11 Января 2018 г.

I did predict that there would be conflict in Ukraine but not that Russia would win – George Friedman

I did predict that there would be conflict in Ukraine but not that Russia would win  – George Friedman
Фото: wp.com

In a modern world with all the events unfolding so rapidly it can become quite hard to predict the outcome of ongoing conflicts or forecast the course of events in the unstable regions. And although giving a precise answer to such questions as whether the EU will continue to exist or fall, will there be another war in the Balkans or what will become of Russian-American relations can be quite challenging, there are tendencies which can shed some light upon the future of Eurasia and the world. To learn more about them «Eurasia.Expert» had a talk with an American geopolitical forecaster, strategist on international affairs, founder and chairman of Geopolitical Futures George Friedman.

- Mr. Friedman, what new tendencies do you observe in Eurasia? What is going to change in the region in the next 5-10 years?

- There is increasing instability in the region, both within nations and between nations.  There are multiple reasons for this.

China has engaged in a new policy that introduces investments into countries but also brings its own Chinese workers, Russia has adopted a new assertive policy, India has begun inserting itself economically and the United States have less interest in the region than before.  This has created a degree of inter-state rivalry.

 At the same time the threat of terrorism in the region appears to be increasing.  The decline of energy prices has in some countries created internal economic crises that have sometimes effected other countries.  So in a sense this is a return to the normal in the region, since Central Asia is always under pressure on its periphery and experiences regional rivalry.

- There are some indications that the European Union is growing more independent. France and Germany insist on increasing the level of collective security within the EU and wish to create a European army. After Trump came to power a critical attitude towards cooperation with the USA has been rising within the European society. How long will troubled relations between the EU and the USA persist? What is the future of transatlantic relations for the next couple of years?

- The US-European relations have always been tense, particularly since the end of the Cold War.  Remember how negative Europe was about George W. Bush and how delighted it was in Obama, so delighted they gave him the Nobel prize.  It is necessary to understand that Europe, having lost its central position in the international system has deeply resented the rise of the United States and has been critical of the United States.

But in Europe, the old rivalries continue to exist so while France and Germany might be prepared to put their forces under joint command, other nations are not.

It is also noteworthy that the Germans and French have discussed this many times and have never acted on it.  While Trump has caused superficial problems in Europe, I don’t believe the basic framework of the relationship has changed.  Europe remains fragmented, the United States is militarily far more powerful.  What is changing is the willingness of the US to guarantee European security without a greater European commitment to build up its own forces.  This is a far greater threat to the Euro-American relationship than European hostility to the US.

- What do you think of the future of the European Union, bearing in mind the growth of separatist tendencies, migration crises and the Brexit? Is disintegration of the EU a possible result?

- The European Union is in my view a failed undertaking that is disintegrating.

The core problem is that the Europeans retained national sovereignty and that the EU has tried to act like a super-state when it is not.

The EU’s management of the 2008 financial crisis has created a permanent problem in southern Europe, and its current handling of Eastern Europe further alienates the periphery. Of course the Brexit is another example. The periphery of the EU has either been in a disastrous financial position for the past decade, or is now in a hostile political relationship with the center.  National self-determination is colliding with the EU’s claims of authority.  The nations will always win.

- What are the difficulties in the Russian-American relations and what are their reasons? Is there a way out of this situation?

- The United States has an interest in creating pro-American states with liberal democratic values.  The Russian interest is maintaining a buffer between itself and Europe.  The Baltics, Belarus and Ukraine constitute the buffer.  When the Ukrainian government fell in 2014 the Russians believed that the US was intending to strangle Russia by denying it its buffers.  When the Russians responded by attempting a rising in the east and claiming Crimea, the Americans believed the Russians were seeking to retake Ukraine and move its forces west to the Carpathian Mountains.  This has been of course complicated by perceptions of Russian intervention in the US election and the idea that the US was staging colored revolutions.  But at heart, there is a deep geopolitical fear on the part of both countries over buffers.

- In your book «The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century» you predict the expansion of the Russian territory, a conflict with Turky and Eastern European countries escaping from Russian control. What other forecasts proved to be true and what events surprised you?

- To defend myself a bit I did predict that there would be conflict in Ukraine but not that Russia would win. In fact, I said that Russia would decline after Ukraine.  I did predict a Turkish war in around 2050, not with Russia, but with Poland and the United States.  I said that eastern Europe would be the center of gravity of Europe after the failure of the EU, but not that it would have to escape from Russian control.  In looking at what I got wrong, I failed to predict that the Sunni rising in the Middle East would continue. I thought that would end.

- On the territory of former Yugoslavia numerous religious, ethnic and interethnic conflicts can be observed. The experts say that the relations between the republics of former Yugoslavia today are worse than ever since the last Balkan wars of 1991-2001. More and more republics and national-ethnic formations demand revamping of borders and federalization of existing states. How likely is a new war in the Balkans?

- In the Balkans war is always likely. The question is when?  In my view I do not believe that a war will take place now.  The states of the Baltics are far more stable than they were in the 1990s, no major power, except perhaps for the Russians, would benefit from such a war, and in my view the Europeans and Americans would shut down a war before it could happen.  All disagreements, however serious, do not have to end in war.

Even if the Russians were to encourage the Serbs, for example, their guarantees would not cause the Serbs to move to another national disaster.  And I don’t think the Russians would encourage this as their relations with Europe are crucial to them, and this would severely harm those relations.

- The First World War and the Second World War had 21 yeas separating them, and 76 years have passed already since the end of the last World War. Will there be another and if yes, when?

- I think of World War I and II, as others have as a single war, with a 20-year truce between them. The previous World War before then ended in 1815.  There was about a hundred years between the Napoleonic Wars and World War I.

I expect the next world war in mid-21st century which is about a hundred years since World War II ended.  That war will pit three rising powers: Poland, Turkey and Japan plus the United States as the global hegemon in a complex competition for control of oceans and Eurasia.

So the answer to your question is that there are always rising and falling powers, and that always creates a global war.  The rising power that came out of nowhere in the 20th century was the United States, and the declining powers were the UK, France, Germany and Russia. But at the time few people saw that happening.

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