The Turkish Enigma

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanIn my “Net Assessment of the World,” I argued that four major segments of the European and Asian landmass were in crisis: Europe, Russia, the Middle East (from the Levant to Iran) and China. Each crisis was different; each was at a different stage of development. Collectively the crises threatened to destabilize the Eurasian landmass, the Eastern Hemisphere, and potentially generate a global crisis. They do not have to merge into a single crisis to be dangerous. Four simultaneous crises in the center of humanity’s geopolitical gravity would be destabilizing by itself. However, if they began to merge and interact, the risks would multiply. Containing each crisis by itself would be a daunting task. Managing crises that were interlocked would press the limits of manageability and even push beyond. Continue reading “The Turkish Enigma”

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An Empire Strikes Back: Germany and the Greek Crisis

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanA desperate battle was fought last week. It pitted Germany and Greece against each other. Each country had everything at stake. Based on the deal that was agreed to, Germany forced a Greek capitulation. But it is far from clear that Greece can allow the agreement reached to be implemented, or that it has the national political will to do so. It is also not clear what its options are, especially given that the Greek people had backed Germany into a corner, where its only choice was to risk everything. It was not a good place for Greece to put the Germans. They struck back with vengeance. Continue reading “An Empire Strikes Back: Germany and the Greek Crisis”

Beyond the Greek Impasse

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanThe Greek situation — having perhaps outlived the term “crisis,” now that it has taken so long to unfold — appears to have finally reached its terminal point. This is, of course, an illusion: It has been at its terminal point for a long time. The terminal point is the juncture where neither the Greeks nor the Germans can make any more concessions. In Greece itself, the terminal point is long past. Unemployment is at 26 percent, and more than 50 percent of youths under 25 are unemployed. Slashed wages, particularly in the state sector, affecting professions including physicians and engineers, have led to massive underemployment. Meanwhile, most new economic activity is occurring in the untaxable illegal markets. The Greeks owe money to EU institutions and the International Monetary Fund, all of which acquired bad Greek debts from banks that initially lent funds to Greece in order to stabilize its banking sector. No one ever really thought the Greeks could pay back these loans.

Continue reading “Beyond the Greek Impasse”

The Middle Eastern Balance of Power Matures

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanLast week, a coalition of predominantly Sunni Arab countries, primarily from the Arabian Peninsula and organized by Saudi Arabia, launched airstrikes in Yemen that have continued into this week. The airstrikes target Yemeni al-Houthis, a Shiite sect supported by Iran, and their Sunni partners, which include the majority of military forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. What made the strikes particularly interesting was what was lacking: U.S. aircraft. Although the United States provided intelligence and other support, it was a coalition of Arab states that launched the extended air campaign against the al-Houthis.

Continue reading “The Middle Eastern Balance of Power Matures”

Germany Emerges

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanGerman Chancellor Angela Merkel, accompanied by French President Francois Hollande, met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Feb. 6. Then she met with U.S. President Barack Obama on Feb. 9. The primary subject was Ukraine, but the first issue discussed at the news conference following the meeting with Obama was Greece. Greece and Ukraine are not linked in the American mind. They are linked in the German mind, because both are indicators of Germany’s new role in the world and of Germany’s discomfort with it. Continue reading “Germany Emerges”

Guantanamo Bay’s Place in U.S. Strategy

By Sim Tack

stratforLast week, the Cuban government declared that for the United States and Cuba to normalize relations, the United States would have to return the territory occupied by a U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay. Washington clearly responded that returning the base is not on the table right now. This response makes sense, since quite a bit of politicking goes into the status of the base. However, the Guantanamo Bay issue highlights a notable aspect to the U.S.-Cuban negotiations — one that is rooted in the history of the U.S. ascension to superpower status as it challenged European powers in the Western Hemisphere. Continue reading “Guantanamo Bay’s Place in U.S. Strategy”

