It is futile to make any but short-term predictions on world affairs: there are just too many variables in the equation, too many unknown-unknowns. The escalation of the Ukrainian crisis and the rise in U.S.-Russian tensions could have been forecast a year ago, in general terms at least, but the explosive rise of ISIS could not.
It is nevertheless possible and often useful to outline the contours of probable developments on the basis of existing structural vectors and recent dynamics. “Time is not heterogeneous,” Raymond Aron correctly noted half a century ago, when writing on Max Weber’s approach to historical causality. If time is homogenous, then – in theory at least – “the possibility of causal explanation is the same for the past and for the future.” In practice, we can expect two key developments to make an impact on the global scene in 2015:
- The government in Kiev and its handlers in Washington will not settle for a long-term frozen conflict in the east of the country. Armed, trained and equipped by NATO, Ukrainian forces are likely to launch a major military assault against Donetsk and Lugansk in late spring – I’d put the odds at 3:1. If the attack is successful, the regime would use it to compensate for the adverse effects at home of the ongoing economic and financial collapse, while the U.S. would show the world that Putin is not invincible. If Russia intervenes openly to prevent the two self-proclaimed republics’ collapse, Putin would finally enter the trap which he has been avoiding ever since the massacre in Odessa eight months ago. If the Novorossiyan forces defeat the attackers, thus repeating the feat of last August – obviously the least desirable scenario from Washington’s and Kiev’s point of view – there is still the fallback option of another Minsk-like ceasefire agreement, which leaves the military option open for 2016.
- Russia’s pivot to Asia will gather momentum, reflecting Moscow’s strategic decision to abandon the elusive quest for a neo-Gaullist long-term partnership with the EU. That decision was made symbolically public in Ankara last November with the abandonment of the South Stream pipeline project. China and Russia are long-term economic, political and – increasingly – military partners now. Putin’s recent visits to Modi in India and Erdogan in Turkey indicate his ongoing efforts to build a massive Eurasian bloc and his growing indifference to the Brussels connection. This means the end of the “Europe from the English Channel to Vladivostok” idea, but my notion of a Northern Alliance never had a chance with the Duopoly so firmly in charge. The implications are serious for the Beltway global hegemonists, primarily because progressive de-dollarization of financial transactions among those countries has the potential to bring the Empire down without a shot being fired. That is a long-term, rather than immediate danger, however.
Those two issues matter the most in geopolitical terms. On other fronts, in the Greater Middle East the Islamic State will not be defeated, Bashar will continue to hold on, Egypt will remain stable and peaceful under Sisi, and there will be no progress in Israel-Palestine; everything else is up in the air. The Eurozone will struggle on, just, but recent oil price collapse means deflation and continued sluggish growth in 2015. We can expect oil prices to bounce back somewhat, settling at or near $70 per barrel for a long while. Russia is and will continue to be badly hit, but this may prompt her long-overdue economic diversification. The most vulnerable exporter is Venezuela, where social and political unrest against the Maduro government – aided and abetted by the NED et al – is a distinct possibility. (Nigeria is in the same boat, but sub-Saharan Africa is irrelevant to the rest of the world.)
The only thing I am willing to predict with some certainty is that 2015 will be worse than 2014 and better than 2016.