To Leave for the Islands: What the World Will Become in the Next 15 Years

Russian experts prepared a forecast containing several principal scenarios for global development.
The article is translated from iz.ru

Source: Shutterstock

Formation of several regional macroeconomic entities, «islands», the strengthening of China’s global standing, and the forming of the new Comintern around China, the decline of petrocracies, and a rapid (or gradual) disintegration of EU. These are only a few of the key events predicted to happen between 2020 and 2035 by a Russian expert group. «Maps of the future» developed by the group were presented at the ASI Forum in November. Izvestia got an early glimpse of the paper.

The Covid-19 pandemic and associated turmoil have drastically changed most of the planet’s population’s daily lives. However, even more severe global geopolitical, technological, economic, and socio-political changes, triggered by the pandemic, are looming and may become a reality in the next few years. To prepare for them, a group of Russian experts has created «Roadmaps for the Future.»

The forecast for 2020 — 2035 was co-created by the founder of Global Education Futures, board member of University 20.35, and Skolkovo Education Development Centre Pavel Luksha; president of Technological Sovereignty Export Assn., Mgimo University associate professor of applied international studies Andrey Bezrukov; and director of ASI’s «Young Professionals», general director of NTI Platform, President’s special representative for digitalization Dmitry Peskov. The work is to be unveiled at ASI Forum in Sochi in November, but Izvestia has been invited to take an early look at it.

Refinery plant/Shutterstock

Among the forecasted trends for the next 15 years are the decline of oil-centric economies, primarily in the Arab world; and «islandization», a transition to a new geopolitical model built around the ability of macroregional blocks («islands») to pursue independent technological and industrial policy; formation of a new Marshall Plan to support developing economies; a global food supply crisis and the creation of a global chain producer of food; other events that will play critical roles in determining future development strategies.

The dawn of the «islands»

According to the experts, a few «islands» will emerge in the world, with «island America» and «island China» most likely to form with 90% probability. According to the paper, an «island» is a macroregion where people agree to pursue one particular societal model. Back in the 19th century, it would be called an empire, but it worked differently back then. In the contemporary world, the EU was the first to pursue it. «In that world, you could be friends with anyone, the US, China, Africa, note the forecasters. It was great, but now it does not work for everyone.»

As a result, the new Cold War between the US and China will see most countries split into three distinctive groups. The first batch will join one of the two «islands», already being in their distinctive «orbit». Others will join neither group outright but will mostly follow technological standards and economic rules of one of them. Finally, the third group will include countries that will populate the gray area without formally joining one of the «islands», which will, however, expose them to covert actions by foreign intelligence services looking to engage with the opposition.

New York/Shutterstock

Ten years ago, this scenario of «islandization» was known as regionalization. Back then, it was considered only one of the possibilities, like further globalization or its complete halt. But now it has become evident that we are entering the era of «islands», stress the Russian experts.

According to the forecast authors, Russia will not join either of the two islands but, considering the size of its population and domestic market, will not be able to create its own either. This will either leave the country in the «inter-island» space, or will force it to forge a design of its own, most likely with its natural geopolitical allies in Europe, Central Asia, and the Middle East. As a result, a third island may emerge, e.g., based on a treaty between Russia and certain countries of the EU, minus those most loyal to the United States.

Least likely, according to the researchers, is the emergence of an «island» around Brazil. Portuguese, a foreign language for most of the Latin American population, may prevent the unification.

Monroe Doctrine 2.0

Nevertheless, Latin America can become a ground zero for another emerging trend, which the researchers call Monroe Doctrine 2.0. In this modernized approach, initially formulated by the President of the United States in the early 19th century, the United States can declare domination in Latin America their priority, providing this foreign policy vector with diplomatic and financial support.

