This Week in Geopolitics, February 2020

To New Ends and New Beginnings

May 7, 2018

Much has changed since the first time I wrote this column. Barack Obama was still president. The Islamic State ruled much of Syria and Iraq. The status of the United Kingdom’s EU membership was not in question. Kim Jong Un’s main claim to fame was having Dennis Rodman visit him in Pyongyang. Geopolitics is strange like that. It works the way water does—slowly, over long periods of time, small trickles become the Grand Canyon, and the idea that it hadn’t always looked the way it does today seems...

An Overlooked and Underdeveloped Region in Southern Mexico

April 30, 2018

On the whole, Mexico is a fairly prosperous country. It ranks 15th in the world in terms of gross domestic product and is classified as an upper middle-income country by the World Bank.  But its wealth is not distributed evenly, and Guerrero state is a perfect example of the poverty and underdevelopment that exists in many parts of the country.

In Uzbekistan, Attempts at Liberalization Aren’t What They Seem

April 23, 2018

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, which governed Uzbekistan as a satellite state, the country had had only one ruler: Islam Karimov, a strong-armed, unapologetically clannish dictator. He died in 2016 and was replaced by Shavkat Mirziyoyev. Shortly thereafter, Mirziyoyev announced reforms meant to open the country up to the outside world economically.

The Far Reaches of US Soft Power

April 16, 2018

The Russian ruble, Turkish lira, and Iranian rial are all falling in value. What do they have in common? The United States is in some way involved in their decline. It’s a sign of US power: Even as its military becomes more limited and it threatens to pull back from the Middle East and other parts of the world, the US can still put pressure on the economies of countries that are working against US interests and impact global conflicts without resorting to military force.

The Geopolitics of London: Making a Global Financial Center

April 9, 2018

If London were a city-state, it would boast the 20th-largest national economy in the world. Its national per capita gross domestic product would be greater than that of the United States. It would be the 15th most populous country in Europe and, most important, it would have voted to remain in the European Union.

Poland and Ukraine’s Battle over the Past

April 2, 2018

The relationship between Poland and Ukraine has a complicated history. From the 1990s until 2015, relations between the two countries were generally positive. Poland backed Ukraine’s bid to join the European Union and supported Kiev through the crisis that broke out in 2014. Poland wants to limit Russian influence in Eastern Europe, and this requires ensuring that Kiev doesn’t drift back into Moscow’s orbit. But since 2015, tensions between them appear to have been rising. The rift stems from...

Can the Weimar Triangle Save the European Union?

March 26, 2018

A few weeks before Germany’s federal elections last September, Chancellor Angela Merkel accused the Polish government of undermining the foundations of the European Union with its controversial constitutional reforms. This week, a much weakened and far friendlier Merkel traveled to Warsaw to meet with the Polish prime minister and president in an attempt to woo Poland’s support for Franco-German efforts to reform that very same European Union. The foundations of the EU are still the topic of...

The Places Mexico’s Government Can Hardly Reach

March 19, 2018

Mexico’s northern borderlands have become notorious for their lawlessness. At times, it can seem that organized crime groups have as much control as the federal government. The drug trade is the easy and obvious explanation for this phenomenon, and it isn’t wrong—but it is incomplete.

The Role of Militias in Iran’s Strategy for Iraq

March 12, 2018

Iran’s activities in Syria get a lot of press, but less attention is paid to what Iran has done in Iraq to make those activities manageable. Iran operates a Shiite foreign legion that over the years has trained 200,000 fighters in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen. And one part of that foreign legion is the Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq. The militias of the PMF all but control northern Iraq, which Iran has transformed into a land bridge to supply its other proxy groups in Syria and...

Where Separatism Got Its Start in Eastern Ukraine

March 5, 2018

Since its formation in 2014, the Russia-backed Luhansk People’s Republic in eastern Ukraine has been plagued by infighting, occasional violence, and even allegations of an attempted coup. Not much is likely to change in the immediate future.

An Eventful Week in the Syrian War

February 26, 2018

Turkey’s invasion of Afrin in northern Syria has redrawn the established lines of battle. Turkey proposed cooperation with the United States in Afrin and Manbij, both of which are held by Syrian Kurds—whom the US has been supporting and the Turks consider hostile. Though no formal agreement has been reached, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis said the US would work with Turkey to coordinate their actions in Syria. Then, the Syrian Kurds apparently invited pro-regime forces into Afrin to help...

