispute over license plates and identification led to armed confrontations. In this week’s Factal Forecast podcast, Senior Editor Jimmy Lovaas and Editor Alex Moore discuss the efforts underway to keep the situation from ballooning into wider conflict and what to watch for next.

Listen now or download on your favorite platform. 

The Debrief: For more than two weeks in June, life and business in Ecuador — and especially the capital, Quito — ground to a halt as thousands of people took to the streets in protest. Led by a powerful indigenous rights group, Ecuadorians from all walks of life participated in a far-reaching national strike. The disruptions to society eased with government concessions, but with some demands left unanswered, the future looks uncertain. Read more in this month’s Debrief.

Week of Aug. 5-12
A Look Ahead

Aug. 4 – China conducts live-fire military drills around Taiwan 

As of Thursday, China has begun conducting a series of live-fire military exercises surrounding Taiwan. The drills are expected to continue until the following Monday in a forceful show of dissatisfaction after U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island. 

What’s happened so far 
Pelosi is the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Taiwan in 25 years, and her trip exacerbates China’s already-tense relations with Taiwan and the United States. China claims Taiwan as a runaway province despite the island’s self-governing democracy, and has routinely reacted with outrage to any perceived attempts to support Taiwan for decades, especially from the United States.

The impact 
While most analysts maintain a full invasion of Taiwan by China is unlikely in the near future, an accident during the drills could quickly escalate into a deeper crisis, and the tensions could continue for some time as all parties involved will be loath to appear as if they’ve backed down from a threat. Some analysts also believe the exercises may not just be saber-rattling, and could prove valuable practice should China decide to actually invade. The exercises will also significantly disrupt air and water access to Taiwan, and are already having ripple effects on global supply chains — the Taiwan Strait is one of the world’s busiest waterways.

Aug. 5 – Turkey’s Erdogan meets with Russia’s Putin in Sochi

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Sochi on Friday.

What’s happened so far 
The pair will likely discuss several topics, including Ukraine, Syria and bilateral issues such as a $20 billion nuclear power plant project in Turkey involving Russia’s Rosatom. Erdogan’s visit will mark the first by a NATO head of state since Russia’s February invasion of Ukraine.

The impact 
The two will likely discuss the agreement struck involving Turkey to unblock Ukrainian grain shipments through the Black Sea. The first meaningful diplomatic agreement since February’s invasion has so far worked, despite Russian tactics to threaten the deal, and the first grain ship was cleared to depart Turkish waters Wednesday. Syria will also likely come up, with Turkey renewing threats of an intensified incursion into northern Syria in support of anti-Assad factions — a move that would bring Turkish and Russian forces into close proximity. 

Aug. 6 – U.S. top diplomat Blinken travels to Asia and Africa

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit some Asian and African countries n Saturday after his participation in the ASEAN summit in Cambodia. 

What’s happened so far 
According to the Secretary’s agenda, his first stop after attending the ASEAN foreign minister’s summit in Cambodia will be Manila. Blinken will meet the Philippines’ president and foreign minister on Saturday to discuss bilateral efforts to strengthen both countries’ relationship. On the second leg of his foreign tour, Blinken will travel to South Africa, DR Congo and Rwanda, stopping in each country for two-day visits, during which he will meet top officials.

The impact 
The Secretary of State’s trip to Africa comes after Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited the continent in search for support from African leaders amid an isolation campaign from Western countries. Blinken is expected to delve into political, defense and human rights issues particular to each country, with emphasis on cooperation to reach common goals. He is also expected to announce the Biden administration’s Africa strategy as a first step to demonstrate U.S. interest to build stronger relations in the continent ahead of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C., in December.

Aug. 7 – Colombia presidential inauguration 

Gustavo Petro and Francia Marquez will be sworn in Sunday as the first left-wing president and vice president in the history of  Colombia.

