The world doesn't get any more comfortable in the year

Analyze it once a year London Strategy Institute IISS, Link opens in a new window the major geopolitical trends. And always look forward, so this time on 2021. It's a bleak outlook.

The coronavirus has shaken the world upside down - but major conflicts between powerful countries continue unabated. Some are likely to get worse.

2020 was the year of the pandemic. Corona pushed other conflicts into the background. But they haven't disappeared. From the perspective of the London strategy think tank IISS, this is worrying, how much tensions between the major powers are growing. The relationship between the two most important, USA and China, is worse than at any time since the 1960s. Relations between the US and Russia are worse than at any time since the 1980s. The situation between China and India is as precarious as it gets 1975. And after four years under President Donald Trump, the relationship between Europe and the United States is more uncertain than it has been since the end of the Second World War.

Anyway: European-American relations are likely to improve again under President Joe Biden, at least atmospherically. However, the London strategists have a bleak view of the other major power relationships.

What is also irritating is the foreign policy adventurism, especially of authoritarian rulers: In Azerbaijan and Turkey against Armenia, in Russia versus Ukraine and in Syria, in China in the South China Sea – to name just a few examples. US dominance used to prevent many things, with more or less gentle pressure. But even under Biden, this dominance will not return. The new man in the White House must first heal domestic political wounds, before turning his attention to foreign policy. In addition, the USA revealed a frightening skills deficit in combating the pandemic, that will damage their reputation for a long time to come.

At the same time, the multilateral system, at the center of which is the UN, shocked.

China, on the other hand, is not following in the footsteps of the USA. It is becoming a superpower itself. Unlike the USA, however, it was unable to do so, to form strong alliances. The “new Silk Road” is less seen as an offer for a fair partnership, but as an experiment, To increase influence in large parts of the world. The increasingly research, Sometimes aggressive behavior costs Beijing and President Xi Jinping a lot of sympathy - from the neighborhood in East Asia to Europe, Africa and South America. And it didn't go unnoticed, that China is using the pandemic to do this, in their own country, from Hong Kong to Tibet to Xinjiang, to tighten the screw even further in the home region of the Muslim Uyghurs. Fewer and fewer see China as a sympathetic great power.

Whether and how well the West is holding its own, is not decided militarily. The crucial battlefield is the digital terrain. The IISS experts speak of the new “Digital Great Game”. There are still no rules to play here. The players are still acting extremely roughly. And the winner has not yet been decided.

For sure is: The confrontation between the great powers is weighing heavily on the world. Solutions to ongoing conflicts are just as difficult to find as common approaches to combating climate change or combating pandemics. The geopolitical tensions are likely 2021 continue to grow. That is threatening, because tensions have the property, to discharge occasionally, with lightning and thunder.



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