The EMP Threat: How It Works and What It Means for the Korean Crisis

February 19, 2018

Over the past year, North Korean state media have repeatedly featured warnings of a potential high-altitude electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, attack against the United States.

A Short History of the Islamic State

February 12, 2018

In June 2014, a man named Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, dressed entirely in black, stood at the pulpit in the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in the Iraqi city of Mosul. The mosque he chose was deliberate: It was built in the 12th century by a Turkic ruler famous for fighting Christian crusaders. The name he chose was deliberate: It was a nod to Abu Bakr, the first caliph, or religious and civil leader of the Muslim world. The garb he chose was deliberate: It harkened back to the caliphs of yore and thus to...

Iran’s Protests Are Over, but Uncertainty Lingers

February 5, 2018

On Dec. 28, 2017, Iran’s second most populous city, Mashhad, situated in the northeast near the border with Turkmenistan, was the site of protests that would soon expand to dozens of towns, villages, and urban centers throughout the country. On the first day, three cities held demonstrations. (Some reports say it was five.) On the second day, an additional nine cities saw protests. By the sixth day, they had spread to all corners of the country.

How China Benefits from African Debt

January 29, 2018

The level of debt owed by African governments in countries such as Kenya, Uganda, Mozambique, and Tanzania has increased markedly since the 2008 financial crisis. Problematic though sub-Saharan African debt may be, debt levels vary country by country and therefore mitigate the possibility of a continent-wide crisis. Still, widespread default could create opportunities for outside powers that covet the region’s natural resources.

How the European Union Became Divided on Russia

January 22, 2018

Last week, the prime ministers of Hungary and Bulgaria criticized EU policy toward Russia for being too harsh. The European Union imposed sanctions against Russia in response to Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine, but Hungary and Bulgaria are concerned that the EU’s continued anti-Russia stance could pose a security threat and does not benefit either country.

Five Maps and Charts That Tell the Story of 2018

January 15, 2018

Almost a year ago to the day, we wrote an article titled "The Geopolitics of 2017 in Four Maps." The premise was simple: We picked out four of the best maps our graphic designers (TJ Lensing, Jay Dowd, and Mandy Walsh) had made in the past year. We selected the maps based not only on how awesome they were, but also on how closely they linked to our predictions for the year ahead. As it turned out, that article was one of our most popular in 2017.

The United States’ Inescapable Place in Mexico’s Election

January 8, 2018

Presidential elections are almost always internal affairs. In the case of Mexico’s forthcoming election, however, it’s impossible to separate the vote from Mexico’s relationship with the United States. The election will take place July 1, but public discourse over its themes has already started and will remain a focal point in Mexico during the first half of the year. The domestic issues and candidates’ proposed solutions will be indicative of Mexico’s limitations in its relationship with the...

The Limits of China’s Economic Power

December 18, 2017

The countries of East Asia are worried about the coercive power of Beijing’s pocketbook. And perhaps they should be. China is flush with money, and as it continues to pour massive amounts of aid and investment into the region, it’s only a matter of time before Beijing tries to cash in.

The Saudi-Qatar Diplomatic Dispute, Six Months Later

December 11, 2017

Six months ago, the Gulf Cooperation Council, helmed as always by its de facto leader Saudi Arabia, severed diplomatic ties with Qatar. This move was apparently meant to punish the country for its supposed support of terrorism. Riyadh announced the closure of its shared land border with Qatar. The remaining GCC members denied Qatar use of their airspace and ports. The measures were meant to bring the Qatari economy to its knees by isolating the government in Doha.

Pakistan’s Disunion Puts Investment at Risk

December 4, 2017

Jihadism has been radiating out of Pakistan for decades and causing problems for the country’s relationships with other governments. Lately, however, it’s been Pakistan itself that is suffering from its homegrown Islamism. The country was founded on a contradiction between secularism and Islamism, and though it has covered up its incoherence, it has never overcome it. The contradiction is finally catching up to the country, and things in Pakistan will get worse before they get better....

Is “Geopolitical Risk” Behind Rising Oil Prices?

