The world is in the greatest danger it has experienced in decades, experts say, but Donald Trump sees only “tremendous success” on major global issues.
On the 17th day of partial shutdown for the US Government, the President tweeted that the country was “doing so well” and that the media simply wanted to make his administration “look as bad as possible”.
He yesterday boasted of record employment, rising wages, success in battling terrorism and promised a huge decrease in illegal immigration if his border wall is approved. He claims to be a master in negotiation, improving relations with leaders from Russia, North Korea and China.
But the Eurasia Group warned in its annual risk assessment: “The geopolitical environment is the most dangerous it’s been in decades … and at a moment when the global economy is faring well.”
Escalating Middle East conflicts, the threat of cyber attacks and tensions between the West and rogue world leaders all threaten to destroy humanity. Immediate and drastic action is needed to save us, but just the opposite is taking place.
Eurasia Group president Ian Bremmer said the West was ignoring crises that would spell disaster in coming years.
“We’re setting ourselves up for trouble down the road,” he said. “Big trouble.”
These are the group’s top 10 global risks.
1. Bad seeds
US-China relations, the EU, NATO, the G20, the G7, the World Trade Organisation, Russia and regional power politics in the Middle East and Asia are all “trending negatively”, according to the Eurasia Group, “most in a way that hasn’t been in evidence since World War II”. Leaders are so consumed with a cycle of daily crises that they are allowing future risks to grow.
Trade and economic agreements have broken down and the two superpowers are at loggerheads. Something fundamental has broken in the relationship between Washington and Beijing that appears unlikely to ever be resolved.
3. Cyber gloves off
With our lives now deeply entwined with digital and social media, hackers can meddle in anything from elections to personal data. Under Mr Trump, the US is leaning towards greater offensive action in cyberspace, which is likely to mean an escalation of hostilities.
4. European populism
The new year is set to see populists and protest movements gaining more power, making it even harder for the EU to function. Europe is becoming a battleground and will be much slower to respond to crises.
5. The US at home
As the shutdown proves, political volatility is exceptionally high under Mr Trump and will be even worse in 2019, with the Democrats holding the majority in Congress and planning to investigate the President’s finances. Then there’s the threat of the impeachment process and economic upheaval as Mr Trump retaliates. Street violence is also a possibility.
6. Innovation winter
With security, privacy and economic concerns leading countries to put up barriers, the flow of knowledge and talent across borders will be stymied, with taxes and restrictions slowing progress and battering tech share prices.
7. Coalition of the unwilling
The US-led global order has been eroding for some time, and Mr Trump has now surrounded himself with nationalist leaders and malcontents with their own agendas — unpredictable powerbrokers ready to disrupt the international order.
The nation is a hotspot for border security and drug smuggling issues and 2018 was its most violent year on record. This could get worse in 2019 with unpredictable, interventionist new President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador relying on the military and lacking any clear strategy.
Vladimir Putin sees Ukraine as vital to Russia’s sphere of influence and is certain to interfere in the nation’s March presidential elections, which is likely to lead to EU and US sanctions. Expect further violence over territory, disputes over domestic policy and sluggish reform.
A dramatic election will pit the infirm incumbent against an opponent expected to focus on enriching himself and his cronies in a return to a rent-seeking government. Either way, the country can expect instability — and an inconclusive result would mean severe uncertainty in Africa’s most important market.
It all adds up to a picture of serious risk for the world at a time when leaders are immersed in their own domestic headaches.
Brexit did not even appear on the list, because the result is so uncertain. And the dangers of climate change pose one of the most serious dangers the world needs to tackle for its own survival.
The Eurasia Group authors believe we are likely to muddle through 2019, but we are storing up huge problems for further down the track, particularly if any one of these factors erupts.
With the US Government in shutdown and erratic leaders taking up more places on the world stage, the world could implode at any minute.
Are we ready?