Buenos Aires/Shutterstock

According to the experts, the US will look for a reliable «resource base» and reliable allies in the region to become places to move unwanted types of manufacturing to and new markets for the US goods. After «the global play» of the 1960s and 1970s, Washington has been winding down its activity in the region. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the efforts in which intelligence services were taking part had gradually come to naught. Now, however, such activity may be reinvigorated. The US will not be acting as crudely as they did in the previous century, but the attempt to bring Latin America under control will be made, the forecast suggests. The authors left the question of the Latin American elites’ perception of such efforts open.

The new Chinese Comintern

China, who is poised to form one of the two mightiest «islands», may become the world’s largest economy in the next five years. Having become an alternative center of power, PRC has lined up every ally who thinks it is better to follow Beijing’s trail than to be friends with abstract «allies» from other parts of the world.

This situation has become a prologue for the starting Cold War between China and the US, and it’s going to be much harder for the US this time than it was against the USSR. «China is the fundamental part of most large corporations’ supply chains, and it is also a large holder of securities issued by the US. It turns out, it is hard to fight against China, but there is no way no to» explains the forecast.

Beijing /Shutterstock

Additionally, China has become a constant global enemy for Washington, a threat that eclipses Russia, what with all the stories about Russian hackers and perfidious intelligence services. In its standoff with the US, China may try to organize the new Comintern, a circle of allies who will not fight for Chinese interests directly but for the idea of the 21st-century eco-communism.

To re-assemble the EU

The experts see a possibility of the EU demise, suggesting the Union can disintegrate either quickly or in a creeping manner. The Coronacrisis has become a litmus test of the European society: turns out, there is no common approach amongst the EU nations to any significant problems like migration, which in turn revealed further, less apparent complications.

A crisis has presented a perfect opportunity to reinstate national borders, which became an efficient protective measure. Moreover, member states pleading for assistance have encountered little willingness of their counterparts to drop everything and help.

Paris/Shutterstock

Individual politicians may even raise a question of EU exit, employing their country’s population’s dissatisfaction with the Brussels’ policies. If this scenario plays out simultaneously in several member states, it may become the beginning of the EU’s end. The experts reason that the thing holding the Union back from complete disintegration may be the understanding that on their own, countries may become even more vulnerable. This is when rational forces may try to re-assemble the EU, decreasing the dependency on the famous Eurobureaucracy and forcing Brussels to account for the diverse member states’ national specifics, says the forecast.

«Daddy is going to feed everyone»

One of the key economic trends of the coming years will be the end of the oil-based economy, spurred by the global pandemic, localization of manufacturing, and the decrease of global shipping and traffic. This is objectively bad news for countries that rely on carbohydrate exports, like Russia or Arab states, that spent decades amidst relatively high oil prices. There will be further political reasoning for decarbonization, like decreasing dependency on oil suppliers or the fossil industry’s apparent effect on climate change.

The trio of experts reasons that when it comes to tax revenue, Russia has an excellent alternative to the oil & gas sector — agriculture. The world’s population will only continue to grow, and everyone needs food.

Russia has already become the global leader in wheat and butter and is in the top 5 on several other products, such as corn and frozen fish. The authors remind that 44% of arable lands in the country are not in use. Moreover, the Russian agricultural sector has five times lower productivity than their counterparts in Europe.

Harvesting in Russia/Shutterstock

Soybean exports are another opportunity, with China looking to replace the US imports. This represents two-thirds of the entire global market, tens of billions of dollars of potential revenue for the country. The authors question the lack of national strategy on the matter while we continue to discuss a lot less reliable exports like natural gas and arms.

Western sanctions that hurt many sectors of the Russian economy have only propelled the domestic agriculture forward. It is time to popularize farming again to help potential farmers see opportunities to make money.

Re-training the workforce, improving the seed stock, and employing modern technology will shower agriculture in gold, assure the researchers. «Such growth possibilities are not to ever be found again in the oil & gas industry. We have a tremendous opportunity right under our feet, and it would be odd to miss them.»

Text: Kirill Senin

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