The New Drivers of Europe’s Geopolitics

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanFor the past two weeks, I have focused on the growing fragmentation of Europe. Two weeks ago, the murders in Paris prompted me to write about the fault line between Europe and the Islamic world. Last week, I wrote about the nationalism that is rising in individual European countries after the European Central Bank was forced to allow national banks to participate in quantitative easing so European nations wouldn’t be forced to bear the debt of other nations. I am focusing on fragmentation partly because it is happening before our eyes, partly because Stratfor has been forecasting this for a long time and partly because my new book on the fragmentation of Europe — Flashpoints: The Emerging Crisis in Europe — is being released today. Continue reading “The New Drivers of Europe’s Geopolitics”

George Friedman’s Top Five Events in 2014

By George Friedman

stratfor‘Tis the season to make lists, and a list shall be made. We tend to see each year as extraordinary, and in some senses, each year is. But in a broader sense, 2014 was merely another year in a long chain of human triumph and misery. Wars have been waged, marvelous things have been invented, disease has broken out, and people have fallen in love. Nonetheless, lists are called for, and this is my list of the five most important events of 2014. Continue reading “George Friedman’s Top Five Events in 2014”

The Geopolitics of U.S.-Cuba Relations

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanLast week, U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro agreed to an exchange of prisoners being held on espionage charges. In addition, Washington and Havana agreed to hold discussions with the goal of establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries. No agreement was reached on ending the U.S. embargo on Cuba, a step that requires congressional approval. Continue reading “The Geopolitics of U.S.-Cuba Relations”

Viewing Russia from the inside

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanLast week I flew into Moscow, arriving at 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 8. It gets dark in Moscow around that time, and the sun doesn’t rise until about 10 a.m. at this time of the year — the so-called Black Days versus White Nights. For anyone used to life closer to the equator, this is unsettling. It is the first sign that you are not only in a foreign country, which I am used to, but also in a foreign environment. Yet as we drove toward downtown Moscow, well over an hour away, the traffic, the road work, were all commonplace. Moscow has three airports, and we flew into the farthest one from downtown, Domodedovo — the primary international airport. There is endless renovation going on in Moscow, and while it holds up traffic, it indicates that prosperity continues, at least in the capital. Continue reading “Viewing Russia from the inside”

What the Fall of the Wall Did Not Change

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanTwenty-five years ago, a crowd filled with an uneasy mixture of joy and rage tore down the Berlin Wall. There was joy for the end of Germany’s partition and the end of tyranny. There was rage against generations of fear. One fear was of communist oppression. The other fear was of the threat of a war, which had loomed over Europe and Germany since 1945. One fear was moral and ideological, while the other was prudential and geopolitical. As in all defining political moments, fear and rage, ideology and geopolitics, blended together in an intoxicating mix. Continue reading “What the Fall of the Wall Did Not Change”

The Gold Standard Did Not Cause The Great Depression, Part 1

by Ralph Benko

gold-standard-liberty-coinAEI’s James Pethokoukis and National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru — among many others — appear to have fallen victim to what I have called “the Eichengreen Fallacy,” the demonstrably incorrect proposition that the gold standard caused the Great Depression.  This fallacy is at the root of much confusion in the discourse. Continue reading “The Gold Standard Did Not Cause The Great Depression, Part 1”

Principle, Rigor and Execution Matter in U.S. Foreign Policy

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanU.S. President Barack Obama has come under intense criticism for his foreign policy, along with many other things. This is not unprecedented. Former President George W. Bush was similarly attacked. Stratfor has always maintained that the behavior of nations has much to do with the impersonal forces driving it, and little to do with the leaders who are currently passing through office. To what extent should American presidents be held accountable for events in the world, and what should they be held accountable for? Continue reading “Principle, Rigor and Execution Matter in U.S. Foreign Policy”

