Staunton, May 19 –The world is only at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Vyacheslav Nikonov says, but “one thing is already obvious: the pandemic is not going to make the world better and therefore it is necessary to prepare for things to get worse because it is the future that the rest of our lives will be spent in.
No one can predict the future with certainty, the Moscow State University dean and Duma deputy says; but “many changes have already taken place or are taking place now.” As Anna Akhmatova put it, “the future casts its shadow on us long before we enter it” (ng.ru/ideas/2020-05-18/7_7863_geopolitics.html).
To help everyone think about what is ahead, Nikonov offers a checklist of 25 geopolitical changes he sees ahead:
1. “The pandemic will not destroy the old world or even the agenda of the old world, but it will act as a catalyst of those processes which were already taking place, accelerate them, and make them more prominent.”
2. “The world system will become more fragmented.”
3. De-globalization will continue with more “protectionism, sanctions, currency manipulations, restrictions on migration, and support for domestic producers.”
4. Super-national structures will become less important” as they have shown their “complete incapacity to act in a critical situation.
5. The reduction in the relative super-power status of the United States will continue.
6. The European Union will become increasingly fractious. “Shengen already isn’t functioning and many borders are closed.”
7. The West will decline relative to the rest of the world in large part because their leaders have taken “ineffective measures” to protect against economic shocks.
8. “The century of Asia will arrive earlier than many had thought if indeed it has not already arrived.”
9. “There is no chance that the US will go quietly from its heights. American faith in its own exceptionalism has not gone anywhere.”
10. “The main conflict of the current period is already obvious – the clash between America and China.”
11. “China will not be able to avoid a confrontation if the Americans impose it on it.” And they will pursue their own goals, not necessarily global hegemony but their own expansive goals.
12. “Trans-Atlantic solidarity has come under question. It is not guaranteed that the US in its struggle to preserve its hegemony will be able to count on the support of all its allies.”
13. “The pandemic will relatively weaken the position of Russia.” It likely faces a serious economic recession. There will be pressure to move in the European direction rather than in the current Asiatic one.
14. “Russian-American relations will only deteriorate.”
15. “Arms control, which at one time was the basis of strategic stability, will pass into history.”
16. The risks of biological and bacteriological war will become more serious.
17. Ukraine’s economy will weaken but the costs to others of supporting it will decline. EU countries may do less, but the US may do more, especially if Joe Biden wins the presidency in November.
18. “Russian-Chinese relations are more likely to strengthen. The American strategy of dual containment, of Russia and China, won’t disappear” but “America itself will not support dual containment” for long.
19. “Increased activity by the US will be felt in all regions which represent for it primary strategic interests,” including beyond doubt, the Middle East.
20. Many will be exploring why South Asia and Africa suffered less from this pandemic than the global North, a sharp contrast from earlier pandemics.
21. There will be “a strengthening of states and statehood.”
22. “Diplomacy has already gone online and in part will remain there.”
23. International law as currently understood will become of historical interest.
24. The post-truth world will continue to expand, with information wars only intensifying.”
25. “The pandemic will spark discussions about the system of human values,” but it may take different directions than in the past when most talked about democracy and human rights.