This article and the next focuses on the “rise of populism”, the second explanation given for two of the major recent political and geopolitical surprises – i.e. the Brexit and the election of Donald Trump as U.S. President. Populism and its rise are potentially at the heart of a possible crisis in Europe, and world-wide, should “populist” …
The world has entered a period where uncertainty rules and where surprises abound.
Focusing on 2016, the two major surprises usually singled out are the Brexit or the vote leading to the exit of the U.K. from the European Union, then the election of U.S. President Trump against favourite Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Even though a short-term focus could let us believe that the turmoil only or mainly hits “the West”, political and geopolitical surprises and uncertainties have multiplied worldwide, starting at least with the shock of the financial crisis in 2007 and 2008 and responses to it (see end note for some major instances*).
What is thus happening? How are we to tackle the uncertainty? Are these surprises related or discrete independent events that it would be wrong to link or try to understand together?
We shall start here with the 2016 surprises and related ongoing uncertainty, i.e. the Brexit and the U.S. Trump Presidency, and focus more particularly on the contradictions and questions that arise when we compare the two phenomena. We shall seek a framework for and elements of understanding, which can then be used in the development of scenarios for the future.
This article identifies lessons we can learn from the impact of the conflict in Ukraine on businesses, as presented in the first part, to continue enhancing our understanding of the way businesses and the corporate world could usefully anticipate or foresee geopolitical and political risks and uncertainties.
From the way to identify which crises and geopolitical uncertainties can be – sometimes unexpectedly – of concern to a company (Lesson 1) to the best timing for starting the anticipation process (Lesson 2), the need to think outside the ideological box (Lesson 3) and multi-dimensionally (Lesson 4) and to understand “national interest” and its evolution (Lesson 5), the impacts of the war in Ukraine bring us a wealth of understanding and points out many necessary if not crucial improvements that may be endeavoured. These will thus be added to the points previously identified in “Lessons from and for the Brexit – Geopolitics, Uncertainties, and Business (2)”, after a general framework was defined in “Businesses and Geopolitics: Caught up in the Whirlwinds?” (1).
With this article and the next one, we use the instability and conflict in Ukraine and the related impacts on businesses to continue enhancing our understanding of the way businesses and the corporate world could usefully anticipate or foresee geopolitical and political risks and uncertainties. Climate Breakdown: Towards War to Reduce CO2 Emissions? Climate Emergency, AI and the (Necessary ?) Rise of Geoengineering Challenge Your Beliefs with the AI Sphinx Exploring cascading impacts with AI War in Ukraine, the 2023 Super El Niño and Global Disruptions – Anthropocene Wars 8 Foreseeing the Future with ChatGPT? Get Strategic Foresight and Warning Scenarios with GPT-based AI – Initiation We review two major impacts of the war in Ukraine. First we look at the “surprising” cost of sanctions related … Read more
Early 2016 has witnessed a succession of dramatic developments that have inflamed the already contentious Iran-Saudi relationship, bringing it to the forefront of global governmental and media attention. These have included: Riyadh’s decision to break diplomatic relations with Tehran at the beginning of the year, the accelerated decline of the price of oil deeply affecting both countries’ economies, the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal leading to Iran’s reinsertion into the global economic system, and a reversal of fortune in the Syrian civil war with Iranian and Russian-supported regime forces scoring major advances against the Saudi-backed opposition. We shall survey these developments (deferring, however, discussion of the fast changing situation in Syria to a later post) with the aim of … Read more
Given the rising tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia since the beginning of the twenty-first century, reaching new heights in early 2016 with the beheading of a Shi’a Cleric by Saudi political authorities, which generated violences on Saudi diplomatic representations notably in Iran, in turn leading to the Saudi decision to break diplomatic relations with Iran (e.g. BBC News, 4 Jan 2016), understanding the new dynamics existing between Iran and China is even more important, as they may carry new weight, usually not considered as far as the Middle East is concerned. On 4 March 2013, an Iranian military fleet, which had left the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas, docked at the Chinese port of Zhangjiagang, after a forty days journey (“Thread: Iran 24th fleet heading … Read more
Even though the capabilities of the Islamic State have now, in November 2017, changed and been seriously reduced , the understanding and fundamental underlying dynamics at work are still valid and must be considered. Lately, the world has been shaken by large attacks carried out by the Islamic State. On 31 October 2015, Islamic State’s fighters destroyed a Russian plane over the Sinai: “According to our experts, on board an aircraft in flight, an improvised bomb exploded capacity of up to 1 kg of TNT, resulting in an explosion of the aircraft in the air, which explains the spread parts of the fuselage of the aircraft at a distance. We can definitely say that this is a terrorist act” stated officially Alexander Bortnikov, director of Russia’s … Read more
Between 29 September and 21 October 2015, the U.S. led coalition conducted 95 airstrikes on Syrian territory against the Islamic State (U.S. Central Command, Operation Inherent Resolve, briefing 22 Oct 2015). On 27 October, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced that the U.S. would step up its campaign against the Islamic State with the “‘three R’s’ – Raqqa, Ramadi, and Raids”, involving notably ramping up U.S. and coalition air strikes as well as “direct action on the ground” – the “Raids” (“Secretary of Defense Ash Carter opening statement on counter-ISIL Senate Armed Services Committee”, October 27, 2015), anticipating the announcement of the deployment of a very small special force on the ground in Northern Syria (Reuters, 31 Oct 2015). As a … Read more
On 30 September 2015, the Russian Federation overtly entered militarily the Syrian war by starting an air campaign. It supports the government of Bashar al-Assad, from the Russian point of view the legitimate ruler of Syria, while attacking extremist jihadis threats and notably the Islamic State (see below for references). The entry of this new powerful actor is a game changer, not only in Syria, but, more broadly, regionally and globally, as noted by most observers. Although it is very early to assess fully the consequences of Russia’s involvement, we shall identify and outline hypotheses regarding the impact it may have, notably as far as the Islamic State is concerned. To be able to evaluate this impact, we would need first to have a clear vision of what … Read more
Each week our scan collects weak – and less weak – signals… Read the 2 April scan → World – Three articles this week are particularly interesting, in themselves but also when read together. Amal Mudallali “Sorry, Obama: The Arab World No Longer Needs America” for The National Interest, focuses on the pride and “new Arab spirit” resulting from the Saudi-led … Read more