Strategic Estimate is an annual assessment of the global balance of power. In our assessment of 2018, we concluded the US remained the world superpower and remained deeply involved in global issues despite rhetoric from the president and others to disengage from global issues. With US presidential elections due on 3rd November 2020 Donald Trump will be attempting to win a second term in office. He made many promises in his presidential campaign and his effect on America’s global position will be assessed in Strategic Estimate 2020. In 2019 questions have emerged on America’s grand strategy, is it working? Or does it need to change? The US continues to be dogged by imperial overstretch. Issues from Iran to Venezuela, from China to Afghanistan, America under Trump has struggled to achieve what would be considered meaningful outcomes. What does this tell us about the global superpower? Strategic Estimate 2020 assesses America and whether Donald Trump has contributed to America’s weakening or strengthened it.
China gained much of the international media headlines in 2019 as the US-China trade war went into full swing. China faced a variety of internal and external challenges as it attempts to strengthen its position in the world. China published its white paper which assessed its military capabilities and outlined how it plans to resource and deal with its adversaries. Strategic Estimate 2020 will assess China’s military capability. President Xi Jinping was given dictatorial powers in 2018 as China’s two term limit was removed allowing Xi to remain ruler for life. This was done in order to create stability in the highest office in China due to various impending challenges from China’s economic model, wealth inequality, trade and developing China’s interior. Strategic Estimate 2020 assesses if Xi is succeeding or failing. Protests in Hong Kong has added to China’s woes and show little sign of abating as Hong Kongers fight for remaining culturally and physically separate to China. This comes at the worst possible time for China as it shows the country has internal problems and contradicts China’s attempts to show it’s strong. Strategic Estimate 2020 assesses what Hong Kong tells us about China’s position in its region.
Vladimir Putin of Russia has now been at the helm of Russian politics for 20 years and in 2019 his approval ratings fell to its lowest level. Putin today faces a context very different from what he faced at the turn of the 21st century. His promises of making Russia powerful and modernising the economy has not materialised, as a result of persistent Western sanctions and low global energy prices. Russia has attempted to insulate itself from the West and Strategic Estimate 2020 assesses where Russia’s economy is today. A central aspect of Russia’s global position has for long been showing the world it is powerful and this is usually measured via military means but overall Russia’s military is still trying to modernise despite the announcement of some big-ticket platforms. Strategic Estimate 2020 assesses Russia’s grand strategy and what tools it really has at its disposal.
The European Union (EU) had another tumultuous year as the forces of nationalism and in some cases, fascism gained more ground. A number of rightwing victories across the continent is challenging the unity of Europe and calls for change continued in 2019. The German-French axis which is the foundation of the EU inked an agreement for economic, defence and political integration.
In 2019 the global economy was struggling to grow, and the spectre of a global recession is once again upon us. Global trade is being impacted by the trade war between the US and China and global debt is today worse than it was a decade ago. Much of the world has still not recovered from the effects of the global economic crisis back in 2008. Strategic Estimate 2020 analyses the state of the global economy and its constituent parts and assesses what its impact will be.
In 2019, Iran celebrated the 40th anniversary of its revolution. During this period its population has doubled and most of its population now consists of people who have never experienced the rule of the Shah. The clerical regime has managed to adapt and be adept at the changing internal demographics as well as international isolation. But in November 2019 mass uprisings across the country began to take place and a brutal crackdown not seen in the past four decades took place. How the clerics managed to survive for so long and if this will continue will be assessed.
It is difficult to not notice the lack of trust in politicians, the turning to unconventional political parties and the sentiments across the world that the global system, dominated by capitalism is no longer working for the masses and only seems to work for the few. Politicians now regularly have approval ratings worse than debt collectors and the tax man and many on the right of the political spectrum are seeing success. As much of the world celebrated the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 2019, democracy, the free market and the global liberal order are seen as failing the majority. In Strategic Estimate 2020 we assess how things have got so bad for Western values and the likely direction this trend will go.
What follows in sha allah is the author’s opinion and assessment of 2019 and the trends for 2020 and beyond. Like any assessment, they are estimates and forecasts.
5 Jumada Al-Awwal 1441
1 January 2020