The Top Five Events in 2014

OK, I admit it, this is a bit heavy (not to mention long) for a Saturday post but, this type of post hasn’t been seen here in quite a while, and I think Stratfor hit the nail very squarely on the head here. I’ll let you read it, and then I’ll have a few comments.

By George Friedman

‘Tis the season to make lists, and a list shall be made. We tend to see each year as extraordinary, and in some senses, each year is. But in a broader sense, 2014 was merely another year in a long chain of human triumph and misery. Wars have been waged, marvelous things have been invented, disease has broken out, and people have fallen in love. Nonetheless, lists are called for, and this is my list of the five most important events of 2014.

1: Europe’s Persistent Decline

The single most important event in 2014 was one that did not occur: Europe did not solve its longstanding economic, political and social problems. I place this as number one because regardless of its decline, Europe remains a central figure in the global system. The European Union’s economy is the largest in the world, taken collectively, and the Continent remains a center of global commerce, science and culture. Europe’s inability to solve its problems, or really to make any significant progress, may not involve armies and explosions, but it can disrupt the global system more than any other factor present in 2014.

The vast divergence of the European experience is as troubling as the general economic malaise. Experience is affected by many things, but certainly the inability to find gainful employment is a central feature of it. The huge unemployment rates in Spain, Greece and southern Europe in general profoundly affect large numbers of people. The relative prosperity of Germany and Austria diverges vastly from that of southern Europe, so much so that it calls into question the European Union’s viability.

Indeed, we have seen a rise of anti-EU parties not only in southern Europe but also in the rest of Europe as well. None have crossed the threshold to power, but many are strengthening along with the idea that the benefits of membership in a united Europe, constituted as it is, are outweighed by the costs. Greece will have an election in the coming months, and it is possible that a party favoring withdrawal from the eurozone will become a leading power. The United Kingdom’s UKIP favors withdrawal from the European Union altogether.

There is significant and growing risk that either the European Union will have to be revised dramatically to survive or it will simply fragment. The fragmentation of the European Union would shift authority formally back to myriad nation states. Europe’s experience with nationalism has been troubling, to say the least — certainly in the first part of the 20th century. And when a region as important as Europe redefines itself, the entire world will be affected.

Therefore, Europe’s failure to make meaningful progress in finding a definitive solution to a problem that began to emerge six years ago has overwhelming global significance. It also raises serious questions about whether the problem is soluble. It seems to me that if it were, it would have been solved, given the threat it poses. With each year that passes, we must be open to the possibility that this is no longer a crisis that will pass, but a new, permanent European reality. This is something we have been pointing to for years, and we see the situation as increasingly ominous because it shows no signs of improving.

2: Ukrainian and Russian Crises

Historically, tensions between Russia and the European Peninsula and the United States have generated both wars and near wars and the redrawing of the borders of both the peninsula and Russia. The Napoleonic Wars, World War I, World War II and the Cold War all ended in dramatic redefinitions of Europe’s balance of power and its map. Following from our first major event of the year, the events in Ukraine and the Russian economic crisis must rank as the second most important event.

Stratfor forecast several years ago that there would be a defining crisis in Ukraine that would be the opening to a new and extended confrontation between the European Peninsula and the United States on one side and Russia on the other. We have also forecast that while Russia has regional power, its long-term sustainability is dubious. The same internal factors that brought the Soviet Union crashing down haunt the Russian Federation. We assumed that the “little Cold War” would begin in the mid-2010s, but that Russian decline would not begin until about 2020.

We have seen the first act, and we continue to believe that the final act isn’t imminent, but it is noteworthy that Russia is reeling internally at the same time that it is trying to cope with events in Ukraine. We do not expect Russia to collapse, nor do we expect the Ukrainian crisis to evolve into a broader war. Nevertheless, it seems to me that with this crisis we have entered into a new historical phase in which a confrontation with significant historical precedents is re-emerging. The possibility of conflict is not insignificant; the possibility that the pressures on Russia, internally and externally, might not speed up the country’s own crisis cannot be discounted. Certainly the consequences of oil prices, internal economic dislocation, the volatility of the ruble and sanctions all must give us pause.

The Russians think of this as an event triggered by the United States. In the newspaper Kommersant, I was quoted as saying that the American coup in Ukraine was the most blatant in history. What I actually said was that if this was a coup, it was the most blatant in history, since the United States openly supported the demonstrators and provided aid for the various groups, and it was quite open in supporting a change in government. The fact that what I said was carefully edited is of no importance, as I am not important in this equation. It is important in that it reveals a Russian mindset that assumes that covert forces are operating against Russia. There are forces operating against it, but there is nothing particularly covert about them.

