Looking Ahead: The State of Diplomacy in 2011

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    Looking Ahead: The State of Diplomacy in 2011

    Looking Ahead: The State of Diplomacy in 2011

    January 17, 2011
    By Kaeleigh Forsyth, Contributor

    In 2011 we find ourselves abruptly confronting many formerly hypothetical developments that will potentially reshape the global geopolitical map as we now know it. The withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, the rapid inflation of a slowing Chinese economy, and the birth of a new African state are all imminent possibilities. Assessing the annual STRATFOR global intelligence forecast, these are some of the anticipated diplomatic issues of the New Year as foreseen by the Strategic Forecasting firm:

    Power Shifts

    SUDAN. This month a referendum on Southern Sudanese independence is taking place that will result in the creation of the world’s newest nation. Because the south cannot declare independence until July even if the referendum passes, tensions will run high on both sides and the government will maintain their heightened security alert on the borders. Avoiding a larger conflict during this transition period will be the objective over the next few months.

    IRAN, IRAQ. How the United States withdraws troops from Iraq will be the determinant of how geopolitical power shifts in the Persian Gulf. If the U.S. removes too many forces too quickly, they run the risk of Iraq falling under Iranian power, which would force all surrounding Gulf nations to politically acclimate to the new power balance. Because of this possibility Saudi Arabia and Iraq will continue to apply political pressure to the U.S. to stay in the region, and the U.S. will continue to secretly reach out to Iran in order to secure their interests in the region.

    TURKEY. This is an election year for Turkey that will emphasize the country’s core secular-religious divide. Seeking consolidation, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) will work toward a more coherent foreign policy.

    EGYPT. Egypt enters the year with an ailing 82-year old President, Hosni Mubarak, whose successors are already at odds over how to ensure regime stability and policy continuity. These political rifts will make the upcoming transition a particularly vulnerable time for Egypt.

    RUSSIA. Russia, having almost completed its consolidation of influence in the former Soviet Union, will loosen its grip on the region and adopt a more cooperative approach to diplomatic relations.

    CENTRAL ASIA. Leaders are losing their influence and succession crises are just around the corner in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Russia’s military assistance—or lack thereof—will determine how much power their governments are able to maintain.

    Economic Tightropes

    JAPAN. Japan’s aging population has created a national budget that is actually majority funded by deficit spending. Because their debt is held almost entirely at home, the rest of the world will luckily not be influenced by their economic attrition.

    EUROPE. While southern Europe continues to fight through a crippling recession, Germany has opportunity for growth in the upcoming year. Fortunately, the financial systems constructed to confront the financial crisis last year may prove sufficient to keep the four most vulnerable European states away from a bailout: Portugal, Belgium, Spain and Austria, respectively.

    CHINA. China’s precarious export-based model may have to compensate for sudden and drastic slowing with hiked inflation. A fundamental economic re-evaluation is necessary, but with an upcoming election the country is too politically dependent on the temporary sense of stability that the current model provides to take the drastic action needed.

    VENEZUELA. Venezuela will continue down the path of economic decay, having to become increasingly reliant on its allies—China, Cuba, Iran, and Russia—to prevent complete collapse. The country’s inability to maintain steady oil production as well as their prolonged electricity crisis will hinder President Hugo Chavez’s ability to expand his executive authority.

    Social Unrest

    CHINA. China will keep the stimulus policies enacted in 2008 under the assumption that rolling them back will harm both economic growth and employment, both of which tend to result in civil uprisings for the region. While energy and utilities costs are rising considerably, workers are demanding better conditions and more compensation. This creates the challenge of maintaining sufficient services and governmental subsidies at a time when the country’s economic model will only exacerbate inflationary problems.

    CENTRAL ASIA. Ethnic, religious, and regional tensions are becoming increasingly violent in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Moscow may use this as an opportunity to increase its military presence in the region.

    EUROZONE. Europe’s economic problems are causing detrimental social ramifications, as Germany attempts to impose austere measures on other resistive eurozone members. This opposition to austerity is seen strongest among Europe’s youth, who will express their dissatisfaction in increasingly prevalent displays of street violence and public protests.

    CUBA. More than half a million state workers in Cuba will be laid off by March, and though Fidel and Raul Castro have plans of building up the country’s private sector in order to absorb the labor, this year will prove to be incredibly tumultuous for them.

    SOMALIA. Somalia will continue to see a steady buildup of peacekeeping assistance, with the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) alone anticipating a few thousand new volunteers added to its current 8,000 member contingency.

    Militant Intimidation

    AFGHANISTAN. A negotiated settlement between the U.S. and Afghanistan seems unlikely in 2011 as the success of the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) relies on both the military degradation of the Taliban as well as the ability to negotiate some degree of political accommodation with them. However, the ISAF’s success on the battlefield is expected to continue.

    CHINA. Anti-access and area denial will continue to be the focus of China’s military agenda, which will only increase political friction with the United States. The U.S. will in turn need to threaten concrete trade measures if only to take symbolic action against their lack of transparency. China’s new hard-line approach to territorial and sovereignty disputes in addition to it’s accelerated resource acquisition strategies may result in clashing with neighboring countries.

    NORTH KOREA. North Korea’s unpredictable behavior in 2010 could be a precursor to negotiations for economic benefits, looking at their past patterns of escalating tensions. There will likely be a return to more managed relations with North Korea unless Kim Jong Il’s succession plans result in a major domestic dispute.

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