It stretched from the Caspian to the Baltic Sea, from the middle of Europe to the Kurile Islands in the Pacific, from Siberia to Central Asia. Its nuclear arsenal held 45,000 warheads, and its military had five million troops under arms. There had been nothing like it in Eurasia since the Mongols conquered China, took parts of Central Asia and the Iranian plateau, and rode into the Middle East, looting Baghdad. Yet when the Soviet Union collapsed in December 1991, by far the poorer, weaker imperial power disappeared.
And then there was one. There had never been such a moment: a single nation astride the globe without a competitor in sight. There wasn’t even a name for such a state (or state of mind). “Superpower” had already been used when there were two of them. “Hyperpower” was tried briefly but didn’t stick. “Sole superpower” stood in for a while but didn’t satisfy. “Great Power,” once the zenith of appellations, was by then a lesser phrase, left over from the centuries when various European nations and Japan were expanding their empires. Some started speaking about a “unipolar” world in which all roads led… well, to Washington.Sponsored Ads
To this day, we’ve never quite taken in that moment when Soviet imperial rot unexpectedly — above all, to Washington — became imperial crash-and-burn. Left standing, the Cold War’s victor seemed, then, like an empire of everything under the sun. It was as if humanity had always been traveling toward this spot. It seemed like the end of the line.
The concept of regional hegemony, in the form of a Eurasian economic union, would seem just the tonic to reinvigorate a jaded population. And from a geopolitical viewpoint, Putin’s Kremlin needs to join forces with formerly Soviet republics in order to be better positioned to economically compete with the United States, European Union and China.
The idea of an economic union has particular appeal for Putinists, as it contains the potential to “right the wrongs” of the Soviet collapse in 1991, placing Eurasia’s peoples back on track to fulfill their “historical destiny.” It is noteworthy that Putin’s Eurasian vision was first unveiled in his programmatic article headlined “A New Integration Project for Eurasia: The Future Starts Today,” published in the Izvestia daily last October.
Re-integrating the former “Soviet Eurasia” under Moscow’s leadership may seem simple in Putin’s concept paper, but reality is far more complex. Several powerful constraints will hinder the Kremlin’s ability to maneuver.
STRATFOR has long argued that the United States is fighting an untenable war in Afghanistan and eventually would face the hard facts of the conflict, reorder its priorities and start bringing an end to the intensive military campaign. …
Russian efforts to consolidate influence in its periphery will continue to drive events in Eurasia as Moscow works to strengthen relations with Germany and France through major business, military and energy deals. …
Russia is literally falling apart. Radical changes will be required soon.
The “Soviet reserve” of infrastructure and technology on which Russian officials and the Russian economy have been relying for 20 years is rapidly running out, leaving the country with little choice but to launch a crash program to try to bring these sectors up to speed or face the prospect of further decline, according to Boris Kagarlitsky.
There is only one good thing about all this, Kagarlitsky concludes: “in such a situation, radical changes are inevitable.” But “it is too bad that one can no longer live by spending one’s inheritance,” which is what Russia and Russians have been doing in effect since the Soviet Union collapsed.
Nowhere is prediction more fraught with peril than in politics and world affairs. The success rate is in inverse proportion to the costs that unexpected acts in the real world can impose on the investor. So despite the difficulty of providing a reliable guide to the future there are huge incentives to try to chart the way ahead. Here’s Control Risks, a risk consultancy firm, on its view of 2011, while competitor Eurasia reveals in early January, as does the World Economic Forum. Nomura has a list of 10 political challenges to prosperity that range from the prospect of gridlock in US domestic politics to brinksmanship on the Korean peninsula.
George Friedman offers a forecast of the changes we can expect around the world during the twenty-first century. He explains where and why future wars will erupt (and how they will be fought), which nations will gain and lose economic and political power, and how new technologies and cultural trends will alter the way we live in the new century.
