The global geopolitical environment is at its most dangerous in decades, according to Eurasia Group, the consultancy founded by Ian Bremmer. Here is a look at Eurasia’s top predictions for risks that could impact the world in 2019.
1. Bad Seeds
Global decision-makers are so consumed with addressing — or failing to address — the daily crises that arise from a world without leadership that they’re allowing a broad array of future risks to germinate, with serious consequences. The outlook for institutions like the European Union and the World Trade Organization, as well as the U.S-China relationship and that between Russia and its neighbors, is negative.
There’s been a long-held view in Washington and Beijing that the best way to manage their rivalry was to try to keep the relationship as amicable as possible — for as long as possible. That’s changed, especially in the U.S., which is embracing an openly confrontational approach under President Donald Trump amid a months-long trade war between the world’s two largest economies. Expect more discord in the arenas of technology, economics and security.
3. Cyber Gloves Off
This year is likely to be a turning point in cyber competition. For the žfirst time, the U.S. will be undertaking a serious effort to establish real deterrence by projecting its cyber power in much more assertive ways. This show of strength is not only unlikely to create an effective system of global deterrence, but it could well backžfire.
4. European Populism
When the EU holds parliamentary elections in May, euro-skeptics from both the left and right will win more seats that ever before. In the past, fringe parties gained support by blaming Brussels for domestic problems. Now they’re winning by promising to ignore EU rules. The unprecedented influence of these new parties will undermine Europe’s ability to function.
5. U.S. at Home
This will be a chaotic year for U.S. domestic politics. While the odds of Trump being impeached and removed from office remain low, political volatility will be exceptionally high.
6. Innovation’s Winter
Eurasia predicts a reduction in the financial and human capital available to drive technological development. It blames three factors: security concerns leading states to reduce their exposure to foreign suppliers; privacy concerns causing governments to more tightly regulate how their citizens’ data can be used; and economic concerns leading countries to put up barriers protecting their emerging tech champions.
7. Coalition of the Unwilling
Trump’s election was a blow to the decades-long commitment by Washington to protect a U.S.-led global order. Since then, Trump has collected some fellow travelers — a coalition of world leaders unwilling to uphold the those principles, with some even bent on bringing the system down. These leaders will have an increasingly disruptive effect on the international order.
The country’s new president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, begins his term with a degree of power and control over the political system not seen in Mexico since the early 1990s. For AMLO, making Mexico great again means taking it back to the 1960s and 1970s — with more spending, more interventionist and lower quality policies. Until now, Mexico had been in a different political and economic cycle than the rest of Latin America, with a lower category of political risk. This year, it will look much more like its southern neighbors.
President Vladimir Putin sees Ukraine as vital to Russia’s sphere of influence. Their shared historic, political, and cultural links have undergirded Russia’s actions since long before the Ukraine’s 2013-2014 Maidan revolution. Putin believes Russia should have a big say in Kiev’s future. But that will pose a problem in the March presidential elections and ensuing parliamentary ballot, in which Russian interference — whether to support or undermine particular candidates — is a certainty.
Nigeria faces its most fiercely contested election since the country’s transition to democracy in 1999. One candidate is President Muhammadu Buhari, an elderly and infirm leader who lacks the energy, creativity, or political savvy to significantly move the needle on Nigeria’s most intractable problems. The other is former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, long dogged by allegations of corruption, which he’s denied.
U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May has almost no chance of passing her unpopular withdrawal agreement when she puts it to a vote later this month. That promises a very messy 2019 in Europe. For Eurasia Group, Brexit was an asterisk because three years after the vote, almost any Brexit outcome remains possible.