November 27, 2017

Toward the end of October, Brent crude prices crossed $60 per barrel for the first time in two years. They continued their ascent, peaking at around $64. Experts explained the spike with vague references to “geopolitical risk,” without really detailing what those risks entailed. Such explanations are not wrong, but they are careless. A proper geopolitical risk assessment necessitates that we go beyond equivocal wording and develop an understanding of the relevant economic, political, and...

Why the Next US Recession Could Be Worse Than the Last

November 20, 2017

Before we begin, I’d like to offer a hearty thanks to the thousands of you who responded to the survey we issued last week. If you haven’t responded yet, don’t worry – there’s still time. The goal of the survey is to figure out what you, the readers, want to read. At the end of the month, we’ll produce a video series addressing the top three topics you have chosen. You can access the survey and let us know what’s on your mind by clicking here. Thank you in advance for your time and your...

In China, More Regulation Does Not Mean More Enforcement

November 13, 2017

Last week, Chinese central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan penned a letter, published on the bank’s website, discussing problems in China’s financial sector. His letter focused on the private sector, where poor regulatory oversight has encouraged the creation of bubbles in areas such as online lending and real estate. It also discussed the uncertainty over where local government authority ends and central authority begins, citing this as a reason for the difficulty of managing the financial...

Turkey: A Case Study in the Borrower’s Dilemma

November 6, 2017

The motivations that underlie a country’s decision to borrow money are not always strictly economic. Take Turkey, whose ratio of gross external debt (all public and private sector debt) to GDP has increased from 39% in 2012 to 52% today. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been pushing to increase investment by increasing available credit to spur economic activity. This is a political goal, though one motivated by economic objectives. The problem Erdogan encountered, however, is that...

The Catalan Revolt of 2017

October 30, 2017

Catalonia is vying to become Europe’s newest nation-state, but this is a battle Catalonia ultimately can’t win. On Oct. 27, Catalan lawmakers voted to declare independence—barely. Only 51.8% of members in the Catalan parliament supported the declaration. That means even Catalans themselves are divided over whether Catalonia should secede from Spain.

Testing Washington’s Commitment to Asia

October 23, 2017

China’s 19th National Congress of the Communist Party is garnering a lot of attention right now, and rightly so. In a speech during the opening ceremony of the conference, President Xi Jinping heralded the beginning of a new era in China, but he was also surprisingly honest about the inadequacy of his first term. Although the congress will continue into this week—there are still important things to be decided, chief among them whether Xi will anoint a successor, as is tradition in China, or...

Playing the Part in NAFTA Negotiations

October 16, 2017

As the fourth round of NAFTA negotiations comes to an end, the agreement’s survival has once again been brought into question. US President Donald Trump has threatened to strike a new deal with just Canada. Mexico downplayed the threat, saying it would walk away from negotiations if the new terms brought by the US put it at a disadvantage. For their part, the Canadians have been quiet, keeping their cards much closer to their chests.

Iran and North Korea Demonstrate the Trouble With International Agreements

October 9, 2017

For over two decades, the American response to North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons has been to seek a diplomatic solution that would give the North Koreans an incentive to abandon their quest. The North Koreans agreed to suspend production of nuclear material, took the money and other incentives, and then proceeded to develop nuclear weapons anyway. This policy of diplomacy, concessions, and betrayal lasted through the administrations of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, and...

The Odd Calm of EU Officials

October 2, 2017

Imagine the following scenario: Texas votes to secede from the United States, sparking bitter negotiations between Austin and Washington. A neo-Nazi party wins seats in the California legislature. Cook County, home to Chicago, threatens to break away from Illinois to form its own state, while government officials, worried about losing such an economically vibrant region, furiously try to prevent the election from taking place. The federal government, meanwhile, vows to suspend North Carolina’s...

Equifax and Our Broken Computer Industry

September 25, 2017

The Equifax hack ought to have been the last straw in the saga of our inept computer industry. Critical information on the vast majority of American families was compromised. To say that this was not a rare phenomenon understates it. There has been an endless array of stolen information, from the recent theft of still proprietary stock information from the Commerce Department to the theft of emails from the Democratic National Committee.