The Similarities Between Germany and China

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanI returned last weekend from a monthlong trip to both East Asia and Europe. I discovered three things: First, the Europeans were obsessed with Germany and concerned about Russia. Second, the Asians were obsessed with China and concerned about Japan. Third, visiting seven countries from the Pacific to the Atlantic in 29 days brings you to a unique state of consciousness, in which the only color is gray and knowing the number of your hotel room in your current city, as opposed to the one two cities ago, is an achievement. Continue reading “The Similarities Between Germany and China”

Germany Fights on Two Fronts to Preserve Eurozone

By Adriano Bosoni and Mark Fleming-Williams

stratforThe European Court of Justice announced Sept. 22 that hearings in the case against the European Central Bank’s (ECB) bond-buying scheme known as Outright Monetary Transactions (OMT) will begin Oct. 14. Though the process is likely to be lengthy, with a judgment not due until mid-2015, the ruling will have serious implications for Germany’s relationship with the rest of the eurozone. The timing could hardly be worse, coming as an anti-euro party has recently been making strides in the German political scene, steadily undermining the government’s room for maneuver. Continue reading “Germany Fights on Two Fronts to Preserve Eurozone”

OECD recommends how to fight tax avoidance

logooecd_enThe OECD released its first recommendations for a co-ordinated international approach to combat tax avoidance by multinational enterprises, under the OECD/G20 Base Erosion and Profit Shifting Project designed to create a single set of international tax rules to end the erosion of tax bases and the artificial shifting of profits to jurisdictions to avoid paying tax. Continue reading “OECD recommends how to fight tax avoidance”

The Origins and Implications of the Scottish Referendum

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanThe idea of Scottish independence has moved from the implausible to the very possible. Whether or not it actually happens, the idea that the union of England and Scotland, which has existed for more than 300 years, could be dissolved has enormous implications in its own right, and significant implications for Europe and even for global stability. Continue reading “The Origins and Implications of the Scottish Referendum”

The Virtue of Subtlety: A U.S. Strategy Against the Islamic State

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanU.S. President Barack Obama said recently that he had no strategy as yet toward the Islamic State but that he would present a plan on Wednesday. It is important for a president to know when he has no strategy. It is not necessarily wise to announce it, as friends will be frightened and enemies delighted. A president must know what it is he does not know, and he should remain calm in pursuit of it, but there is no obligation to be honest about it. This is particularly true because, in a certain sense, Obama has a strategy, though it is not necessarily one he likes. Strategy is something that emerges from reality, while tactics might be chosen. Given the situation, the United States has an unavoidable strategy. There are options and uncertainties for employing it. Let us consider some of the things that Obama does know. Continue reading “The Virtue of Subtlety: A U.S. Strategy Against the Islamic State”

Ukraine, Iraq and a Black Sea Strategy

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanThe United States is, at the moment, off balance. It faces challenges in the Syria-Iraq theater as well as challenges in Ukraine. It does not have a clear response to either. It does not know what success in either theater would look like, what resources it is prepared to devote to either, nor whether the consequences of defeat would be manageable. A dilemma of this sort is not unusual for a global power. Its very breadth of interests and the extent of power create opportunities for unexpected events, and these events, particularly simultaneous challenges in different areas, create uncertainty and confusion. Continue reading “Ukraine, Iraq and a Black Sea Strategy”

Terrorism as Theater

By Robert D. Kaplan

kaplanThe beheading of American journalist James Foley by the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq was much more than an altogether gruesome and tragic affair: rather, it was a very sophisticated and professional film production deliberately punctuated with powerful symbols. Foley was dressed in an orange jumpsuit reminiscent of the Muslim prisoners held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay. He made his confession forcefully, as if well rehearsed. His executioner, masked and clad in black, made an equally long statement in a calm, British accent, again, as if rehearsed. It was as if the killing was secondary to the message being sent.

Continue reading “Terrorism as Theater”

Europe’s Malaise: The New Normal?

