A Catalogue of Risks

Crimea’s annexation by the Russian Federation is not the first gunfire salute of a new world war, but it is a symptom of a growing disarticulation in the existing geopolitical order and therefore there is an increase in the chances of several actors making strategic miscalculations. Those mistakes in turn may lead to war. Those who have been following Opinion Sur’s articles on geopolitics can today assemble the first figure of a puzzle on the threat of a global armed conflict. The image resulting from this exercise is disturbing. Fortunately it is temporary. In this article I present the outlines of that image, trying to put together ten factors and tendencies –some that have to do with the current circumstances and others that are more long-term and deeper- that can connect in an alternate and modular fashion, just like the shapes inside a kaleidoscope.

1. The current globalization model does not project a bright image of the future but it resembles an ancien regime more and more instead. This globalization is not sustainable, for several reasons, among them the following: there is a growing inequality within and between almost every country. This tendency is accompanied by a process of productive disarticulation and dis-insertion in society. The new accumulation mechanisms separate, on one hand, a financial elite from the rest of the real economy, and on the other, within the latter, there is also a swift concentration of revenues through new technologies that produce goods and services of low marginal cost for massive sectors that cannot get a job. Elites renew themselves and prosper due to being located in strategic nodes, but the rest of society is increasingly more in a state of non-participation.

2. Political systems fail to catch up with the previous tendencies. They neither manage nor ease a change in structures. Every system, from the most authoritarian to the most democratic, was designed for another era. Nowadays they only aspire to deny, mask, and postpone almost every significant problem. They do not produce leaderships capable of rising to the occasion.

3. The old power centers are in full decadence, with great reform and adaptation difficulties. Among them I include the United States, Japan, Europe and the former soviet systems.

4. Emerging powers have an enormous hegemony deficit. They don’t want nor can offer alternative development models, and they seem extremely reluctant to take the initiative. This applies to those formerly known as BRICs.

5. Large demographic, social, political and religious mobilization movements in areas that used to be called ¨developing¨ or ¨Third World¨, unlike the XXth century revolutions, are not generating new power centers. This tendency is quite noticeable in Africa and the Middle East.

6. The end of the cold war has not given way to a stable peace nor a solid hegemony on behalf of the surviving superpower. The latter is immobilized by internal political disagreements, social fragmentation, productive disarticulation, and a tendency to make severe strategic/military mistakes.

7. The state of non-participation into which large social sectors have fallen in both the wealthy and poor countries, today comes down to an alarming increase of ¨unemployed labor¨, and translates into two kinds of mobilization in the political sphere. In line with the concepts of sociologist Gino Germani, we can call them primary mobilization and secondary mobilization. The first is visible in northern African countries and in the Middle East. Armed insurgency and the adhesion to extreme ideologies make up for the lack of economic opportunities and constructive social participation. The second is visible in European societies, where vast sectors in full downward social mobility adhere to reactionary and xenophobic ideologies.

8. The absence of a global order –whether of a collaborative or hegemonic type– generates an ‘every-man-for-himself’ attitude in governments and people. Therefore the number of tense and violent foci increases, which we can label as situations of terrorist temptation and warmongering opportunism. Such is the case of Russia’s recent annexation of Crimea, which is not catastrophic in itself, but acts as a green light to a series of countries and regions that my now feel authorized to embark on regional warmongering adventures.

9. At the same time, the multiplication of tense foci and the warmongering opportunism increase the probability of miscalculations among strategic actors, and may increase it exponentially. Miscalculations are the catalytic factor in every war.

10. Each one of the previous tendencies is reversible in either a single or simultaneous way, with prior awareness and dissemination of the risks involved, a task we are fully devoted to from our humble publication.

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