South Korea: The Wild Card in the Korean Crisis

September 18, 2017

Last May, I spoke at Mauldin Economics’ Strategic Investment Conference and made two points on the situation on the Korean Peninsula. I said that the United States and North Korea had entered into a major crisis and that the crisis would likely lead to war. The crisis ensued, but war has not broken out. As North Korea test-fired another missile that flew over Japan late last week, it’s time to review what happened and why the war hasn’t materialized.

Russia Eyes New Sources of Revenue Amid Low Oil Prices

September 11, 2017

Low global energy prices have been a strain on the finances of many oil producers, but they’ve hit Russia particularly hard. Oil and gas accounted for 43% of Russia’s government revenue in 2015 and this figure was expected to drop to 36% in 2016, according to the World Bank. But this declining percentage doesn’t mean the government has become less dependent on energy; it’s simply a reflection of low energy prices.

Skepticism of Experts and the End of Libor

August 28, 2017

For decades, the public generally placed its trust in technocrats, the people perceived to be skillful and knowledgeable managers of economically and politically important institutions (including banks). The thinking was that aspects of the economy and politics had become too complex for ordinary citizens to understand and that the best way to handle this complexity was to allow the experts to take over. The events of 2008–09 shattered that belief.

The US, North Korea, and the Lesser of Two Evils

August 21, 2017

Most US presidencies are defined by their foreign policies, and most foreign policies are defined by wars—those that were fought and those that weren’t.

North Korea’s Rational Analysis

August 14, 2017

The United States has several thousand operational nuclear missiles. It has a large fleet of strategic bombers, an enormous navy, and hundreds of thousands of soldiers and marines. The US could bomb, blockade, and invade North Korea if it chose to incur the cost.

When Neutrality Isn’t an Option

August 7, 2017

The new US sanctions against Russia overwhelmingly passed Congress. But in parts of Europe, they are far less popular. German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel last week called them “more than problematic.” In diplomatese, that means the Germans oppose them. The Association of European Businesses, a nonprofit that advocates on behalf of European businesses with interests in Russia, urged that politics and business be kept apart.

One Way Russia Can Retaliate Against US Sanctions

July 31, 2017

The US Congress has passed new sanctions targeting Russia’s energy companies. Among the other notable aspects of the sanctions is that they take some authority away from the US president (who used to be able to implement some measures but not others at his discretion) and give it to Congress.

US-China Trade Talks Collapse and It’s North Korea’s Fault

July 24, 2017

Before we begin…

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Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

July 17, 2017

Economics and finance are thought to be more predictable than other disciplines such as politics because they are quantifiable. This is debatable. The extent to which quantitative economic analysis is possible depends on the relationship between the number and reality. That there is a relationship is true, but the relationship is more tenuous than might be thought.

Geopolitical Risk, Business, and Investment

July 10, 2017

When people think about geopolitics, they tend to think about war, as if the two issues were the same. But that is only partly true. 

Medieval Times in the Modern Middle East

June 26, 2017

If geopolitics studies how nations behave, then the nation is singularly important. Nation-states are the defining feature of the modern political era. They give people a collective identity and a pride of place… even when their borders are artificially drawn, as they were in the Middle East.

The Irony of High Tech

June 19, 2017

Technology is a major foundation of national power. Its uses are obvious. But the path from innovation to obsolescence is frequently less obvious.

US Oil Production Makes Waves

June 12, 2017

There’s no end in sight to slumping oil prices—good news for consumers but a dire development for major oil producers like Saudi Arabia and Russia. And now, rising US oil production and exports are contributing to the slump.

70 Years Since the Marshall Plan

June 5, 2017

Seventy years ago on June 5, US Secretary of State George Marshall gave a speech at Harvard University. Few speeches in modern times have had as much geopolitical consequence. In just eight paragraphs, Marshall made the case for significant US involvement in Europe’s economic reconstruction after World War II.

Russia’s History of Destabilization Campaigns

May 22, 2017

From its founding, the Soviet Union conducted campaigns designed to destabilize and neutralize potential enemies.

The Stability of Trump’s Foreign Policy

May 15, 2017

With no fat lady in sight as the opera unfolds in Washington, it is useful to stop and consider an interesting point: For all the tumult that has defined President Donald Trump’s domestic policy, his foreign policy is relatively stable. There are some notable differences, of course, but what went before is pretty much what is going on now—a startling revelation, given the expectations.