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanRussia and Ukraine continue to confront each other along their border. Iraq has splintered, leading to unabated internal warfare. And the situation in Gaza remains dire. These events should be enough to constitute the sum total of our global crises, but they’re not. On top of everything, the German economy contracted by 0.2 percent last quarter. Though many will dismiss this contraction outright, the fact that the world’s fourth-largest economy (and Europe’s largest) has shrunk, even by this small amount, is a matter of global significance.

Continue reading “Europe’s Malaise: The New Normal?”

Turkey’s Geographical Ambition

By Robert D. Kaplan and Reva Bhalla

stratforAt a time when Europe and other parts of the world are governed by forgettable mediocrities, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister for a decade now, seethes with ambition. Perhaps the only other leader of a major world nation who emanates such a dynamic force field around him is Russia’s Vladimir Putin, with whom the West is also supremely uncomfortable. Continue reading “Turkey’s Geographical Ambition”

Can Putin Survive?

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanThere is a general view that Vladimir Putin governs the Russian Federation as a dictator, that he has defeated and intimidated his opponents and that he has marshaled a powerful threat to surrounding countries. This is a reasonable view, but perhaps it should be re-evaluated in the context of recent events.

Continue reading “Can Putin Survive?”

Borderlands: Hungary Maneuvers

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanI am writing this from Budapest, the city in which I was born. I went to the United States so young that all my memories of Hungary were acquired later in life or through my family, whose memories bridged both world wars and the Cold War, all with their attendant horrors. My own deepest memory of Hungary comes from my parents’ living room in the Bronx. My older sister was married in November 1956. There was an uprising against the Soviets at the same time, and many of our family members were still there. After the wedding, we returned home and saw the early newspapers and reports on television. My parents discovered that some of the heaviest fighting between the revolutionaries and Soviets had taken place on the street where my aunts lived. A joyous marriage, followed by another catastrophe — the contrast between America and Hungary. That night, my father asked no one in particular, “Does it ever end?” The answer is no, not here. Which is why I am back in Budapest. Continue reading “Borderlands: Hungary Maneuvers”

Borderlands: The View from Azerbaijan

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanI arrive in Azerbaijan as the country celebrates Victory Day, the day successor states of the former Soviet Union celebrate the defeat of Germany in World War II. No one knows how many Soviet citizens died in that war — perhaps 22 million. The number is staggering and represents both the incompetence and magnificence of Russia, which led the Soviets in war. Any understanding of Russia that speaks of one without the other is flawed. Continue reading “Borderlands: The View from Azerbaijan”

Borderlands: The New Strategic Landscape

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanI will be leaving this week to visit a string of countries that are now on the front line between Russia and the European Peninsula: Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Azerbaijan. A tour like that allows you to look at the details of history. But it is impossible to understand those details out of context. The more I think about recent events, the more I realize that what has happened in Ukraine can only be understood by considering European geopolitics since 1914 — a hundred years ago and the beginning of World War I. Continue reading “Borderlands: The New Strategic Landscape”

The U.S. Opts for Ineffective Sanctions on Russia

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanThe United States announced new sanctions on seven Russian government officials April 28. A long-used tactic, sanctions can yield unpredictable effects or have no effect at all, depending upon how they are crafted. It is commonly assumed that sanctions are applied when a target country’s actions are deemed unacceptable. The sanctioning nation presumably chooses sanctions to avoid war when war would be too costly or could result in defeat. Sanctions’ stated purpose is to induce behavioral changes in a target state by causing economic pain. To work, sanctions must therefore cause pain. But they must not be so severe that they convince the target state that war is more desirable than capitulating to the demands of the sanctioning nation.

