PostGlobal Global Power Barometer (washingtonpost.com)
 

DETECTING EMERGING ISSUES

As it tracks and analyzes thought and actions across the world, the Global Power Barometer (GPB) frequently catches sight of issues that will impact global politics. These are the issues that likely will move the icons in coming weeks. We'll share our peeks at the future as they pass certain momentum thresholds. In future days we'll categorize the "Emerging Issues" and provide snippets about the progress of significant trends. For now, here's what we're presently watching:



The Global Realignment: The end of a US-centric world?
  • The media has recently caught on to the fact that US influence is in steep decline but still under the mainstream radar is the extent to which other players such as Russia, China, Iran, Venezuela are stepping into the vacuum. The US is still the military superpower but it's already sharing the global influence stage with emerging powers who can move global events as well or better.

    A dramatic global realignment appears to be in progress (and quickening) as the result of several factors:

    • The loss of US influence as a result of the Iraq war
    • A view across the globe resulting from Abu Ghraib and range of missteps that the US has lost the moral high ground it had enjoyed for decades
    • A feeling among global leaders that the US is without a coherent foreign policy strategy...a belief that has started feeding on itself and has emboldened US adversaries
    • China's rise, its smooth diplomatic technique, its re-alignment with Russia and its aggressive, clever drive to form new alliances with nations extending from Asia and Africa to South America
    • Russia's recent rise combined with Russian President Putin's domestic popularity and his reputation for effectively standing up to the West
    • The rise of non-aligned nations emboldened by the inability of the US to effectively use the extraordinary power it possesses
    • A view among key global leaders that the US will be bogged down in Iraq for many years (a view heightened by significantly by President Bush's September 13 Iraq speech), thus distracted and unable to respond effectively to key political moves by the range of international players
    • A recognition by the international community that the Bush Administration not only hasn't been able to deal effectively with non-state actors (e.g. terror groups like Al Qaeda) but they are holding their own or starting to win


    As a result of these and other factors, the world, from the top tier players to fringe nations to isolated political movements and ideologies, has recognized that a giant vacuum in global power has formed...and they've been moving to take advantage of it with no resistance from an essentially powerless US foreign policy establishment. Russia and China have beaten the US in forming critical energy alliances in Central Asia, in the Caucasus, in Africa and even in South America. At the recent APEC Summit, China was the 800 pound gorilla and President Bush was relegated to "also there" status. In 2007, the US now longer guides the world...at least two others (Russia and China) exercise power more effectively than the US. In 2008 and beyond that number may well expand and many think this may actually stabilize the world.

The Coming Energy Wars
  • Supply and demand are easy to understand but these most traditional of influences over energy prices will be just part of the picture in late 2007 and 2008.
  • Everyone knows that energy costs have skyrocketed over the past two years as the result of, among other factors, increased demand by the growing economies of India and China. But supply and demand are no longer the only factors impacting energy price and security. The foreign policies of energy producing nations, nationalization of energy fields, increasing inaccessibility of international oil and gas reserves to highly efficient US energy companies, the growing use of long-term energy contracts and control of pipelines will impact future energy availability and costs. That was clear with Europe last winter. Global Thought leaders are looking at how the following will impact energy prices and security: 1) Whether Russia will continue to be less than efficient in its internal energy development program and ineptly use the energy weapon (e.g., access to its vast energy resources and the resources of Central Asia) by threatening energy cut-offs to influence regional politics such as the bids by Georgia and the Ukraine for NATO membership; 2) whether the throwback (to the 70’s) trend of using long-term contracts to lock up energy supplies will put upward pressure on energy costs; 3) whether nations with nationalized oil and gas fields will increasingly limit access to their energy reserves by the more efficient major energy companies; 4) whether nations like Turkey and former Central Asian Soviet republics will increasingly make critical pipeline decisions with a view of quashing competition. Beyond this, many global analysts believe China’s no-questions-asked approach to the partners it chooses could give it a significant advantage, particularly in Africa and Iran. The one certainty is that the global trends in all these areas will put increasing pressure on supplies and security of energy resources for the US and Europe.

Latin America and the Rise of the Anti-American Left
  • In 1823, US President James Monroe issued the Monroe Doctrine, naming all of the Western Hemisphere, and particularly Latin America under the United States' sphere of influence. Nearly 200 years later, the Monroe Doctrine looks like it could crumble
  • In 2005-2006, Latin American politics have been veering to the left with the electoral victories of Evo Morales in Bolivia, Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, and Rafael Correa in Ecuador (and a near victory by Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in Mexico). These new leftist leaders add to current leftist regimes in Argentina, Brazil and Cuba. Perhaps the most outspoken of the leftist leaders is US opponent Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, who was just reelected by a 23% margin. These nations will pose a growing challenge to US interests in Latin America, as they seek to align themselves elsewhere. Already, Chavez has been making loud and brash statements on the world stage, pledging allegiance to Iran, denouncing President Bush and the United States at the United Nations, and signing trade pacts with China. Mercosur, the regional trade agreement instituted to promote free trade throughout South America (similar to NAFTA), is gaining supporters and seeks to give Latin America the same economic clout that the US and EU have. Furthermore, many Latin American nations are members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which seeks to provide viable alternatives to American and European hegemony. As Chinese investments in Venezuelan oil, in the reconstruction of the Panama Canal, and in mines grows in the region, watch for more independent action and less concord with the United States.

