The article originally appeared on India Today.
Here it is bit modified.
Geopolitics has always been shaped by few global powers, especially the US so far, even if it has been an increasingly multi-polar world.
But with the recent developments that have revolved around inward looking protectionist and autocratic powers taking central position not just back homes but in the overall flow of geopolitics, the world order is increasingly going to be shaped by four countries and an event, Russia, the US, Britain leaving the European Union (EU) or Brexit and China, the new RUBRIC that will shape the flow of geopolitics in the days to come. RUBRIC with changed evaluations and definitions that would try to outsmart the existing ethos in order to impose their own.
And the rules of this new RUBRIC will be written by their leaders, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, the US’ Donald Trump, Britain’s Theresa May and China’s Xi Jinping, with new equations emerging after Donald Trump has taken over the world’s most prosperous and powerful nation.
WHY THEY MATTER
The US still wields enormous military power and if we say it remains unchallenged, especially after the demise of the Soviet Union or the USSR, it will not be exaggerating it. The US is also the world’s largest single nation economy and will remain so with its clout to greatly affect the trade blocks and negotiations.
Though the USSR is no longer there, it left behind a stockpile of nuclear arsenal that makes Russia a strong regional power that exercises considerable influence in Europe and Asia, even if it has had a volatile economy. Add to it the vast energy reserves Russia has that serves as Europe’s lifeline.
China is the world’s second largest economy and the manufacturing powerhouse of the world and is in a position to dictate trade terms with global power centres even if it derided for its one party autocratic system and poor human rights. In terms of purchasing power parity, China is already the world’s largest economy and is a growing military power with increasing clout in space, air, navy and on ground.
Britain, once the reigning colonial superpower of the world with economic and military might, has reduced to being just a small country with no influence to affect the geopolitical matters. Yes, but it remains a symbolic superpower of values that define the existing free democratic world order – free men, free markets and a freer world. And the country is still an economic superpower. Its GDP at 2.29 Trillion USD was at par with India’s GDP of 2.3 Trillion USD in 2016.
TRUMP IN THE WHITE HOUSE IS SETTING THINGS IN MOTION
China has a production model back home that is antithesis of the values that the US and major economies of the free democratic world cherish and promote but nothing stops them or the big transnational corporations from engaging with China. China has absolute protectionism and labour laws heavily tilted in the favour of businesses.
With the new US President Donald Trump’s inward looking and protectionist views that aim to seclude the US economy in domestic shackles, the Asian economic giant is trying to take a global leadership position with Xi Jinping already saying that China is ready to fill the void created by the US.
The US under Donald Trump has effectively dumped the biggest global trade deal proposed, Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), including 12 Pacific rim countries that already regulate the world’s 40% economic output. China would sure be happy to milk the opportunity that many including Barack Obama, the former US President, tried hard to grab and now believe that going away from it will be suicidal for America’s global dominance.
Trump’s next target is NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and no one knows what comes next. No one knows where he will stop in the name of preventing jobs and businesses from going out of the US and paying back to the countries who he believes have sucked the US wealth. Signs don’t look good. He is threatening businesses with counterproductive measures.
Military and nuclear confrontation with China already looks on the table. Trump has ratcheted up nuclear and military expansion rhetoric quoting Russia and China but while he has always been soft on Putin, hoping for ‘good deals with Russia’, he has never given such indications for Xi Jinping or China. Trump believes that ‘One China’ policy can be negotiated while China considers it blasphemous. Trump calls the Taiwanese leader breaking decades old US tradition and says it is not a big deal. The South China Sea dispute where it’s defiance is directly pitted against the whole world community is another in the series.
Russia is a big military power and big economy of its region of influence in Europe and Asia with an autocratic president in Vladimir Putin who believes in the unbridled run of power, military expansionism and has increasingly displayed a tendency to interfere in the theatres of conflicts like he is doing in Syria. And as Putin is sitting comfortably at home, crushing all the dissent, if he goes about pursuing his global designs, it will be a development that was just about to happen. The erstwhile USSR was one pole of the once bipolar world and Putin has not forgotten that.
And Trump, it looks like, is giving him a chance. He has indicated that he will lift sanctions imposed on Russia after Russia invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea. The US, so far, led in Syria peace talks but now, it is being led by Russia and Turkey with the latest round of talks between Syrian rebels and government representatives in Astana, Kazakhstan’s capital. And experts believe this may be the beginning of the process that can effectively see the US dominance, first in the Middle East and then elsewhere, diminished to a great scale, thanks to the Trump’s policies that aim to make America an island nation, away from geopolitical tumults and thus stakes, away from the values that the US has globally promoted so far, democracy, free markets and human rights.
Britain is also picking signals from Donald Trump, emboldened by his anti-EU tirade. Trump says ‘Brexit will be a great development for the UK’.
Many in Britain fought hard and championed to create the world’s largest economy as a single trading block and single, border-free zone of countries in the form of the European Union (EU) – inspiring the world to create such free zones for men or economies to flow freely. But that is not the case anymore. Britain is leaving the EU, after a bitter referendum, or Brexit, that divided the country. Brexit will make US the world’s largest economic region again. Britain’s new leader Theresa May has said that the legal process for Brexit has already begun and she is looking forward to meet the staunch EU critic and therefore her big admirer Donald Trump this Friday to negotiate trade deals, like she has done with other countries including India. Trump has also predicted, in his inimitable style, that more countries will follow Britain in leaving the EU.
So, the next few months are going to be very volatile and challenging for the existing world order and geopolitical equations. RUBRIC have set things in motion. What happens only future can tell but the flow of geopolitics is going to be dependent on the movements of these four nations and their leaders.