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Andrey Kortunov

Ph.D. in History, Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council, RIAC member

In coming years, we are likely to see a continuous crisis of the traditional state system, particularly in such places as the MENA region, sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and in parts of the former Soviet Union. Weak states might face a challenge of losing their sovereignty; they will not be in a position to provide law, order or basis social services to populations on their territories, turning into failed or semi-failed states. Failed states, in their turn, can became hotbeds of conflicts that last for years and even decades with no solutions in sight. Even strong states (US, Russia, EU members) might be seriously constrained as international players due to domestic instabilities, political polarization, growing social and economic pressures). They will be less and less willing to invest into global commons and might be vulnerable to political populism and radicalism.

1. Crisis of the state system.

In coming years, we are likely to see a continuous crisis of the traditional state system, particularly in such places as the MENA region, sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and in parts of the former Soviet Union. Weak states might face a challenge of losing their sovereignty; they will not be in a position to provide law, order or basis social services to populations on their territories, turning into failed or semi-failed states. Failed states, in their turn, can became hotbeds of conflicts that last for years and even decades with no solutions in sight. Even strong states (US, Russia, EU members) might be seriously constrained as international players due to domestic instabilities, political polarization, growing social and economic pressures). They will be less and less willing to invest into global commons and might be vulnerable to political populism and radicalism.

2. Economic and financial disorder.

The growing unpredictability and volatility of global and regional economic and financial markets will create new risks; states, societies and individuals can no longer control their economic destinies or even to influence them in a significant way. We observe economic and social polarization among states and within them; polarization increases populism, radicalism and extremism of various kinds. In 2020–2025, the world is likely to confront at least one cyclical economic recession, but we cannot exclude a deeper and more comprehensive global crisis like the one we witnessed in 2008–2009. However, this time such a global financial turmoil would be harder to manage, since the will of major players to act together seems to be lower today than it was a decade ago.

3. The rise of non-state actors.

In 2020–2025, the rise of non-state actors will continue, and the global power (both hard and soft power) will become more and more diffused. The rise of non-state actors challenges state sovereignty and questions the fundamentals of the modern international system. Irresponsible non- state players (from international terrorism and religious fundamentalism to transnational crime and greedy multinational corporations) are accountable to nobody and often have goals and aspirations incompatible with international peace, stability and prosperity. Attempts to manipulate these players by states are likely to be counterproductive and dangerous.

4. Climate change and environmental degradation.

It is hard to assess the geopolitical implications of the global climate change for the period of 2020–2025; most forecasts predict the real impact to come later. However, the first signs of uncontrolled and potentially disastrous environmental and climate changes, mounting challenges to biodiversity, environmental stability and resource sufficiency will manifest themselves already in the nearest future. We can also predict growing inequalities in resource distribution around the world, as well as the looming resource crunch (food, energy, fresh water, etc.) in the most vulnerable regions of the planet. The frequency and the scale of natural disasters is likely to grow as well.

5. International migrations.

The European migration crisis of 2015–2016 might be over by now, but the factors that have led to the crisis are not yet addressed. A new explosion of regional, continental and global migrations would increasingly affect the world, which is completely unprepared to confront this challenge. It would lead to an unavoidable economic, political, security, social and cultural implications of the migration crisis with most countries ill equipped to handle these implications. The 'second edition' of the migration crisis could become a catalyst for many other regional and global problems mentioned above.

6. Decline of international institutions and regulations.

Another challenge to international stability is likely to be further decline of many international institutions — global and regional, security and economic alike; the growing inability of the UN based system to find effective solutions to mounting problems. In many cases, we will witness a shift from legitimate institutions to illegitimate or semi-legitimate ad hoc coalitions. In 2020–2025, many of traditional and well-established norms on international public law are likely to be questioned; major powers will continue to practice selective and self-serving interpretation of legal norms.

First published in the Institut Montaigne Report “Les transformations du monde a horizon 2025”.

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Poll conducted

  1. In your opinion, what are the US long-term goals for Russia?
    U.S. wants to establish partnership relations with Russia on condition that it meets the U.S. requirements  
     33 (31%)
    U.S. wants to deter Russia’s military and political activity  
     30 (28%)
    U.S. wants to dissolve Russia  
     24 (22%)
    U.S. wants to establish alliance relations with Russia under the US conditions to rival China  
     21 (19%)
 
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