Is Cuba coming in from the cold?

One of the most extraordinary geopolitical trends of recent years has been what might be called, with apologies to John le Carré, “coming in from the cold.” Many countries that had excluded themselves from the globalization system and maintained an adversarial relationship with the West have recently performed an...

Can Russia change direction?

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and I go way back. In the late 1990s, as a young political risk analyst, I traveled down to Houston to talk to one of the oil majors about a large investment they were planning to make in Venezuela. “Venezuela is risky,” I confidently informed...

Will China crash?

A tongue-in-cheek economic indicator with an uncanny track record of accuracy is that any country building the world’s tallest building will shortly thereafter enter recession. Malaysia completed the Petronas Towers in 1998, just in time for the Asian financial crisis. In 2000, the US took the top spot by...

Brazil walks a tightrope to the World Cup

To the great annoyance of longtime Brazil analysts, presentations on Brazil inevitably tend to start with the cutting remark generally ascribed (probably incorrectly) to French President General Charles de Gaulle: “Brazil is the country of the future and always will be”. With the World Cup kicking off shortly, and...

Why a federal Ukraine is a worst-case scenario

Ahead of US-EU-Russia talks on the future of Ukraine on Thursday, pro-Russian protesters – possibly assisted by Russian special forces – have escalated their disruptions in Eastern Ukraine beyond Crimea. While media coverage is understandably alarmist, these disruptions are not necessarily worrying signs. Ahead of negotiations there is always...

The Eurozone’s (and Japan’s) deflation problem

I tend to be bullish on Europe – partly as a corrective to the mass of commentators who too early wrote off the crisis in the Eurozone as irresolvable. This optimism has been justified by the recent run-up in European equities, with developed European countries (Germany, Ireland, Finland…) constituting four of...

Venezuela, oil prices and political risk

Following the extraordinary people power uprising that toppled the government of Ukraine, and after weeks of protests in Caracas, Venezuela’s capital, many are asking, “will Venezuela be the next Ukraine”? There are asking the wrong question. The question is, will Venezuela be the next Iran? Resource prices and political...

Ukraine is Europe’s struggle, and it is likely to win

There has been a great deal of commentary regarding alleged blunders that have led us to the current position in Ukraine (as I write this, the Ukrainian province of Crimea has voted to join Russia, and Russia has recognized Crimea’s independence, which could be a prelude to annexation). In...

Intervention in Ukraine reflects Russia’s weakness, not strength

Following Russia’s de facto ‘invasion’ of Crimea there has been a great deal of navel-gazing commentary regarding the “weakness” of the West. Some say the EU is impotent; others say the US lost Ukraine; others that the Obama administration is weak. These comments reflect an astonishing lack of even...

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