The Ascendant Tiger: China's journey to the top
  • Well-planned, innovative, quiet strategies on the diplomatic, economic, educational and military fronts are helping China build its power more quickly and effectively than any other global entity.
  • China is building a sphere of influence that extends from Asia and Africa to South America. From the way it negotiates natural resource contracts to its new foreign aid strategies to its new military alliances, China is usurping power from its neighbors, the US and Europe. Global Thought believes China's economic growth and its evolving relationships with Russia, India, Pakistan and potentially Iran, along with its quickly growing influence on non-aligned nations combined with the vacuum being created by the decline in US influence could well make it a power to match or exceed the US global political power far sooner than anyone has thought. Chinese investment may in fact resurrect oil production in Iran…Global Thought believes it is conceivable that China could end up the winner in Iraq also. Indeed, China at present is more than matching US power as is obvious by its daily GPB positioning relative to the US. Because many Global Thought leaders believe the US has no strategy to counter China's rise, watch for China to stay to the positive side of the US icon from some time to come.

Armageddon Watch: The new arms race
  • Iran offers to share nuclear technology with its Gulf neighbors and Russia looks to assist Brazil and Argentina with nuclear development...plower plants not bombs but how far is the jump to weaponry?
  • A global arms race has begun. The lesson from Iraq, that a country shouldn't bluff about having WMDs, is spreading. North Korea and Iran are just the first to be making practical use of that lesson. The head of the IAEA, Mohamed El Baradei, estimates that about 40 countries could develop nuclear weapons. The concern of thought leaders is not, however, that the US or Russia will be challenged. A big worry is that nuclear weapons will fall into the hands of non-state ideological, religious or political movements where retaliation is impossible (e.g., no one knows who is responsible and/or where they live) or there is no deterent (e.g., the perpetrators believe in Armageddon and welcome retaliation on their hapless and perhaps unknowing host). Most frighteningly, the goal of some of these players (e.g., al Qaeda) may specifically be to foment war among two or more nation states (not where they live) and create a power vacuum in which they can advance their own global objectives (bin Laden's WTC attack very effectively drew the US into stirring the Middle East pot, giving Islamists an opportunity to gain power they could never have created themselves). The next most significant concern of Global Thought is regional war among nations possessing the bomb (e.g., Israel/Iran, India/Pakistan). Thought leaders by a wide margin believe the shattering of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, diminishing global stability and the activist foreign policy of the US over the last 6 years have inched the nuclear genie further out of the bottle. In recent days, Iran's neighbors (e.g., Saudi Arabia) have heated up their talk about beginning nuclear programs. Iran cleverly has now offered to share nuclear technology within the region. Whether Israeli PM Olmert intentionally let his tongue slip about Israel's nukes (as a subtle threat) or did it unintentionally, the race appears to be heating up.

The Next War?
  • A growing number of writers and analysts, as well as political leaders, are talking about a wider war (or wars) brewing in the Middle East.
  • There is more than a little talk of a wider Middle East conflict even as the US is attempting to exit Iraq and Israel has reached a temporary cease-fire with the Palestinians. Syrian leader, Bashir al-Assad warned recently that Israel could attack Syria (which some interpret as an invitation). Various writers have speculated that Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad might have adopted Osama bin Laden's strategy of drawing the US into further stirring the Middle East pot, a move some believe would work to the advantage both of Iran and Islamists. Jordan’s King Abdullah has warned that in 2007 three civil wars could erupt in the Middle East (among the Palestinians, Lebanon, Iraq). Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has started the Israeli Defense Forces on a course of preparing for the possibility of war with Iran. Some conservatives in the US are saying that the problem with Iraq is that the US didn't expand the battlefield far enough (to include Iran and even Saudi Arabia). And, of course, Islamists are on a roll. Right now, it's perhaps all speculation but with at least 2 US strike groups in the area, Iraq in turmoil, Iran moving ahead with its nuclear program, and several nations (not to mention political movements) on a hair trigger, the old saying that "Daggers drawn tend to draw blood" needs to be considered. Emerging Issues will watch as the situation unfolds.

The GPB tracks how well global players use power to advance their policy goals. The chart covers the day indicated in the date bar above the chart and is updated each evening. Note that the chart does not move until it is updated. Clicking on an icon links to supporting data that is updated and expanded continually throughout the day.

The system tracks thousands of news media, academic, governmental and other sources. The relative position of the players are driven by opinion, events, and other soft and hard factors. The system does not count articles like a "buzz meter." See "What's this" for more.

Prepared each weekday for PostGlobal by Denver Research Group
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