- President Putin is becoming more dangerous to the west from a defense prospective.
- UK Brexit is causing uncertainty.
- China and Russia are growing closer together, even while China steals tech from the Russians.ogies via espionage
- A power struggle is developing in the Middle East between two coalitions.
There has been a tug of war for geopolitical influence and attempts to disrupt the already established balance throughout 2019. We also saw the formation of interesting and very invasive social media polices around the globe. Hence, there were ramifications and changes to the social media landscape:
- France implementing new measures to track and monitor the social media of its citizens.
- Russia is working to complete their digital iron curtain.
- China implementing draconian verification process impacting social credit and privacy.
- UK to ruthlessly start collecting DNA.
- We’ve also seen the rise of deep fake technology that could have a great impact on the US 2020 Presidential elections as well as on the global scale.
Let’s look at the world’s main players and regions:
This year has been spent in political turmoil. Democrats worked tirelessly to impeach US president Donald Trump and at the end of the year finally were able to get favorable results. Trump will have historic impact, as the third US president to be impeached. Nevertheless, no US president has been convicted and removed from the office, due to an impeachment. It seems to be highly unlikely Trump will be as well.
In the beginning of 2019 it was a busy time for US Democrats, trying to prove Russian meddling in the US elections. This did not pan out and Trump has called it a hoax ever since.
Another big event in US politics is the US and China trade war. Both sides were embroiled in heated discussions and actions. The US continued supplying weapons to Taiwan and rightfully so, triggering China’s anger.
The US is also supporting democracy in Hong Kong and Trump signed pro-Hong Kong democracy legislation.
The US has also had a very tumultuous time dealing with the North Korean dictator Kim Jong UN, who is constantly pestering his neighbors with threats and his desire for nuclear weapons.
There have been announcements of US forces leaving Afghanistan and the resurrection of the US Space Force. Overall, it has been an eventful year, but without major upsets or catastrophes or wars.
This year for Russia has seen an eventful and highly dangerous power play made by Russian president US Vladimir Putin. The Kremlin has become a larger threat to the West. The way Russia positions itself to the world changed tremendously this past year.
Russia has had soft discussions about the upcoming 2024 elections; it is highly likely it will continue to be Putin. It won’t be a surprise if the Kremlin approves similar amendments to China that allow Xi Jinping to rule indefinitely. It is a plausible outcome in Russia as well. Russia also announced the creation of a new military strategy, to replace the current one.
New generation weapons (notably with nuclear capabilities) have been shown and boasted by Russia in the past year.
- Discussions tabled by Russia wanting to leave the OPEC trade deal.
- Russia has been banned from the Olympics for four years, due to failure to cooperate and tampering with doping results in the Moscow lab.
- Kremlin dropped compliance with the key Geneva convention paragraph pertaining to the protection of the civilians during war (possible ramifications for Ukraine).
BRICS Eurasian office to open in Moscow in the beginning of next year. Future impact are still unknown.
- Putin has a fascination with Hitler’s Eugenics and the Russian government started gathering the DNA of its citizens to be used for military classifications.
- Dangerous trend in Russia with the growing approval and rehabilitation of Joseph Stalin.
- An announcement to exit the Nuclear treaty mid-year.
- The resurrection of the arms race between Russia and US from the Cold War era, especially in the field of the hypersonic weapons.
- A refusal to fund the chemical weapons watch dog.
- New strategy for local manufacturing.
- The direction of the Artificial Intelligence applications in the defense and civilian sectors.
- An interest in the resurrection of the Soviet Union with the first victim being Belarus where the two countries almost have the same border agency, taxes, etc.
- Freedom of speech has been dwindling with the arrests of opposition leader Alexei Navalny and consistent raids on his offices. Alexei Kungurov, who is a Russian blogger and Putin’s foe, has spent some time in jail for his blog posts. He is currently seeking asylum, possibly in Germany, as he is in fear for his and his family’s lives if they stay in Russia.
- Russia to designate its own citizens as foreign agents if they write for any western publications.
- FSB to collect foreign travelers biometrics.