What’s happened so far 
Petro and Marquez were elected on June 19 in a historic vote that brought a former M-19 guerrilla and the first Black woman to lead the highest office in the country. Heads of state and government from at least 24 countries are expected to attend the ceremony, including Spain’s King Felipe VI. Representatives from Nicaragua and Venezuela will not be present at the event. Free cultural activities and performances will be held in seven public squares in Bogotá as part of the celebration to display the diverse regional culture of Colombia and as the new government’s first symbolic gesture of inclusivity and representation in public spaces

The impact 
Petro and Marquez’s term will last until 2026 and expectations are high for structural changes and a different approach to peace negotiations with armed groups. The new government is expected to address many issues during its first 100 days in office, including healthcare funding, environmental policies, nationwide economic development, protection of activists and the release of people detained during protests, and peace negotiations with the ELN guerrilla and other armed groups.

Aug. 8 – Moldova extends state of emergency

The Moldovan parliament has decided to extend its state of emergency by 60 days starting Monday as the country continues to deal with the effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

What’s happened so far 
Moldova introduced a temporary state of emergency on Feb. 24, just days after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Since then, the measure has been extended twice and half a million refugees crossed the border to Moldova. According to officials, more than 100,000 refugees remain in the country nearly six months after the invasion.

The impact 
Moldova’s Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita urged lawmakers to extend the state of emergency citing risks to energy and border security as the country continues to manage the flux of refugees arriving from Ukraine. While the Communist and Socialist blocs voted against the extension, the decision passed. One day after the vote, the Socialists announced plans to hold a no-confidence motion against the government, citing “skyrocketing” prices of goods and services leading to impoverishment.

Aug. 9 – Ontario, Canada, throne speech 

Ontario Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell will present the goals of the government of Canada’s most populous province Tuesday, one day after the legislature convenes for a rare summer session

What’s happened so far
Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives gained 16 seats in June’s provincial elections, expanding their majority amid record-low voter turnout. Now, they’ll look to pass the budget they first introduced in the spring, which includes nearly $4 billion CAD [$3.1 billion USD] for highway construction over the next decade, an expansion of a low-income tax credit and higher disability payments. 

The impact 
Ontario is grappling with many of the same problems faced by urban areas across North America, including high inflation, a housing affordability crisis and an overburdened health care system in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Aug. 9 – Kenya general election

Voters in Kenya will go to the polls Tuesday to choose the country’s next president, as well as members of the country’s National Assembly and Senate. They’ll also choose county governors and members of county-level assemblies across the country.

What’s happened so far 
President Uhuru Kenyatta, who has served in the office since 2013, is ineligible to run again due to term limits. He’s backing Raila Odinga, a long-time rival who is a former prime minister and five-time candidate, over his current Deputy President William Ruto. Aside from the two frontrunners, there are another two candidates who are polling in the single digits but could capture enough of the vote to force a runoff.

The impact 
If none of the four candidates exceed the 50 percent threshold, the top two will advance to a second round. The winner also has to gain at least 25 percent of the votes cast in more than half of the counties. The country’s election commission will have seven days from the vote to tally the results. Whoever wins will face a laundry list of issues to deal with, including a punishing drought and the effects of a new global food crisis, as well as an economy burdened by debt.

What Else Matters

A photo of a bridge along the border of Kosovo and Serbia. The bridge entry is blocked by many ecoblocks, preventing vehicle travel across the bridge.
Serbs in Kosovo blocked a bridge, seen above, in the divided town of Mitrovica during 2013 protests after ties were normalized between Kosovo and Serbia in a U.N.-brokered deal. (Photo: Adam Jones, Ph.D. / Wikimedia Commons)

Kosovo-Serbia tensions

A long running dispute over license plates and identification cards boiled over on Sunday with gunfire breaking out in multiple areas along Kosovo’s northern border with Serbia. Ethnic Serbs living in Kosovo’s northern areas erected road barricades and two main border crossings were closed. At least 11 people were injured in inter-ethnic fighting, according to Kosovar officials. It remains unclear who exactly fired gunshots at Kosovar police.

