Dec 28 2015
If there are only two news outlets you can subscribe to, I recommend the following: The Economist ($139.00/yr) and the products of STRATFOR ($99.00/yr). It is money well spent and when you think about it is just a years worth of Netflix and Hulu.
STRATFOR recently published its 10 year forecast for the decade through 2025. It makes for an interesting read. Its worth the time and effort to read and understand-and even better, right now you can get it for the low , low, price of ZERO dollars. That's right you can download it free.
STRATFOR makes not pretensions of trying to be 100% accurate. "We do not forecast everything. We focus on the major trends and tendencies in the world." Nonetheless they get it right more than they get it wrong:
This is the fifth Decade Forecast published by Stratfor. Every five years since 1996 (1996, 2000, 2005, 2010 and now, 2015) Stratfor has produced a rolling forecast. Overall, we are proud of our efforts. We predicted the inability of Europe to survive economic crises, China's decline and the course of the U.S.-jihadist war. We also made some errors. We did not anticipate 9/11, and more important, we did not anticipate the scope of the American response. But in 2005 we did forecast the difficulty the United States would face and the need for the United States to withdraw from its military engagements in the Islamic world. We predicted China's weakness too early, but we saw that weakness when others were seeing the emergence of an economy larger than that of the United States.
So now its the end of 2015. What do they have to say?
The European Union- STRATFOR projects a weaker Europe.
The European Union will be unable to solve its fundamental problem, which is not the eurozone, but the free trade zone. Germany is the center of gravity of the European Union; it exports more than 50 percent of its GDP, and half of that goes to other EU countries. Germany has created a productive capability that vastly outstrips its ability to consume, even if the domestic economy were stimulated. It depends on these exports to maintain economic growth, full employment and social stability. The European Union's structures — including the pricing of the euro and many European regulations — are designed to facilitate this export dependency.
This has already fragmented Europe into at least two parts. Mediterranean Europe and countries such as Germany and Austria have completely different behavioral patterns and needs. No single policy can suit all of Europe. This has been the core problem from the beginning, but it has now reached an extreme point. What benefits one part of Europe harms another.
As a result they see a division at the Alps with Poland becoming stronger and the Europe south of the Alps becoming disenfranchised from the rest of Europe. Germany will suffer because of this-but Poland will gain. ( Which probably does not bother the Poles so much).
What will define Europe in the next decade is the re-emergence of the nation-state as the primary political vehicle of the continent. Indeed the number of nation-states will likely increase as various movements favoring secession, or the dissolution of states into constituent parts, increase their power. This will be particularly noticeable during the next few years, as economic and political pressures intensify amid Europe's crisis.
Russia- Putin may think he is strong now, but STRATFOR says it can't last. It is not structurally stable enough to do so and low oil prices will exacerbate that situation.
It is unlikely that the Russian Federation will survive in its current form. Russia's failure to transform its energy revenue into a self-sustaining economy makes it vulnerable to price fluctuations. It has no defense against these market forces. Given the organization of the federation, with revenue flowing to Moscow before being distributed directly or via regional governments, the flow of resources will also vary dramatically. This will lead to a repeat of the Soviet Union's experience in the 1980s and Russia's in the 1990s, in which Moscow's ability to support the national infrastructure declined. In this case, it will cause regions to fend for themselves by forming informal and formal autonomous entities. The economic ties binding the Russian periphery to Moscow will fray.
The problem of course, as they go on to point out is that Russia falling apart is not just Russia's problem, it's every one else's too. After all, Russia has nukes.
Middle East- Pessimism rules the day.
The Middle East — particularly the area between the Levant and Iran, along with North Africa — is experiencing national breakdowns. By this we mean that the nation-states established by European powers in the 19th and 20th centuries are collapsing into their constituent factions defined by kinship, religion or shifting economic interests. In countries like Libya, Syria and Iraq, we have seen the devolution of the nation-state into factions that war on each other and that cross the increasingly obsolete borders of countries.
This process follows the model of Lebanon in the 1970s and 1980s, when the central government ceased to function and power devolved to warring factions. The key factions could not defeat the others, nor could they themselves be defeated. They were manipulated and supported from the outside, as well as self-supporting. The struggle among these factions erupted into a civil war — one that has quieted but not ended. As power vacuums persist throughout the region, jihadist groups will find space to operate but will be contained in the end by their internal divisions.
This situation cannot be suppressed by outside forces. The amount of force required and the length of deployment would outstrip the capacity of the United States, even if dramatically expanded. Given the situation in other parts of the world, particularly in Russia, the United States can no longer focus exclusively on this region.
Their is a lot more to read. I'd publish a link to the article itself, but that's not how you get to read it. STRATFOR gets you to sign up for their e-mail list and then they send you the article via e-mail. The key takeaway, however, is one that readers here have heard me say many times before: the rise of the multi-polar world is happening and the US will have to be able to compete in a world where it is not alone as the predominant power anymore. We can't stop its rise, and in fact -we will its rise into overdrive through the reckless and uncalled for invasion of Iraq. That-as they say in alternate history stories-is the point of departure. It probably would have happened anyway, but probably slower. Our friend George W. Bush put an end to all that.
So, big times ahead for China, right?
China has ceased to be a high-growth, low-wage economy. As China's economy slows, the process of creating and organizing an economic infrastructure to employ low-wage workers will be incremental. What can be done quickly in a port city takes much longer in the interior. Therefore, China has normalized its economy, as Japan did before it, and as Taiwan and South Korea did in 1997. All massive expansions climax, and the operations of the economies shift.
And since international capitalism thrives on screwing little people, China's slave labor farms will be replaced by new ones they project. In Africa and Southern Asia."No one country can replace China, but we have noted 16 countries with a total population of about 1.15 billion people where entry-level manufacturing has gone after leaving China."
So it will be a heady decade if you are a rich oligarch. For the rest of us-the next ten years are going to suck.