In a World of Disasters: Where are we heading until Year’s End?

Almost two thirds of this year are gone. Where is the balance, so far, in global politics? It is summer time, so it is time for reflection.

As last December—when we asked you for the last time for a prognosis, the liberal world order, established after 1945—is in disarray. An alternative is not in sight. The American president is a loose cannon, erratic and unstable. Midterm elections may cost him the majority in at least one chamber of the House. China’s economy looks slightly more stable, but it is entangled in a trade war with the U.S. A medicine scandal is tainting the highly centralized Chinese system, so the buck has to stop at the top.

In the EU, another country is moving away from the basic consensus of the Paris Charter in 1990 – Italy. Half of voters in recent elections voted populist. An impending trade war with the U.S. is on hold, and may (or may not) commence later this year. In Russia, the soccer championship was enjoyable for many, but a much criticized pension reform is shifting the allegiances of the electorate away from the current powers. Ukraine is still not considered to have moved beyond Russia’s sovereignty. Internally, political issues in Ukraine are significant. India and Brazil  are facing their own domestic issues.

Climate change is on the march. We are experiencing one of the hottest summers on record. Plastic is covering ever bigger parts of the oceans (and the earth). The big IT companies are still unsure how to address data protection demands. And how to balance the freedom of expression, and the protection against ‘hate speech’. Protectionism and mercantilism are en vogue, as are nonsense concepts such as ‘alternative reality’. The independence of media has to be defended every month.

What is your forecast for the rest of the year? What can be expected?

-Klaus Segbers

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  1. Alexei Voskressenski 1 month ago

    Though the world is in a disarray there is a feeling of the rising understanding that to push it further apart is not only dangerous but also economically impractical. Though trade wars started it is clear that reducing imbalances cannot guarantee future development and trade barriers will not save Britain or Italy alone apart from the other world. Indeed, in reality, populism in Italy is a peculiar tool to strengthen the country's global advantages as well as left-sided weels in British cars and Brexit to help win the economic competition. It is possible to gain some advantages out of this but can not build prosperity in the new interconnected world. China is raising its global stance but cannot secure its successes alone without a participation of other countries in its transregional Belt and Road (BRI) project. Russia is feeling that the self-isolation through countersanctions can save economic might Russia has gained during oil prices being in a high period, but more than 80% people's disapproval over changing pension years is clearly reflecting the overall weakness of Russia's economic policy. The irony of the time is that we may soon see Mr. Trump coming to Russia and meeting not only with Mr.Putin and Mr.Lavrov but also with Steven Segal as a new Russian citizen and a mediator. So, we are not witnessing any considerable success of populist policies and isolationism. Even the leader of North Korea understands that now. However, the time when the inadequacy of these policies will be obvious to all is still to come.

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  2. Dmytro Sherengovsky 1 month ago

    Indeed, the first half of the 2018 year turned out to be more than strained and there is no evidence that Fall can bring any cold.
    Despite promises and smiles at the Singapore Forum, tensions between North Korea and the US still remain. According to the US intelligence, North Korea continues its nuclear missile program, while the US still keeps sanctions. Both sides are not willing to move forward and the risk of escalation still exists.
    The Middle East will save its status as the hottest region. The Syrian war is far from being over, despite the Assad regime recent minor successes. Moreover, Trump seems to be very clear to leave Syria issue on Russia, after destroying the Islamic State. The further stability of the region is under the question taking to account Iranian involvement into regional conflicts and US withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear agreement.
    After populistic electoral results in Hungary, Italy more attention should be paid to upcoming elections in Sweden and Brazil. There is a serious concern both for Europe and Latin America about the populism rise that usually brings revisionists processes.
    In the US, Democrats have good chances to take a majority in the House of Representatives and try to limit Trump administration. They still need additional 24 seats, but history is proving that president’s party is always losing some seats in the midterm election, especially taking to account low approval ratings of the current president. However, sometimes it seems that President Trump is acting in order to prevent any of the forecasts to be successful. In any case, the US will continue to rethink its international agreements and international obligations giving more space to other states rather than institutions or multilateral coalitions.
    The EU will continue to face the weakening of transatlantic ties with the US, but a strengthening of Mediterranean policy issues. The Turkey involvement into European political area of Western countries should be reconsidered asap, otherwise, Erdogan’s regime will increase its authoritarian movement, surrounded by developing economic crisis.
    We will see more market wars, including the upcoming confrontation between Saudi Arabia, Russia, and the US towards the management of the global oil market.
    Finally, more rapid crackdown on human rights will be observed – attacks on journalists (US, UK, India, Afghanistan, Ukraine), NGO representatives (Egypt, Hungary, Cuba) environmental (Brazil) and opposition activists (Russia, Venezuela, India) is increasing even in democratic countries, while those regimes are more active in passing restrictive laws to have more control over the society. Such a tendency is not related to the specific regions and becoming a global phenomenon contributing to the deconstruction of the liberal order.