Continue reading “The U.S. Opts for Ineffective Sanctions on Russia”

Not a New Cold War, but Great Game II

By Mark Galeotti

logo_isn_0Are Russia and the West about to revisit the ritualized competition of the Cold War? Not according to Mark Galeotti. A more useful analogy is the Great Game, that freewheeling 19th century struggle between Great Britain and Russia over Central Asia. Continue reading “Not a New Cold War, but Great Game II”

U.S. Defense Policy in the Wake of the Ukrainian Affair

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanEver since the end of the Cold War, there has been an assumption that conventional warfare between reasonably developed nation-states had been abolished. During the 1990s, it was expected that the primary purpose of the military would be operations other than war, such as peacekeeping, disaster relief and the change of oppressive regimes. After 9/11, many began speaking of asymmetric warfare and “the long war.” Under this model, the United States would be engaged in counterterrorism activities in a broad area of the Islamic world for a very long time. Peer-to-peer conflict seemed obsolete. There was a profoundly radical idea embedded in this line of thought. Continue reading “U.S. Defense Policy in the Wake of the Ukrainian Affair”

A Modest Proposal: Should Puerto Rico Consider Joining The Russian Federation?

by Ralph Benko

uscapitolShould Puerto Rico explore following Crimea into the Russian Federation? Puerto Rico’s biggest problem in dealing with Washington is of the same nature as that increasingly shared by too many Americans. Puerto Rico’s biggest problem in dealing with Washington is of the same nature as that increasingly shared by too many Americans. We citizens much too often find ourselves in the position of supplicants to Washington rather than, at minimum, as dignified peers. Might there be a way to change this? Continue reading “A Modest Proposal: Should Puerto Rico Consider Joining The Russian Federation?”

Russia and the United States Negotiate the Future of Ukraine

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanDuring the Cold War, U.S. secretaries of state and Soviet foreign ministers routinely negotiated the outcome of crises and the fate of countries. It has been a long time since such talks have occurred, but last week a feeling of deja vu overcame me. Americans and Russians negotiated over everyone’s head to find a way to defuse the crisis in Ukraine and, in the course of that, shape its fate. Continue reading “Russia and the United States Negotiate the Future of Ukraine”

Big Government Really Is Over

by Ralph Benko

uscapitolCrimea. Venice. Scotland. Quebec. Catalonia. Colorado. Crimea’s vote, a popular vote of no confidence in Kiev, to leave Ukraine (and rejoin Russia) is in some ways unique. In o ther ways it appears part of an emerging, worldwide, trend.Venice voted last week, in a nonbinding referendum, to secede from Italy.  89% in favor: a popular vote of no confidence in Rome. Scotland will vote next September on whether to disunite from the United Kingdom.  Much to London’s dismay. Continue reading “Big Government Really Is Over”

Chuck Hagel Propels Barack Obama Into History

By Ralph Benko

chuckWith his thoughtful restructuring of America’s military, secretary of defense Chuck Hagel — a Republican — has cemented Obama’s signature  legacy: restoring America to a peacetime footing. Obama’s bringing  American troops home from two wars, and, now, reducing the military to a strong, but proportionate, peacetime footing, was not easy. Doing so required something of a political miracle. Obama, with a critical assist from Hagel, is pulling it off. Continue reading “Chuck Hagel Propels Barack Obama Into History”

The Asian Status Quo

By Robert D. Kaplan and Matt Gertken

kaplanArguably the greatest book on political realism in the 20th century was University of Chicago Professor Hans J. Morgenthau’s Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace, published in 1948. In that seminal work, Morgenthau defines the status quo as “the maintenance of the distribution of power that exists at a particular moment in history.” In other words, things shall stay as they are. But it is not quite that clear. For as Morgenthau also explains, “the concept of the ‘status quo’ derives from status quo ante bellum,” which, in turn, implies a return to the distribution of power before a war. The war’s aggressor shall give up his conquered territory, and everything will return to how it was. Continue reading “The Asian Status Quo”