Watch for: The startling escalation of tensions quickly cooled on Sunday night, with the U.S. ambassador, Kosovo’s biggest ally, imploring Pristina to forgo implementing reciprocal ID and license plate measures on Serbians. One day later, all road barricades were removed and border crossings reopened. So, for now, tensions have deescalated, with the license plate and ID measures suspended until the first week of September. But that may change in a month. At minimum, protests in Kosovo’s majority ethnic Serb northern areas seem possible, with any serious Serbian military incursion seemingly unlikely given the robust presence of NATO peacekeepers in Kosovo. 

Iraq protests

Supporters of Shiite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr breached the high-security Green Zone in Baghdad and stormed the Iraqi parliament twice over the past week in protest against prime minister nominee Mohammed Al-Sudani, a pro-Iran candidate backed by Iraq’s Coordination Framework. According to the health ministry, 100 civilians and 25 officers were injured in the latest protests.

Watch for: Iraq has experienced a substantial political vacuum since its parliamentary elections in October 2021, with caretaker Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi taking a major hit in June after Al-Sadr, his biggest supporter, ordered his 73 lawmakers to resign from parliament. This withdrawal has damaged Al-Kadhimi’s chances of remaining in power if and when lawmakers elect a new president, who in turn will be tasked with nominating a new prime minister to form a government within 30 days. The Coordination Framework coalition could also put forward a candidate of its own, meaning the next prime minister would have the backing of a larger political bloc, thereby facilitating passing legislation and implementing reforms.

Extended Outlook

What’s on our radar in the coming weeks…

Aug. 4-12

Aug. 4

  • Primaries in Tennessee
  • Hungarian President Viktor Orban gives opening address at CPAC
  • China begins military drills near Taiwan

Aug. 5

  • Russian President Putin and Turkish President Erdogan meet in Sochi

Aug. 6

  • Brighton Pride in England
  • Amsterdam Pride in the Netherlands
  • Hamburg Pride in Germany
  • U.S. Secretary of State to travel to southeast Asia, Africa

Aug. 7

  • Colombia expected to open border with Venezuela 
  • Colombian presidential inauguration

Aug. 8

  • Moldova extends state of emergency

Aug. 9

  • Kenya general election
  • Primaries in Connecticut, Vermont, Minnesota and Wisconsin
  • Nagasaki marks 77th anniversary of 1945 nuclear attacks
  • World Junior Ice Hockey Championships begin
  • Turkey to resume gas exploration off its coast in the Mediterranean
  • NFL owners expected to approve Denver Broncos’ new ownership
  • Ontario throne speech

Aug. 11

  • Perseid meteor shower peak expected
  • Singapore expected to end stay of former Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa

Aug 13-19 

Aug. 13

  • Primaries in Hawaii
  • ASLEF strike 
  • Edinburgh International Book Festival 

Aug. 14

  • Pakistan Independence Day
  • APEC tourism ministers meeting

Aug. 15

  • India Independence Day
  • Liechtenstein Independence Day

Aug. 16

  • Primaries in Alaska and Wyoming, runoffs in South Dakota
  • Workers at U.K.’s Network Rail and 14 train operators strike

Aug. 19

  • London Underground strike
  • Airport unions begin strike in Portugal

Aug. 20-26

Aug. 20

  • Chad national reconciliation dialogue

Aug. 23

  • Budapest Pride
  • Primaries in Florida and New York

Aug. 24

  • Angola presidential elections
  • Poland marks the 33rd anniversary of the creation of the first post-Communist government 
  • Ukraine Independence Day

Aug. 25

  • Uruguay’s Independence Day

Aug. 27-Sept. 2

Aug. 29

  • EU informal meeting of defense ministers

Aug. 30

  • Human Rights Council meeting
  • EU foreign ministers meeting in Prague

Sept. 1

  • European Parliament President Roberta Metsola visits Portugal

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