The last few months have seen some frankly startling developments in international affairs, even to the most jaded observers of the international body politic. These are not your typical quotidian, routine updates in the international halls of power, but rather, potentially game-changing, possibly deal-breaking alterations to the international order. In an effort to keep you continually informed regarding all the latest developments in the world, we will lay them out in summary for you here, so that you can be aware of them, and possibly even start readying your underground bunkers, gold stocks, and freeze-dried food supplies. Buckle up, everybody.
1. Russia’s on the move.
No longer content with simply flexing its geopolitical muscle in its own near-abroad, bending former satellites like Ukraine and Georgia to its own will, Vladimir Putin’s Russia is now moving forcefully into the Middle East, ostensibly to support its ally, Bashar al-Assad, in Syria, and to defend against the Islamic State. Make no mistake: Russia is moving to secure geopolitical power in the region, and to challenge U.S. hegemony there and in the world at-large. Your move, Uncle Sam.
2. Japan’s moving away from pacifism.
It is hard to conceptualize these days, but at one time, Japan was an imperialist juggernaut running roughshod over Asia, conquering every country in sight. Defeat in World War II, of course, changed all that, and led to the (American-imposed) Japanese adoption of a pacifist constitution that prevented virtually all types of military activities beyond Japanese shores. Well, current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has begun the process of moving slowly away from pure pacifism by pushing changes to the constitution that would allow the suddenly more flexible Japanese armed forces to deploy abroad. China and South Korea are predictably wary of such a move, while the United States understandably looks favorably on the changes, which would allow Japanese forces to support American objectives. Changes are afoot in Asia, my friends.
3. China is challenging the economic order.
Speaking of Asia, the Chinese are not sitting idly by while long-time strategic rival Japan moves to become more militarily nimble. The Chinese are making their own moves to increases their relative power, although in this case, they are beefing up their soft power. Coming soon to an international economic system near you is the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), led by—you guessed it—China. In simple terms—the only terms in which this author can speak when it comes to international economics—the AIIB is essentially a financial rival to the American-backed World Bank. The AIIB will allow China to play a large role in financing infrastructure projects across Asia, thus increasing China’s clout in the region. Again, your move, U.S.A.
4. Dollar dominance is in doubt.
Paralleling the potential relative increase in Chinese economic power is the likely change coming to the dollar-dominated world monetary system. In a frankly depressing new report in the latest edition of The Economist, the publication points out that the decades-old system of the U.S. dollar serving as the bedrock of world capital markets is showing signs of strain. The paper points out that U.S. internal political developments, as well as international economic conditions, are making it less desirable for the rest of the world to place all its collective monetary eggs in one U.S.-made currency basket. While noting that there is currently no real alternative to the dollar—Euros? Yuan? Um, no.—The Economist nonetheless hints that the system itself may be in for change over the long term. This would mark a commensurate decrease in U.S. soft power, in real terms. That does not make you feel warm and fuzzy, does it, my fellow Americans?
5. The British Labour Party has gone batshit crazy.
Okay, admittedly, while this last development will probably not lead to any real changes to the international order anytime soon, mainly because the British Labour Party has effectively erased its chances of coming to power for the foreseeable future, this internal British political development nonetheless merits examination. In a nutshell, one of the two main political parties in Britain—thankfully, the currently out of power Labour Party—has just been taken over by a true left-wing crackpot, Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn, whose political ideas include forsaking the British nuclear deterrent, withdrawing from NATO, re-nationalizing some British banks and energy companies, and abolishing the British monarchy, is as far left as they come in British politics.
If the current manifestation of the Labour Party were to take power in Britain, it would spell disaster for America’s most important international partnership. Thankfully, Corbyn has probably as much chance of taking Labour to electoral victory as Donald Trump has to be the next president of the United States. Still, there is a chance (in both cases), however slight.
There you have it. Hopefully that sobered you all up a bit, and gave you some things to think about as you contemplate over the next year who it is you want to vote for in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections. It better be someone who can handle some big and tricky changes in the international arena, because they are here.
(Featured image courtesy of Tom Page)