Governments deciding how to approach global trade and economic uncertainty will home in on the U.S. presidential election in 2020 as they try to gauge Washington's future course.
Great power competition is only set to intensify in 2019 and Stratfor's Annual Forecast outlines the critical issues for the coming year.
North Korea's likely achievement of a viable nuclear deterrent next year will give rise to a new and more unstable era of containment. As the specter of war looms in the Asia-Pacific, China and Russia will band together while the United States cracks down even harder on Iran -- as well as its own trade partners.
Long-arching trends tend to quietly build over decades and then noisily surface as the politics catch up. The longer economic pain persists, the stronger the political response. That loud banging at the door is the force of nationalism greeting the world's powers, particularly Europe and the United States, still the only superpower.
2016 is shaping up to be an unsettling year for much of the world. The United States and Russia are still locked in an intractable standoff. Nationalism is resurfacing in Europe. The price of oil and other commodities are low. Chinese consumption is falling. And countries around the world are more resolved than ever before to intensify their military campaigns against the Islamic State.
As we look at what 2015 holds in store, we know the oil markets are oversupplied, Europe and China will continue to stagnate, and Russia will work under heavy constraints to deny the West a strong foothold in crucial areas of its periphery while the rest of the world deals with the repercussions of these trends. The ebb and flow of this tumult is covered in the forecast that follows.
After spending more than a decade absorbed in intractable conflicts across the Islamic world, the United States will finally start to catch its breath in 2014. As U.S. troops draw down their presence in Afghanistan, Washington will go to great lengths to develop an understanding with Tehran. Negotiations will face major hurdles, and a final settlement that lifts the economic embargo on Iran will be a bridge too far for 2014. However, our longtime readers probably will not be surprised by the underlying depth and sincerity shared by Tehran and Washington that will sustain this detente over the course of the year.
At the beginning of 2012, we argued that the international system is undergoing a generational transformation -- the kind that occurs every 20 years or so. The cycle we are now in started in 2008-2009, when global financial contagion exposed the underlying weaknesses of Europe and eventually cracked China's export-oriented economic model. The Middle East then began to deviate from its post-World War II paradigm with an attempted resurgence by Iran, the regional rise of Islamists and the decline of age-old autocratic regimes in the Arab world.
Our forecast for 2012 is framed by the idea that we are in the midst of what we might call a generational shift in the way the world works. The processes are still under way, and we will therefore have to consider the future of Europe, China and the Middle East in some detail before drawing a conclusion.
The year 2011 is one of preparation and postponement, as Washington, Beijing and Moscow -- among several others -- are already looking to elections and leadership changes in 2012. The uncertainty of next year affects the actions of this year. One of the biggest questions in 2011 concerns Iraq.
As the year turns, the recession that dominated headlines in 2009 has ended. The recovery in place is unsteady, but appears to have put down sufficient roots to hold. Now in 2010, two major evolutions will take its place: Russia's resurgence and the crisis coming into clearer focus in the Middle East.