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  3. Justas Paleckis 1 month ago

    While it is fashionable to discuss fake news right now, but bad news, coming from different parts of the world, can compete with them. And good news is almost a forgotten notion. The end of 2018 promises nothing good either. The only important event that can bring some hope is midterm elections in the U.S. The clear defeat of the Republican Party could switch on the red light on at least some actions of the unpredictable President. Two years later, one could expect the new president to correct the mistakes of the predecessor. And together with the leaders of other great powers, they would try to stop the world slipping in to the global catastrophe. Even nature sends signals in different continents, that it is time for mankind to get over and unite forces to overcome global threats.

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  4. Stefan Engert 1 month ago

    Of gut feelings and educated guesses

    History is contingent. Although certain patterns are detectable, predictable forecasts in international relations can hardly be made – at most educated guesses. Probably the only save prediction is that the current US President, the most important actor in world politics, certainly remains unpredictable and therefore even educated guesses are meanwhile hard to deal with. As we learn from risk Researchers such as e.g. Gerd Gigerenzer, decisions informed by gut feelings or intuition – if based on expert knowledge rather than naivety or spontaneous suggestion – generate the same or even better results than carefully weighted rational choice decisions. Thus, here are my “educated gut guesses”:

    I expect what I would call the current Realist moment in international politics to continue, that is: nation states first, institutions second! But I also think that the worst part is over:

    • Don’t expect the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT), the global climate change regime or European integration to make a sudden turnaround but also don’t expect them to collapse. There are still a few governments out there which think that international institutions and organizations are useful tools as they contribute to cooperation and understanding between nations and thereby prevent war and armed conflict. And these states will uphold the formal institutions until the return towards a more multi-polar, institutionalist world.
    • Don’t assume that Donald Trump will step-down from the US presidency (or that an impeachment process will be initiated), but I guess that even his own party slowly becomes aware that the benefits of his presidency do not outweigh the costs. Will they indeed nominate him again in 2020? I don’t believe so.
    • Don’t expect a change of Turkey’s government soon. But in a different country and during other times, a guy called Bill Clinton won an important national election simply “because it is the economy, stupid”. And Turkey’s economic data already shows high inflation, a sinking value of its national currency and higher unemployment.
    • Don’t expect change in Russia. Simply don’t. Not everything changes.
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  5. Anastasia Wischnewskaja 1 month ago

    As a political scientists I was told that making predictions is not our job, but rather explaining events that already have taken place. As I am to make a prediction, I would say, one of the major events to watch out for will be the mid-term elections in the USA this fall. They are curious not only because their outcome will tell a lot about support for President Trump, but also because of Russia’s election meddling. The USA have already applied harsh sanctions against Russia for the cases of meddling attempts that were proved and might impose an even harsher package of sanctions in case meddling goes on. As sanctions target Putin’s elite, they can destabilize the regime much more than the raising of retirement age that caused a recent drop of Putin’s approval ratings.
    Russia does not meddle only in the USA – according to the recent reports by the OSCE, amount of heavy weaponry in Eastern Ukraine has grown 8,5 times over the last months. Apparently fights intensity in the Eastern Ukraine will increase in the next weeks.
    Another important and gloomy event that most certainly will take place much sooner is that Oleg Sentsov – a Ukrainian director accused of terrorism and imprisoned in Russia – will die as his hunger strike has hit the three months threshold recently making his survival chances negligible. They might release him and let him die at home, but Russia will most certainly cause yet another tragic death in the next days.

