The West: Regrouping or Retreating?

Western-style democracies will face considerable challenges throughout the next several years.

Newton’s third law—“for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”—applies to international relations just as much as it pertains to physics.

Abrupt and sudden departure from the established policy by one actor will result in numerous responses by that actor’s allies, rivals, dependents, and institutions that will impede or exacerbate the impact of that action.

On the global stage, there is considerable anxiety about the role the U.S. will play in what seems to be an increasingly multi-polar world order. The international community will scrutinize the United States’ every move over the next decade. They will be watching for signs of internal dissent, cooperation, contradiction, and isolationism. Economic policy, ethnic tensions and identity politics, tax policy, and workplace regulations will be areas of focus.

Lack of progress in these areas could signal a broader decline for the United States. This would mean a growing gap between the wealthy and the poor, decreased federal authority, and diminished U.S. influence in global affairs. Nevertheless, the United States’ possesses undeniably massive levels of human and security capital. It is deeply entrenched in international political and economic systems, while a clear separation of powers within U.S. government institutions ensures that abrupt withdrawal from foreign engagements remains unlikely.

U.S. influence is likely to remain stagnant or constrained in the short term. Contradictory rhetoric from the executive branch will impede U.S. credibility abroad and harm American interests. Persistent contradictions from within the administration heighten the risk of U.S. engagement in a significant conflict.

China views the continuing presence of the US Navy in the Western Pacific, the centrality of US alliances in the region, and US protection of Taiwan as obsolete and representative of the continuation of China’s “one hundred years of humiliation.”

Russian military doctrine allegedly includes the limited use of nuclear weapons in a situation where Russia’s vital interests are at stake to “de-escalate” a conflict by demonstrating that continued conventional conflict risks escalating the emergency to a large-scale nuclear exchange.

Where the U.S. Closes a Door, Russia and China Open a Window

Rising and declining powers are asserting their influence as never before. Both China and Russia maintain world views where they’re rightfully dominant in their regions and able to form regional politics and economics to match their security and material interests.

Beijing and Moscow will seek to lock in competitive advantages and also to right what they bill are historical wrongs before economic and demographics headwinds further slow their material progress and the West regains its foundation.
Both have moved aggressively in latest years to exert more considerable influence in their regions, to contest the US geopolitically, and also to force Washington to accept exclusionary regional spheres of influence—a situation that the US has historically opposed.

China views the continuing presence of the US Navy in the Western Pacific, the centrality of US alliances in the region, and US protection of Taiwan as obsolete and representative of the continuation of China’s “one hundred years of humiliation.”
Recent cooperation has been tactical and is likely to come back to competition if Beijing jeopardizes China’s dramatic growth has highlighted greater gaps between poor and rich.

Moscow will become more active in the Middle East and these areas of the world wherein it believes it can check US influence.
Lastly, Russia will Stay dedicated to atomic weapons as a deterrent and as a counter to stronger conventional military forces, as well as it’s ticket to superpower status. Russian military doctrine allegedly includes the limited use of nuclear weapons in a situation where Russia’s vital interests are at stake to “de-escalate” a conflict by demonstrating that continued conventional conflict risks escalating the emergency to a large-scale nuclear exchange.

Russia will seek, and sometimes feign, international cooperation, although openly challenging norms and rules it perceives as a counter to its own interests and providing support for leaders of fellow “handled democracies” which promote resistance to American policies and personal tastes. Moscow has little stake in the rules of the international economics and may be counted on to take actions that weaken the United States’ and European Union’s institutional advantages. Moscow will test NATO and resolve, seeking to undermine Western authenticity; it will attempt to exploit splits between Europe’s both north and south and east and west, and also to drive a wedge between the US and the EU.

Excerpted from the 2018 Geopolitical Forecast

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