Don’t Forget About the Islamic State

May 8, 2017

Two things happened in Syria over the past two weeks that went under the radar. First, US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) claimed to have ousted Islamic State fighters from the last IS-controlled districts in Tabqa, a town 25 miles (40 kilometers) west of the Islamic State’s de facto capital, Raqqa. According to the Syrian Kurdish Hawar News Agency, IS fighters are now besieged at the Tabqa Dam outside the town.

Regime Collapse and a US Withdrawal from Afghanistan

May 1, 2017

There is a paradox when it comes to perceptions about Afghanistan. No one would disagree that after 15 years the Afghan state built by the West remains ineffective. Yet, no one is willing to acknowledge that if present trends continue the logical outcome will be regime collapse.

The Collapse of the Left

April 24, 2017

Before we begin…

The Geopolitics of Nuclear Weapons

April 17, 2017

President Trump has reversed his stance on a number of foreign policy issues, including NATO, Russia, and China. This leaves citizens in the United States and worldwide more unsure than ever of what to expect from the coming months and years.

Major Choke Points in the Persian Gulf and East Asia

April 10, 2017

The flow of international trade has always been subject to geopolitical risk and conflicts. At all stages of the supply chain, trade inherently faces challenges posed by the geopolitical realities along a given route.

Trump and Xi Take Center Stage

April 3, 2017

US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet April 6–7 at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. Most meetings between world leaders are relatively unimportant. This meeting is an exception, not because of whatever agreements or statements will emerge, but because of what it reveals about the current needs of the political administration of the world’s two largest economies.

Chinese Military Installations in the South China Sea

March 27, 2017

Much has been made in the mainstream media over China’s ongoing military buildup on reefs in the South China Sea. Chinese action has thus far been largely contained to two island groups: the Spratly Islands and the Paracel Islands.

What Past Empires Tell Us About the Future

March 20, 2017

Spanish essayist George Santayana once wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” but there is a problem with this famous and witty line. Studying history has little practical utility in averting past outcomes. We are doomed to repeat history whether we know it or not.

Taking Raqqa from the Islamic State

March 13, 2017

The United States, Turkey, and Russia have deployed forces to fight against the Islamic State in a run-up to the final battle for Raqqa. No one has made a definitive move. This is because the oncoming battle for control of the IS heartland is complicated by geography and the conflicting imperatives of regional and international actors expected to participate in the offensive.

The State of US State Exports

March 6, 2017

A domestic political battle is brewing in the United States between President Donald Trump’s administration and the Republican Party over the president’s economic plans. Trump’s key economic positions during his campaign included his opposition to free trade deals, his promise not to cut Social Security and Medicare, and his support of large-scale infrastructure spending. These are all positions that have clashed with general Republican orthodoxy. They were also the reason that some Bernie...

Water and Geopolitical Imperatives

February 27, 2017

Geographic features and conditions are part of the building blocks of geopolitical analysis. And yet, the influence that geography has on a country’s imperatives and constraints can be underappreciated. Access to water is an important example. While the media and academics treat water primarily as an issue of climate and human rights, access to and control over water is a strategic imperative that has been the impetus of conflict throughout history.

The Evolving NATO Alliance

February 20, 2017

US Secretary of Defense James Mattis met with defense ministers from other NATO member countries in Brussels on Feb. 15. The meeting was closed to the public, but some of Mattis’s comments were released to the media. “America will meet its responsibilities, but if your nations do not want to see America moderate its commitment to this alliance, each of your capitals needs to show its support for our common defense.” He added, “America cannot care more for your children’s security than you do.”...

Something Rotten in the State of Russia?

February 13, 2017

Geopolitical Futures’ forecast for 2017 says the following: “In hindsight, the coming year will be an inflection point in the long-term destabilization of Russia that we predict will reach a boiling point by 2040.” This may seem counterintuitive in light of the Russia hysteria following the US presidential election. Yet in the first six weeks of 2017, it is already possible to observe indicators that this forecast is on track.

