Geopolitics

Geopolitics & Future World Stability

Geopolitics, while far from being a deterministic science, continues to offer constraints and opportunities for understanding the future that leaders, policy-makers and bureaucrats should seize in the next months and years.

[dhr]

Geopolitics

[dhr]

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he recent geopolitical contribution provided by Ian Bremmer, president and cofounder of one of the most relevant consulting firms in the field of political risk, has been grounded in the so-called “new geopolitical” thinking and, to some extent, his G-zero theory represents the ideal development of this.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the disappearance of the most severe threat against Western societies and the stability of their political regimes, several scholars hastily gave praise to the “end of history” paradigm: the depiction of the victory of the liberal Western-based model of political, social and economic order over the socialist one as triumphal and definitive. According to others, Samuel Huntington for example, the next dangerous challenges would come from religious cleavages combined with fundamentalism on the back of anti-Western and anti-Christian ideology. These predictions, though partially correct with regard to the temporary but delusional Western predominance and the violent uprising of religiously motivated international terrorism, dealt with the identification of well-identifiable actors, ideologies and political models and the related (and possible) re-emergence of international threats.

As a matter of fact, since the fall of the Soviet Union world politics has faced no more threats insofar as there has been no identifiable actor with hostile intentions and the material capability to jeopardize other international players (the crux of the matter being the crucial role of hard power). Instead a complex scenario of risks has presented itself, characterized by unpredictable, unintentional and uncontrollable factors. As a result, foreign policy formulation has paid progressive attention to the harmful consequences of techno-scientific developments and their applications to the military and cyber world. For example, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; climate change and environmental disasters and the necessity to develop geopolitics of sustainability; the increasing competition for natural resources between state and non-state actors in Central Asia and Africa, and the spread of religious and fanatic terrorism.

Despite the fact that geography is undoubtedly the most pertinent factor in foreign policy, the awareness of living within a globalized risk society, where risks transcend political and territorial boundaries, has deeply influenced geopolitical thought historically embedded into the realist tradition of international relations. Gerard Tuathail called this new field of inquiry “critical geopolitics”, insisting on the need to adopt a new and deterritorialized approach to security issues.

In the wake of this previous theorization, Bremmer G-Zero theory asserts that this current period requires more cooperation under strong leadership in order to overcome transnational challenges. However, neither single powers such as the United States, China or the other BRICS countries, nor the G-20 or other more institutionalized subjects (IMF, the World Bank, UN) can guarantee any consistent international leadership given their temporary relative decline, weak power and poor economic projection abroad.

As a result, from the current and instable political vacuum, four likely geopolitical scenarios could emerge in the next years, all of them centred upon the relationship between the US and China: an unlikely “informal G-2”, shaped as a crystallized and cooperative bipolar world peacefully managed by two antipodal political and economic systems; a global concert of nations, although characterized by different economic and security interests between emerging and established powers; the Cold War 2.0, as a consequence of the global competition between the US and China over economic issues, ideological alternatives and scarce world’s energy supplies; a fragmented world of regions, in which multilateral cooperation would be weakened and transnational problems not fully addressed.

Finally, a further scenario could be take into account, namely the G-Subzero, in which global problems would turn into local emergencies with catastrophic consequences for individual countries’ stability. In this fragmented world, every nation would be wholly committed to managing internal crisis caused by social unrest, economic/financial collapse, the emergence of separatist/extremist political movements, etc. Accordingly, the true conceptual and working basis of globalization would be jeopardized and every nation would have to provide effective solutions on its own.

Needless to say this gloomy perspective will not occur deterministically in the future, even if it has to be considered after more than half of century of bipolar and unipolar stability. In addition, transnational problems make the current political context riskier and more unpredictable as ever since the creation of the Westphalian System. For this reason, solutions à la Robert Cooper, according to whom the process of nation breaking should be addressed by shaping a new globalized Western hegemony would not work, given that it would be only an anachronistic re-elaboration of Mackinder’s imperialist message launched in 1904 in order to prevent the British Empire to fall apart.

Geopolitics, while far from being a deterministic science, continues to offer constraints and opportunities for understanding the future that leaders, policy-makers and bureaucrats should seize in the next months and years.

2 thoughts on “Geopolitics & Future World Stability”

  1. Great piece though I disagree with your labelling of terrorism as religiously motivated. Religion acts as the legitimisation tool for Islamist terrorism, but it is not the motivating factor for it.

  2. I agree (having a deep interest in religion and Islam in IR), as a matter of fact I also added the generic adjective “fanatic” without specifying any label. Actually, I did not mean to discuss about neither the motivating nor the legitimating factor of religion in world politics, just to report the occurrence of the current character of terrorism (as, in my opinion, implicitly legitimized through religion; even though this is another topic). At any rate, thanks for your remark.

Leave a Reply