The year 2018 is coming to an end. It is time to recall all that has happened as that would foreshadow all that is in the offing in 2019. It is not an easy task to make predictions, irrespective of the methods of analysis used, as incidents and developments in general are becoming quite unpredictable.
The year 2018 is wrapping up in a couple of weeks. This year was marked by several what can be labelled as ‘mega-trends’, according to Russian schools of international relations.
One such trend is the reduced role and influence of international organizations. The processes of crisis settlement and negotiations are bypassing international institutions, whether it may concern the crises in Syria or North Korea.
Countries have started to assert their own status at the international arena, irrespective of the presence of the international organizations such as the United Nations. Thus, current political and economic developments have brought the world back to the framework of realpolitik.
This trend is also visible in another mega-trend, which is trade wars, wherein states seek to secure their individual political and economic interests. Led by the current US administration, trade wars will become one of the major features of the world of tomorrow.
In the world of realpolitik, international relations are becoming chaotic and unpredictable. From here comes another mega-trend: uncertaintyMaria Dubovikova
The World Trade Organization (WTO) which is designed to regulate international trade seems incapable of responding to the threats posed by policies of some countries in this aspect, leaving the world and transnational corporations to respond and to negotiate deals to protect their own interests, yielding to further American pressure.
What is left to WTO is to mediate between the opponents in the trade war though the countries are able to directly talk without involvement of the third parties. Thus, the WTO has become one the first victims of trade wars, as its rules and regulations are getting violated with impunity, which is literally crashing its credibility as an institute designed to protect the world trading system.
Another mega-trend points toward disintegration so that alliances that once seemed unswerving, appear to be not so durable and unconditional. The numerous disputes between the US and Europe and within Europe itself this year, show that old alliances can be questioned.
The same applies to countries in other regions as they find out that it is not that useful to rely upon alliances where they get increasingly dependent on their counterparts, rather than being equal in partnership.
Countries are looking to diversify their trade as well as the currencies in which trade deals are conducted to minimize dependence on US dollar that has become already an instrument of American geopolitical games when the US government blocks transactions that are considered improper or with countries listed under sanctions.
The world is taking a sharper course to de-globalization and for cooperation on the basis of national interests and demands. Following this general trend of dissolution, there is a rising trend of social protests all over the world even in peace havens of the developed world.
Governments appear to be incapable of meeting public demands. Government systems, even in democratically developed societies, are getting archaic and out of step with the transforming societies and newly emerging public consciousness.
From here comes another mega-trend: the rise of populism. Governments are becoming incapable of meeting the demands of society and finding out suitable measures to address rising problems, which is leading to populism. Populist parties are coming into power and populist rhetoric is becoming the motor of political movements and figures, bringing them from rearguard to avant-garde on the political arena.
Use of media
Another mega-trend is use of media as an instrument of manipulation of public opinion no matter which country is concerned. This applies to both democracies and authoritarian regimes. Furthermore, media wars are becoming integral part of the global environment, making it more prone to conflicts and apt for instability.
The rise of the role of alternate media is symptomatic of the failing strategies and positions of global players and leaders. China is an exception for that as it continues firmly on its chartered course and even when reacting to challenges does not change its long-term strategies.
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In the world of realpolitik, international relations are becoming chaotic and unpredictable. From here comes another mega-trend: uncertainty.
The planning and forecasting horizon is getting gloomier. You cannot properly predict the eruption of a crisis and the unraveling of a situation on the global stage in medium to the long term. Even the short-term prognosis is somehow biased, and it has to do with facts and intelligence data to be reliable and meet the expectations.
The world will be living through a scenario of uncertainty as long as international powers are reluctant to define international strategies.
Dichotomies of “archaization” and post-modernity of societies and the governments and of those who want to dominate and those who want a fair play, have become clear in 2018. Such dichotomies will shape the conflicting climate of the upcoming year and would form the features of the new world order.
Maria Dubovikova is a prominent political commentator, researcher and expert on Middle East affairs. She is president of the Moscow-based International Middle Eastern Studies Club (IMESClub), expert of Valdai Club and RIAC (Russian International Affairs Council). Twitter: @politblogme.
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