The failures of Russian intelligence services to manage the Ukrainian crisis and the weakening of the Russian economy raise serious questions about the future of Russia, since the Russian Federal Security Service is a foundation of the Russian state. And if Russia destabilizes, it is the destabilization of a nation with a massive nuclear capability. Thus, this is our second most important event.

3: The Desynchronization of the Global Economy

Europe is predicted to see little to no growth in 2015, with some areas in recession or even depression already. China has not been able to recover its growth rate since 2008 and is moving sideways at best. The United States announced a revision indicating that it grew at a rate of 5 percent in the third quarter of 2014. Japan is in deep recession. That the major economic centers of the world are completely out of synch with each other, not only statistically but also structurally, indicates that a major shift in how the world works may be underway.

The dire predictions for the U.S. economy that were floated in the wake of the 2008 crisis have not materialized. There has been neither hyperinflation nor deflation. The economy did not collapse. Rather, it has slowly but systematically climbed out of its hole in terms of both growth and unemployment. The forecast that China would shortly overtake the United States as the world’s leading economy has been delayed at least. The forecast that Europe would demonstrate that the “Anglo-Saxon” economic model is inferior to Europe’s more statist and socially sensitive approach has been disproven. And the assumption that Japan’s dysfunction would lead to massive defaults also has not happened.

The desynchronization of the international system raises questions about what globalization means, and whether it has any meaning at all. But a major crisis is occurring in economic theory. The forecasts made by many leading economists in the wake of 2008 have not come to pass. Just as Milton Friedman replaced John Maynard Keynes as the defining theorist, we are awaiting a new comprehensive explanation for how the economic world is working today, since neither Keynes nor Friedman seem sufficient any longer. A crisis in economic theory is not merely an academic affair. Investment decisions, career choices and savings plans all pivot on how we understand the economic world. At the moment, the only thing that can be said is that the world is filled with things that need explaining.

4: The Disintegration of the Sykes-Picot World

Sir Mark Sykes and Francois Georges-Picot were British and French diplomats who redrew the map of the region between the Mediterranean Sea and Persia after World War I. They invented countries like Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and Iraq. Some of these nation-states are in turmoil. The events in Syria and Iraq resemble the events in Lebanon a generation ago: The central government collapses, and warlords representing various groups take control of fragments of the countries, with conflicts flowing across international boundaries. Thus the Iraqi crisis and the Syrian crisis have become hard to distinguish, and all of this is affecting internal Lebanese factions.

This is important in itself. The question is how far the collapse of the post-World War I system will go. Will the national governments reassert themselves in a decisive way, or will the fragmentation continue? Will this process of disintegration spread to other heirs of Sykes and Picot? This question is more important than the emergence of the Islamic State. Radical Islamism is a factor in the region, and it will assert itself in various organizational forms. What is significant is that while a force, the Islamic State is in no position to overwhelm other factions, just as they cannot overwhelm it. Thus it is not the Islamic State, but the fragmentation and the crippling of national governments, that matters. Syrian President Bashar al Assad is just a warlord now, and the government in Baghdad is struggling to be more than just another faction.

Were the dynamics of the oil markets today the same as they were in 1973, this would rank higher. But the decline in consumption by China and the rise of massive new sources of oil reduce the importance of what happens in this region. It still matters, but not nearly as much as it did. What is perhaps the most important question is whether this presages the rise of Turkey, which is the only force historically capable of stabilizing the region. I expect that to happen in due course. But it is not clear that Turkey can take this role yet, even if it wished to.

5: The Births of Asher and Mira

I was given two new grandchildren this year. For me, this must be listed as one of the five major events of 2014. I am aware that it is less significant to others, but I not only want to announce them, I also want to point out an important truth. The tree of life continues to grow new branches inexorably, even in the face of history, adversity and suffering. The broad forces of history and geopolitics shape our lives, but we live our lives in the small things. As much as I care about the other four matters — and I do — I care much more for the birth and lives of Asher and Mira and my other grandchild, Ari.

Life is experience in the context of history. It is lived in intimate contact with things that history would not notice and that geopolitics would not see as significant. “There are more things … than are dreamt of in your philosophy,” Hamlet said to his friend Horatio. Indeed, and their names are Asher, Mira and Ari. This must not be forgotten.