The US Is Not Abandoning Asia

February 6, 2017

Newly minted Secretary of Defense James Mattis wrapped up his first international trip this past weekend. According to a Defense Department press release about his visit to South Korea and Japan, Mattis’s purpose was to “listen to the concerns of South Korean and Japanese leaders.” The two countries are crucial US allies in Asia, and both face serious threats in their near abroad.

Leading Power: A Look at Japan vs. China

January 30, 2017

One of Geopolitical Futures’ most controversial forecasts is that by 2040, Japan will rise as East Asia’s leading power. Many readers often ask for an explanation of the logic in this forecast. They understand that GPF is bearish on China. And while some readers may disagree on that point, they usually see that the reasoning is sound and that China will face serious problems in coming years… problems that will strain the Communist Party’s rule.

Game Time

January 23, 2017

Last Friday, Donald Trump became the 45th president of the United States. For Trump, as with every president before him, everything he said until that point consisted of promises. He had no power, so the only thing that could be expected of him was his analysis of what is wrong with the country, and what he would do to solve it.

The Geopolitics of 2017 in 4 Maps

January 16, 2017

International relations and geopolitics are not synonymous… at least, not the way we understand them at Geopolitical Futures. “International relations” is a descriptive phrase that encompasses all the ways countries behave toward one another. “Geopolitics” is the supposition that all international relationships are based on the interaction between geography and power.

Europe: The Process of Change Continues

January 9, 2017

We end this series of sneak peaks at our 2017 forecast by describing what the year ahead will look like for Europe. To do that, we must keep two things in mind. First, due to limited space, this must be a high-level overview of the forecast. Many of the specifics and the argument’s logic are contained in our 2017 forecast and in our daily tracking of these issues. The goal here is to paint a picture of the major forces at play. Second, we must remember that geopolitics does not observe the...

Nationalism, the United States, and Cyclical Crises

January 2, 2017

In the coming year, the United States will remain the overwhelmingly dominant geopolitical power in the global system, and President-elect Donald Trump will be at the helm. His presidency will mark a turning point as the first significant shift towards nationalism at the center of the US political system.

Forecasting 2016: Final Grades

December 19, 2016

Last December, Geopolitical Futures published its first annual global forecast, which was written before we opened for business. December has come once more, and for us that means two things. First, it means writing our forecast for 2017, which was published last week on our website. We will be sharing elements of our forecast with this audience over the next few weeks. Second, it means grading ourselves on how we did the previous year.

Forecasting Russia in 2017

December 14, 2016

One of the biggest challenges in writing forecasts is clearly communicating our predications for the coming year. There is a certain level of background and analysis that goes into forecasting geopolitics, but often, that background and analysis can serve as either an intellectual crutch or a way of using a lot of words without actually making a call one way or another.

Pearl Harbor, 75 Years Later

December 5, 2016

Wednesday will be the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. It happened three-quarters of a century ago, but it remains the defining moment of our time. It continues to inform the way we look at the world, and it triggered a redefinition of the federal government that still haunts us in some ways.

False News

November 28, 2016

Since the election this month of Donald Trump as the US president, something considered to be a new phenomenon has become a focus of attention. Some suspect that false news may have swayed the election. Perhaps equally as important, some claim this false news was planted by Russian intelligence under orders of President Vladimir Putin, who allegedly supported Trump’s election.

Islam and Terrorism

November 21, 2016

The United States has been at war for 15 years. There is still a debate over whom the United States is waging war against. Some say we are fighting terrorism. Others say we are fighting Islamic terrorism. The debate is between those who regard the wave of terrorism undertaken by al-Qaida and the Islamic State as linked significantly to Islam and those who want to distinguish between Islam and these groups in order not to tar an entire religion with the actions of a few.

Russia, the United States, and Donald Trump

November 14, 2016

The US presidential campaign contained a constant undertone of Russia and President Vladimir Putin. Putin said nice things about Donald Trump, and Trump about Putin. In fact, there is a small faction of Trump supporters that admires Putin for being a strong leader and for his position on gay rights and other matters. They do not see him as a former communist, but rather as a defender of Western civilization.

Explaining Mosul in Five Maps

October 31, 2016

The Islamic State captured Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, from the Iraqi government after a seven-day battle in June 2014. The US-backed Iraqi assault to recapture Mosul began with great fanfare on Oct. 18.