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  6. Stephanie von Kanel 1 month ago

    As predictions for the state and fate of future world affairs are often centered on the negative, I will offer a ‘somewhat’ positive estimation. Though presently it seems the impact of a Trump administration is shaking up internal US politics and impacting global trade partnerships, foreign policy, and nation-state relations as far as the eye can see, this may also shift global conversations away from a US-centric worldview. As nation-states must actively and publicly reconsider their partnerships and relationship with the current US administration, they may decide to establish greater relations with other states. If so, international relations and the present order could potentially become more inclusive as the reshuffling of economic systems and foreign policy development (maybe) provides greater visibility for less-industrialised states. This seems to be the case with the Chinese economic and geographic expanse across central African states and eastern Europe through the One Road One Belt project. Though this has occurred independently of US politics.
    Moreover, as the norms of interaction and discourse emanating from the US ‘apex position’ in global affairs have changed so drastically in such a short time period, it is natural for the global state of affairs and modes of communication to be altered as a result. I think we will see (though perhaps it will not be observed publicly) a stronger allegiance between middle power states, particularly within the EU.

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  7. Friederike Kies 1 month ago

    After highlighting primarily (and understandably) the negative developments of this year, I think it is about time to look at the other side of the coin: the potential positive aspects. Can one see positive aspects of negative challenges? Is this possible? A legitimate question! I like seeing challenges as chances. Chances to mess up, fail and hopefully grow stronger (and wiser).
    Unarguably the world is facing challenges. Some of these being: populism, protectionism, BREXIT, migration, global warming and many more. All of these challenges are complex in nature, cannot be easily solved and need to be taken seriously. However, can negative challenges have positive aspects? Can a BREXIT result in a stronger Europe? Can populism and protectionism eventually lead to more unity? Can global warming urge more environmental protection? Challenges are not necessarily something negative. Rather, it depends on you what you make of it.

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  8. Lwin Cho Latt 1 month ago

    For the rest of the year 2018, full of uncertainty takes over the global politics. The diplomatic relations between Moscow and Washington are at the unhealthy point by their tit-for-tat moves. The US's trade war with China seems to continue. Trump's weight to domestic politics creates the US's international treachery. Its withdrawals from international cooperation can deteriorate the good global governance system. Is the realists' view on international anarchical structure becoming true by this global trend? The U.K. is busy with its departure from the EU to be successful. Suspicions still lie in the denuclearization talks with North Korea, but hope to have positive outcomes. China's assertive maritime behaviours in the East and South China Sea remain unchanged that leads it to be perceived as 'status quo' power. Other environmental and health problems also take global attention (Ebola in Africa and natural/man-made disasters in the East and South East Asian regions). In Myanmar, it has serious domestic pressure on the government's peacemaking efforts and rising dollar against kyat makes market instability. So, what's ahead for Myanmar for the remaining months of 2018?

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1 Comment

  1. Bushra Abyad 3 weeks ago

    Do you think that the dissolution, or collapse of the EU is a realistic possibility?
    I think it's a possible option ( but definitely not at the moment) and it depends on certain factors, like if the populist have more votes in the future, taking in our consideration the economic crises in Europe moreover,The chaos that Europe finds today is neither new nor entirely external. It is the cumulative result of long-term structural social and economic changes exacerbated by ineffective policies in Member States or the EU itself. Some of the structural causes of crises can be attributed to the gradual decline of the population, its refusal to allow immigration to fill the shortage of employment in sensitive areas, the enormous costs of maintaining the welfare state, its policy to save vulnerable members despite financial austerity, however despite all the mentioned weekness I think EU is going to survive if Germany or Britain did not withdraw from the EU.

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