Currently, Russia does not have a worthy alternative to Vladimir Putin. Sadly, the dictator does not have strong opposition that can finally push him to leave and allow Russian citizens to have a real choice. I have written an article how the regime in Russia can be changed.
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This past year has been tumultuous for European Union members. The whole year has been spent discussing BREXIT. It continues to be in discussions; not much has changed in that arena.
Italy has experienced economic crisis and even entertained the notion of leaving the EU.
Austria experienced difficult times as well.
The EU as a whole had some positive news. Bulgaria was in the talks to open a NATO command center in the Baltics. The new EU strategy involves the creation of an EU army and favoring their own defense contractors as the suppliers to their respective defense forces. This includes the creation of its own version of the Magnitsky Act. The largest budget was passed this year for the European Space Agency.
This was supposed to be the last year in power for the German leader Angela Merkel. However, it did not happen due to her refusal to leave. The 2021 elections in Germany will be pivotal in deciding the direction of Germany. The economy continues to do well. Germany continues to assert itself as the leader of the EU. It continues to have difficult relations with Russia with the recent expulsion of two Russian diplomats due to the murder of Zelimkhan Khangoshvili in a public park. Germany also refusal a proposed by Putin to halt missile deployment. All of these factors continue to create chilled relations with Russia. This, in turn, could create a negative impact to the German economy and trade.
France continues to suffer. Their economy is not doing so well. It can not get a leadership position in the EU. The Normandy Style talks have failed, yet again. French president Emmanuel Macron has a lot riding on Russia and Ukraine resolving their conflict. His presidential reelection is almost riding on it in 2022. France lost influence, including in Syria, without much chance of a return.
Brexit continues to dominate British talks. Teresa May resigned, leaving Boris Johnson in charge. The conservatives in UK outsmarted Labour this year, but it might not be for long. The large electoral win means the implemation of new financial and governing reforms in Britain. The economic future of Britain continues to be in question. The UK risks ending up in an unfavorable situation with severed ties with EU trade, as it will no longer enjoy tariff free trade. The UK might need to rely on the US. Johnson is candid about wanting a trade deal with the US.
The Skripals poisoning case has dominated the news as well as additional facts about who is responsible within Russia. The UK and Russia have very tense relations at best. Originally, Johnson claimed he wanted to normalize relations with Russia, but at this time it is not feasible. Needless to say, 50% of Britain does not support Brexit or any positive relations with Russia, while Putin continues to be Russian president.
China dominated the geopolitical theater this year. The Hong Kong protests caused a lot of tensions between China and the world.
China is experiencing economic slowdown this year. The tariffs imposed by US president Donald Trump against China caused a dent.
Huawei, China’s technology giant, lost a lot of deals and continues to be in turmoil due to the security threat they may pose.
China has shown big interest in the space economy and continues to work in that direction. This year China had one of the largest numbers of STEM graduates.
They have also continued their One Belt One Road initiative, basically the resurrection of the Silk Road trade route. China has moved very close to Russia and continues to develop a myriad of trade and defense deals. China is also accused of stalling Russia’s defense technologies via espionage.
China’s appetite in Africa is increasing.
The Middle East
The year started with the horrendous murder of Jamal Kashoggi and the cover up of his death in the Saudi Arabian embassy in Turkey.
The Middle East is embroiled in a war of political power divides and the desire for an overhaul by a few key players. The main players are an alliance of the Saudi Arabia and United Emirates dictators on one side, and Iran and its supporters on the other. Then there is Turkey, where the leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has his own ambitions.
The conflict between these three parties could have turned into full blown war across the whole region. The conflict in Yemen and the sabotage of the Saudi oil refineries were just two potential flashpoints.
Libya is a hot bed that could see clashes between Turkish and Egyptian interests, with Qatar to follow. There were tensions at the beginning of the year in Iraq and Lebanon.
Russia asserted itself as the main power player in Syria. Turkish attacks on parts of Syria created additional turmoil in the region.
Overall, 2019 has been the year of changes that will have long term ramifications, in turn creating many angles and power struggles for global domination and control.