Drawing on history and geopolitical patterns dating back hundreds of years, Friedman shows that we are now, for the first time in half a millennium, at the dawn of a new era – with changes in store, including:
– The US-Jihadist war will conclude – replaced by a second full-blown cold war with Russia.
– China will undergo a major extended internal crisis, and Mexico will emerge as an important world power.
– A new global war will unfold toward the middle of the century between the United States and an unexpected coalition from Eastern Europe, Eurasia and the Far East; but armies will be much smaller and wars will be less deadly.
– Technology will focus on space – both for major military uses and for a dramatic new energy resource that will have radical environmental implications.
George Friedman is the founder and chief intelligence officer of STRATFOR, which analyses and forecasts trends in world affairs. He is an internationally recognised expert in security and intelligence issues. He is also the author of several books, including The Future of War. The Next 100 Years will be released in March 2009, and George will be touring in May 2009. He has been invited as a guest to the 2009 Sydney Writers’ Festival.
This lecture is part of the Toyota-ANU Public Lecture Series 2009. Presented by Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, the Department of International Relations and the ANU International Relations Society.
U.S. military experts say the “most likely flashpoint” in Eurasia has become the Caucasus, a strategic location that is grabbing intelligence attention because of the prospect of a border war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, a conflict that not only could draw in Russiabut also Islamic interests there
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Here’s the article:
By George Friedman at Stratfor.Com.
For the first half of 2008, Stratfor focused its attention on three features of the international system. All three remain key factors, but all have also evolved notably.
First, we anticipated an endgame between the United States and Iran over the future of Iraq. We have been surprised at just how fast U.S.-Iranian negotiations have progressed, and consequently violence has dropped to its lowest levels since the 2003 invasion (something that would be impossible without Iranian assistance). What is truly amazing is how few items necessary for a deal are not already in place. We are unlikely to have a formal “Camp David” moment, but the U.S.-Iranian understanding seems to be building quickly on the ground.
Second, Russia’s efforts to rebuild its influence throughout Eurasia have been at a critical point. With the Western-backed independence of Kosovo making a mockery of Russian foreign policy, we predicted that Moscow either had to strike back or see its credibility in key former Soviet Union territories crumble. As it turned out, Russia’s internal factional struggles distracted and exhausted the Kremlin. Striking back at Europe and the United States in any place that would have caused harm proved impossible, forcing the Russians to concentrate on places such as Central Asia, the Caucasus and Ukraine. In the long run, this may well prove to be the worst of all worlds, as the Europeans are convinced they beat the Russians, while the Russians are equally convinced that they have drawn a line in the sand. For the moment, however, Russia requires time to plan and flesh out its new organizational structures. That will take up the bulk of the third quarter.
Third, we forecast that high energy prices would create a flood of petrodollars that mostly would end up flowing into U.S.-dollar assets, greatly stabilizing the financial system and helping the United States shake off its economic funk. This prediction proved true in spades, and U.S. economic growth has certainly turned a corner, but two related developments have taken root. First, having oil prices increase by 40 percent in three months cannot help but have an enervating impact on economic growth, particularly in the heavily industrialized states of East Asia. Second, all that oil income is beginning to have additional impacts.
The Arab Gulf states are grossing approximately $2 billion per day, with half of that amount flowing into the coffers of Saudi Arabia. This provides the Saudis — and other Gulf Arabs — not only with tremendous wealth, but also with tremendous political power. A key trend in the third quarter will have these states using that wealth to invest, bribe and cajole their friends and enemies into following policies more to Riyadh’s liking.
This summer the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) will conduct joint military exercises called “Peace Mission-2007”. The Russian-led Collective Security Treaty (CSTO) will closely observe the drills. For the first time, the two organizations will act as partners rather than representing overlapping multilateral structures seeking to fight terrorism, extremism, and separatism in Eurasia. However, the drills also generate discussions whether both organizations are in fact pursuing transnational security or are more concerned with international dominance. The CSTO’s suggestion to practice defense mechanisms against nuclear terrorism suggests the latter.