The Reinvention of the Democratic and Republican Parties

October 24, 2016

The election is far from over, and given the pattern of this election, nothing can be taken for granted. So while at the moment Hillary Clinton appears to be winning, two weeks remain. Nevertheless, whoever wins the election, certain massive shifts in the party structure of the United States have become visible and need to be considered.

Israeli Strategy and the UNESCO Resolution

October 17, 2016

Last week, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) voted overwhelmingly to support the Muslim claim that the Temple Mount in Jerusalem (which includes the Islamic holy site Al-Aqsa Mosque) ought to be regarded as a solely Muslim site. This particular vote was different than the usual condemnation of Israel because it did not condemn Israeli actions. Instead, it essentially denied that either Judaism or Christianity have any legitimate claims to the site....

Productivity, Microchips, and War

October 10, 2016

Before we begin this week, I have a quick language lesson for you.

Four Maps That Explain Iran’s Place in the Middle East

October 3, 2016

Following the September 26 premiere of Crisis & Chaos: Are We Moving Toward World War III?, we return this week with a full issue of This Week in Geopolitics. Before we begin, I want to thank the many readers who sent us thoughtful and valuable feedback on the documentary.

The Last Time This Pattern Emerged, This Happened

September 26, 2016

Dear This Week in Geopolitics reader,

Why Syria Matters to You

September 19, 2016

Firstly, I want to thank all of you who reserved your online seat for the premiere of my new documentary, Crisis & Chaos: Are We Moving Toward World War III? The keen response has shown us just how many of you are deeply concerned about the turmoil casting a shadow on most of the Eastern Hemisphere and its potential effects on the United States.

15 Years in Something They Call War

September 12, 2016

Before we start this issue, I want to share with you what I’ve been doing this past couple of weeks–I’ve been filming in New York for a special documentary, Crisis & Chaos: Are We Moving Toward World War III?

Conspiracy Theories

August 29, 2016

The term “conspiracy theory” has been part of our culture for a very long time. It is often justifiably followed by the word “nut.” It is also a way to stop discussion, or to embarrass others from believing what is being said. The aversion to conspiracy theories flows from a revulsion at the thought that well-known events are caused by a group of people acting in secret.

Europe’s Long War with Islam

August 22, 2016

Any discussion of Islamist terrorism in Europe and the refugee crisis has to be placed in a broader historical context. One way to approach this is to think about the Mediterranean Sea, which was central to the Roman Empire.

The Crises That Could Bring Down Putin

August 15, 2016

This week, Russian President Vladimir Putin did three very interesting things. First, he fired his long-time aide and chief of staff, Sergei Ivanov, and moved him to a lower position. A few weeks earlier, Putin fired at least three regional governors and replaced them with his personal bodyguards. Removing that many governors is a bit odd. Replacing them with his bodyguards is very odd. Then removing someone as close to him as Ivanov is extremely odd.

Nationalism, Technology, and the Olympics

August 8, 2016

The Olympics have begun in Brazil. The games were greeted by massive demonstrations by Brazilians. With Brazil facing hard economic times, many thought that spending more than $12 billion hosting the games was outrageous. The demonstrators felt there were better uses for the money. Supporters argued it would add to Brazil’s worldly luster.

Free Trade, Politics, and the Wealth of Nations

August 1, 2016

The controversy over the Trans-Pacific Partnership has escalated in the United States. At this point, both presidential candidates oppose it. Donald Trump appears to oppose most multinational agreements, including noneconomic ones. He believes that such treaties do more harm than good. According to some, it puts poor countries at a disadvantageat the mercy of multinational corporations.

The Coup and Turkey as a Great Power

July 25, 2016

In my book The Next 100 Years, I argued that Turkey is going to become a major regional power. Recent events would seem at odds with this prospect. But in fact, they confirm it.

The Myth of Legal and Illegal Wars

July 11, 2016

The Chilcot report, the product of a British inquiry into the Iraq war, was published last week. It harshly criticized Tony Blair and, by extension, George W. Bush and the United States. Many reading the report—and others before the report was published—concluded that the invasion of Iraq was illegal under international law.

Is Brexit the End of the EU?

