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“Russia’s Arctic region is strategically important for the Kremlin …. First, it contains major population centers: With 350,000 inhabitants, Arkhangelsk is the largest Arctic town, followed by Murmansk, with 300,000 … Under … Putin, the Russian Arctic has been emphasized as a patriotic and nationalistic theme. Secondly, Russia’s economy relies heavily on its oil and gas industry, and such resources are heavily present in the Arctic, including in the Yamal region, where Russia has recently developed a massive liquified natural gas (LNG) plant and terminal. Russia … is particularly sensitive to security issues around energy infrastructure ….
Thirdly, the Northern Sea Route (NSR) … along Russia’s northern shore, between the Kara Sea and the Bering Strait  is becoming increasingly navigable. … Russia’s Northern Fleet is based in the Kola Peninsula, near Murmansk, and contains two-thirds of Russia’s nuclear submarine fleet … the Arctic … protects Russia’s strategic deterrent and … allows a sizable share of its Navy to reach the northern Atlantic. Russia’s military capabilities in the Arctic have steadily increased over the past ten years. Russia has opened new airfields and refurbished old ones; created a dedicated northern command for the region; and set up two Arctic brigades. It also is planning to substantially increase its icebreaker fleet … already … the largest in the world. Russia’s new military base on Aleksandra Land is touted as the ‘largest building in the entire circumpolar high Arctic.’ …”
… French President Francois Hollande linked the deadly ‘terrorist attack’ in Nice to the conflict in Iraq and Syria — and said France will intensify its military operations there in the aftermath of today’s tragedy. * * * Prior to tonight’s tragedy, France had been targeted in two major terrorist attacks within the last year and a half. In January 2015 extremists linked to both al Qaeda and ISIS killed 12 people in an assault on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris. In November the same year, an ISIS cell killed 130 people in coordinated attacks also in Paris. … In the past, both ISIS and al Qaeda have encouraged their followers to kill Westerners by using vehicles as weapons. After the Nice attack, online ISIS supporters expressed jubilation at the carnage ….
Click here for ABC: French President Links Nice Attack to Iraq, Syria Conflict
Russia’s economy returns to modest growth next year, but faces medium-term risks from volatility in crude oil prices, the International Monetary Fund said.
An IMF assessment found the Russian economy contracted by 3.7 percent last year because of the collapse in crude oil prices. The economy remains in recession this year before growth resumes at an estimated 1 percent next year. * * * [OPEC] said it expected Russian oil supplies would increase slightly to average almost 11 million barrels per day in 2016, a level that’s higher by 10,000 bpd from the previous estimate. More narrowly, however, second quarter output was 40,000 bpd lower than the first quarter average.
Click here for UPI: “IMF: Russia still facing risk from low oil prices; Country remains in recession for 2016, but returns to slow growth by next year”
Oil fell amid forecasts prices may slide toward $40 a barrel as consumption falters and halted supplies return.
Futures fell 0.6 percent in New York. Analysts from BNP Paribas SA to JBC Energy GmbH warned prices may sink towards $40 a barrel amid a global glut of supply and weakening demand. Prices on Friday pared earlier losses of as much as 1.4 percent after data from China showed its economy is stabilizing and the country processed a record amount of crude.
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Oil has traded between about $44 and $52 a barrel since early June after almost doubling from a 12-year low in February amid a spate of supply disruptions and falling U.S. output. Prices have been whipsawed this week, pulled down by U.S. fuel data that signaled faltering demand and rallying when global equity markets advance and a weakening dollar bolstered commodities.
Click here for Bloomberg: “Oil Falls Amid Warnings of Retreat to $40 on Rocky Rebalance”
The Philippines may have won an emphatic legal victory over China in the South China Sea, but the aptly named Mischief Reef shows just how hard it will be for Manila to make its triumph count …. Chinese construction on the reef … includes a … 9,800 feet … runway, extensive housing, parade grounds and radar nests, satellite images show. … the reef and everything on it legally belongs to the Philippines and no amount of time or building will change that. … In private, officials acknowledge they have little hope of recovering Mischief Reef any time soon despite the unequivocal ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.
Click here for Reuters: “Caught between a reef and a hard place, Manila’s South China Sea victory runs aground”
At least 80 people were killed … 18 others … seriously injured Thursday when a terrorist drove a large truck loaded with guns and hand grenades into a crowd … gathered for a Bastille Day fireworks display in the southern French city of Nice.
… no immediate claim of responsibility, but two sources, including a U.S. counterterrorism source who collects and monitors jihadist social media, told Fox News that accounts linked to ISIS were ‘celebratory’ and their followers were told to use the hashtag ‘Nice’.
Click here for Fox News: “At least 80 dead, 18 seriously injured in Bastille Day terror attack in France”