Daily Memo: The U.S. and Iran Are at It Again

Tensions are raising as the world reckons with the economic impact of the pandemic.

The Road to 2040

Dec. 2, 2015 We look into the future and forecast what the world will look like in a quarter of a century. We predict several disruptions in the global structure by 2040 and conclude that much of the instability over the next 25 years will be focused in the European and Asian continents.

Forecast Tracker: 2019 Year-End Review

(click to enlarge) Scale: Hit, Partial Hit, Inconclusive, Partial Miss, Miss A Cycle Ends The U.S. and China will reach a deal on trade, but it won’t end the trade war. Hit China and the U.S. were seemingly inches from a deal for nearly the entire year, but they repeatedly struggled to push negotiations across the finish line, with the U.S. escalating tariff pressure on China multiple times instead. This illustrated the stark limitations of U.S. tariffs as a tool with which to force Beijing to agree to any major concessions, as well as the limits of mechanisms to ensure that the Chinese government would fully implement whatever concessions it could stomach. It also illustrated the tight political and economic constraints restricting Beijing’s room for maneuver, with the nationalist fervor playing a role in scuppering a potential deal in April and, more problematic, China’s internal economic problems making major structural concessions a nonstarter. Finally, in the second week of December, we got the deal we forecast. Put simply, it doesn’t deal with the major points of contention between China and the U.S., and heavy tariffs remain in place as a result. The trade war is far from over. A decline […]

Australia’s Geopolitics

In the past two fragments in this series, I began to lay out the interaction between geography and the development of the United States. I want to continue with some other examples. This week, I will focus on the geopolitics of a country that, like the U.S., is fairly young, but that has developed very differently: Australia. Next week, I want to write about a very small country that has existed for a millennium: Hungary. Apart from the fact that my wife was born in Australia and I was born in Hungary, my goal here is to create a small baseline in reality, before returning to theory. Australia, like the United States, was born in the course of the British Empire’s creation. Both were occupied by indigenous peoples when the English arrived. In each, the English settlers created states that were eventually united into a single nation. The two countries share significant cultural similarities, not least their common language. But there are dramatic differences in how Australia and the U.S. behave within the international system. Let’s begin with the obvious: Australia appears bigger than it actually is. Much of the country cannot be inhabited. Its populated areas run along the coast […]

A Sea Change in the Security of the South Pacific

Small countries have been caught in the current of great power politics.

Containing China on the Open Seas

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Nov. 2, 2017 A defense cooperation initiative between Australia, India, Japan and the U.S. is being resurrected, this time on firmer grounds.

The Indo-Pacific After COVID-19

In late March, senior officials from the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, a loose coalition of the Indo-Pacific’s four most powerful democracies, quietly launched a series of meetings aimed at forging a coordinated response to the coronavirus pandemic. “The Quad” (comprising Japan, Australia, India and the United States) has come to symbolize both the grand plans of those seeking to cement the Indo-Pacific’s status quo and the more complicated reality of a region in flux. On paper, the Quad makes sense as a potent alliance capable of pooling immense resources and leveraging distinct geographic advantages to limit Chinese influence and deter Chinese attempts to establish military dominance in the Indo-Pacific — especially if other regional states such as Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea could be enticed to join. In reality, though, the Quad has been slow to coalesce into something equaling more than the sum of its parts, due in large part to economic fears of antagonizing China and inadequate budgets that cannot keep up with China’s breakneck military modernization. Though military cooperation has increased modestly among its members, the grouping itself has struggled to implement any substantive joint initiatives, much less forge an integrated security alliance capable of pulling off complex […]

The Coral Sea: The Mirror Image of the South China Sea

Australia, like China, is militarizing the waters off its eastern coast.

Toward a New Geopolitical Model

Note: I have received a staggering number of comments from readers on the first two installments in this series. As most of you know, we at GPF try to answer all of the emails we get from our readers. In this case, that hasn’t been possible. So instead, I will devote next week’s installment to addressing some of the comments I received on the first two articles, particularly the second one (many were uncomfortable with my deterministic approach to geopolitics). Important points were made, and I will address as many as I can. Now on to today’s topic. The purpose of a geopolitical model is to provide a framework for understanding how the international system works. The model doesn’t have to be global or formally mapped out. Thucydides’ model of how Greece worked drew a distinction between coastal cities like Athens and landlocked cities like Sparta and the way in which they interacted with each other. But who we are and when and where we live define our geopolitical views. For example, until the European age of exploration, those who lived in the Eastern Hemisphere didn’t know a Western Hemisphere existed. After the Europeans gained contact with the Americas, the […]

George Friedman’s Thoughts: Prisms of Thought

When I began the Thoughts column, I explained that I was using it as a space for thinking about a new book intended to place geopolitics within the framework of the philosophical tradition. The problem with writing this was the systematic nature of writing a book. A book must contain an orderly structure built around a central thesis. It can contain multiple strands of thought, but at a certain point it becomes chaotic. The problem is not so much about books versus short articles but about the tension between two ways of looking at the world and its parts. The systematic imposes an order on the world that may explain it but is insufficient. When the Geopolitical Futures staff members write an article, it is intended to be both self-contained and connected to our broader method. It must explain unfolding events through a single coherent lens. In this, our writing is like that of others, and is intended to clarify and reveal the connections. There is another approach to thinking, which I will call prismatic. Rather than looking through a clarifying lens for the order of things, it looks at the world through a piece of glass that seems to […]

On NAFTA, US Engagement in the Middle East, and the China-Japan Competition

Checking the pulse of our annual predictions, every two weeks.

Four Coronavirus Lessons That We Will (or Won’t) Learn

How would we respond differently if another outbreak happened?