June 27, 2016

The vote has come and gone. A major European nation has chosen to leave the EU. The markets have had their obligatory decline. A weekend has passed. It is time to think about what exactly has happened… and what it means, if anything.

Beyond the Current Fantasies in the Jihadist War

June 20, 2016

Before we start, I want to say “Thank You” to the many of you who took advantage of our offer to subscribe to my new service at Geopolitical Futures. This effort was so successful that we have decided to extend it for one more week. If you’d like to read our analysis every day, you can subscribe today at the discounted price of only $99 per year. And now, let’s dig in…

What Clinton and Trump Are Really Saying on Foreign Policy

June 13, 2016

I recently spoke at the Mauldin Economics Strategic Investment Conference about how the world is going to hell. I’m an investment community outsider. And I was struck that almost every investor and economist that spoke at the event was singing the same apocalyptic tune.

Beijing’s Real Blueprint in the South China Sea

June 6, 2016

The Chinese have a strategic problem in the South and East China seas. China is obviously interested in what happens in these waters. There is much speculation as to why the level of interest is so high.

“[Trump] is a chameleon—that’s not a bad thing under the circumstances”

May 30, 2016

George Friedman was one of the featured speakers at Mauldin Economics’ annual Strategic Investment Conference that was held last week in Dallas. In true Texas style, we corralled George for a one-on-one talk and picked his brain on a few topics that are currently grabbing media headlines: Trump, immigration, trade, Mexico, and China.

Turkey Rattles Regional Power Struggle

May 23, 2016

Last week, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey announced that they would expand military cooperation. Most will likely see this as fairly trivial and surely not important for Americans. However, it is actually a major event that impacts the broader region.

Canada’s Geographical Reality

May 17, 2016

Similar to Russia and Australia, Canada is a vast and—to a large degree—uninhabitable country due to climate and/or terrain. That does not mean it is a desolate country. It is, however, a very small country when you exclude the unlivable areas. Its population is oddly distributed due to this reality.

Isolationism vs. Internationalism: False Choices

May 10, 2016

Since World War I, US policy has been split between isolationism and internationalism. From debates over joining the League of Nations to intervention in Europe, Americans have found odd comfort in siding with one of these two camps.

Israel’s Ephemeral Power

May 2, 2016

There are four key regional powers in the Middle East: Turkey, Iran, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. Within this group, however, there is a distinct division. Turkey and Iran are potential hegemons—they represent the heirs of the Ottoman and Persian empires. Israel and Saudi Arabia are key players, but they share a critical limitation: their strategic needs outweigh their capabilities, and they are limited in how much they can shape events in the region. We have studied in depth the weaknesses...

Xi Jinping Takes Command of the People’s Liberation Army

April 25, 2016

Chinese President Xi Jinping announced last week that he will take command of all of China’s armed forces, including the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). He is already chairman of the Central Military Commission that oversees the army. He is now assuming a more direct role as head of the new Joint Operations Command Center, ostensibly putting him in operational command of the PLA in time of war. In all likelihood, the new title means little in terms of actual command, but it has tremendous...

From the Baltic Encounter to the Internet Wars

April 18, 2016

Last week, two Russian SU-24 fighter planes buzzed a US Navy destroyer over the Baltic Sea. One of the planes flew within 30 feet of the ship, according to US officials. Secretary of State John Kerry protested, saying that the Russians were endangering the destroyer. The media in the West concluded that the Russians were simulating an attack on the destroyer. The Russians made no official statement, though a spokesperson for the Russian Defense Ministry commented to Interfax that Russia had...

Europe and NATO

April 11, 2016

I will be leaving shortly for a week in Europe, visiting Slovakia, Romania, and the Czech Republic. After 1989, these former Soviet satellites sought integration with Europe—and, in a sense, salvation—by becoming members of the two major transnational organizations: the European Union and NATO. The former was strictly European, while the latter bound Europe and the United States together.

The War Whose Name No One Dares to Utter

April 4, 2016

French President François Hollande and US President Barack Obama held a joint press conference last week. At the conference, Hollande referred to Islamist terrorism, but his remark was inaudible on the video that was released. After the omission was noticed, the White House said that it was due to a technical error, and a later release contained the restored wording. The muting of Hollande’s remark may have been a technical snafu, but it reminded me of Obama’s unwillingness to refer to...