The American Public’s Indifference to Foreign Affairs

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanLast week, several events took place that were important to their respective regions and potentially to the world. Russian government officials suggested turning Ukraine into a federation, following weeks of renewed demonstrations in Kiev. The Venezuelan government was confronted with violent and deadly protests. Kazakhstan experienced a financial crisis that could have destabilized the economies of Central Asia. Russia and Egypt inked a significant arms deal. Right-wing groups in Europe continued their political gains. Any of these events had the potential to affect the United States. At different times, lesser events have transfixed Americans.This week, Americans seemed to be indifferent to all of them. This may be part of a cycle that shapes American interest in public affairs. The decision to raise the debt ceiling, which in the last cycle gripped public attention, seemed to elicit a shrug. Continue reading “The American Public’s Indifference to Foreign Affairs”

New Dimensions of U.S. Foreign Policy Toward Russia

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanThe struggle for some of the most strategic territory in the world took an interesting twist this week. Last week we discussed what appeared to be a significant shift in German national strategy in which Berlin seemed to declare a new doctrine of increased assertiveness in the world — a shift that followed intense German interest in Ukraine. This week, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, in a now-famous cellphone conversation, declared her strong contempt for the European Union and its weakness and counseled the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine to proceed quickly and without the Europeans to piece together a specific opposition coalition before the Russians saw what was happening and took action. Continue reading “New Dimensions of U.S. Foreign Policy Toward Russia”

OECD admits to forecasting errors during 2008-09 crisis

logooecd_enExtreme volatility during the global financial crisis complicated economic forecasting, leading to large errors that underline the need for better modelling methods and new approaches for making and presenting projections, according to an OECD report. OECD forecasts during and after the financial crisis: a post-mortem says that the Organisation’s economic projections under-predicted the depth of the collapse in activity in 2008-09 and over-estimated the pace of recovery in recent years. The degree of forecasting errors seen over the 2007-12 period is similar in size to that seen around the first oil shock in the 1970s. Continue reading “OECD admits to forecasting errors during 2008-09 crisis”

Why so much anarchy?

By Robert D. Kaplan

kaplanTwenty years ago, in February 1994, I published a lengthy cover story in The Atlantic Monthly, “The Coming Anarchy: How Scarcity, Crime, Overpopulation, Tribalism, and Disease are Rapidly Destroying the Social Fabric of Our Planet.” I argued that the combination of resource depletion (like water), demographic youth bulges and the proliferation of shanty towns throughout the developing world would enflame ethnic and sectarian divides, creating the conditions for domestic political breakdown and the transformation of war into increasingly irregular forms — making it often indistinguishable from terrorism. I wrote about the erosion of national borders and the rise of the environment as the principal security issues of the 21st century. I accurately predicted the collapse of certain African states in the late 1990s and the rise of political Islam in Turkey and other places. Islam, I wrote, was a religion ideally suited for the badly urbanized poor who were willing to fight. I also got things wrong, Continue reading “Why so much anarchy?”

A More Assertive German Foreign Policy

By George Friedman and Marc Lanthemann

Angela MerkelThe Ukrainian crisis is important in itself, but the behavior it has elicited from Germany is perhaps more important. Berlin directly challenged Ukraine’s elected president for refusing to tighten relations with the European Union and for mistreating Ukrainians who protested his decision. In challenging President Viktor Yanukovich, Berlin also challenged Russia, a reflection of Germany’s recent brazen foreign policy. Since the end of World War II, Germany has pursued a relatively tame foreign policy. But over the past week, Berlin appeared to have acknowledged the need for a fairly dramatic change. Continue reading “A More Assertive German Foreign Policy”

Perspectives on the Ukrainian Protests

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanA few months ago, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich was expected to sign some agreements that could eventually integrate Ukraine with the European Union economically. Ultimately, Yanukovich refused to sign the agreements, a decision thousands of his countrymen immediately protested. The demonstrations later evolved, as they often do. Protesters started calling for political change, and when Yanukovich resisted their calls, they demanded new elections. Continue reading “Perspectives on the Ukrainian Protests”