Have a happy New Year’s, and may God grant you peace and joy in your lives, in spite of the hand of history and geopolitics.

Follow us: @stratfor on Twitter | Stratfor on Facebook

The Top Five Events in 2014 is republished with permission of Stratfor.”

And my take on these:

1. I’ve been saying for as long as I’ve been writing this blog (actually longer) that Europe is dying. Since I have many UK readers, this is the background as to why I would likely support UKIP, out here in the colonies is a vast reservoir of liking, sympathy, and yes love for Mummy, most of us would very much like it if you were to regain your heritage and come grow with us. It worked well for the Tudors, and I think it would work even better for us all today. As Winston Churchill said, “The same language, the same hymns, and, more or less, the same ideals.”  As William Wordsworth said in 1807,

We must be free or die, who speak the tongue

That Shakespeare spoke, the faith and morals held.

Your elites have had their fling with the Europeans again, it’s time to come home, where you are loved and appreciated. Freedom matters, guys, too many of our people are buried around the world not to remember our heritage.

2. Russia has bitten off far more than it can chew, I think and will choke. What happens then is anyone’s guess. It a lot like 1979 all over again but Russia is a lot less stable than the USSR was, and a lot more uninhibited. You’ve noted I’m sure that the petroleum glut has reduced Russia’s GDP by up to 50%, and American production in government fields is still down by about 17% from its peak. If we drill on government lands and Saudi Arabia, who wants to hurt Iran, keeps producing, what happens? I don’t know and I doubt anyone really does.

3. We’re not in particularly good shape ourselves, but compared to the rest of the world, US, UK, Canada and the rest of Oceania, are pulling away, although not as fast as we did in the nineteenth century. I don’t know enough in this field to offer predictions but, again we’re “better together”, as we heard a lot of last year. If we can bring India along, we have a world beater started.

4. I don’t think the Sykes-Picot world will be coming back, we’ best be thinking about what happens next. And remember that Middle Eastern oil is becoming less important by the week. What happens when the Saudi’s go broke?

5. And finally, Congratulation to Mr. Friedman and his family. He’s right, whatever happens life goes on.

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About NEO
Lineman, Electrician, Industrial Control technician, Staking Engineer, Inspector, Quality Assurance Manager, Chief Operations Officer

21 Responses to The Top Five Events in 2014

  1. Congratulations on Asher and Mira, and a happy new year to you and yours.

    You laudably begin your five top events with Europe, which is where the political and economic focus needs to be in 2015. Astutely, you also home in on southern Europe as the crisis point. While you mention Syriza in Greece (and a situation that will explode later this month), I want to help you understand what is happening in Spain, and will potentially explode in May.

    Podemos is the extreme left political newcomer (allied to Syriza) and promoted by the radical political theorists of the main Spanish universities, supported by the Venezuelan “Chavistas”, and set on ruining the Spanish economy and the chances of recovery. Worse than that, the climate of extreme left wing neo-Gramscian rejection of all the gains made by the Spanish democratic period post-Franco (1976 to present) means that the Catholic Church is coming under attack in a way that it has not experienced since 1936. At present the Church in Spain is subject to constant media attack and its finances have been severely reduced. Religious education in primary schools under the present PP (conservative) government has been reduced by 50% from what it was under the PSOE (socialist) regime, which is a scandal.

    If you look at the Greece situation it is nothing compared to the disaster that Spain could present to the European Community if this once great country succumbs to the headbangers of Podemos, supported by an electorate exhausted from seven years of hardship, and now ready to throw in the towel to give power to a bunch of neo-Trotskyists who will wreck the economy within three weeks.

    Happy new year. Where Spain will be a year from now is anyone’s guess.

    Like

    • NEO says:

      Thanks, not much about Spain makes it over here, except that it’s in trouble, with very high unemployment. You’ll not be surprised that I think government involvement in education, here, there, anywhere, really, to be pernicious. Still, somehow the young have to be educated.

      I will say this though, Trotsky does not have the answers.

      Like

  2. the unit says:

    Neither do I know much about Spain or Greece. Cyprus I watched wondering about government directly taking my lifelong savings.
    Are the Venezuelan “Chavistas”causing the unrest and troubles in those places in Europe? I don’t know…do they show picture I.D.? Anyway Venez’s running out of toilet paper and money.
    I think this is more likely involved…

    http://www.independentsentinel.com/guess-who-provided-the-nyc-protesters-signs/

    Liked by 1 person

    • NEO says:

      Interesting (although unsurprising) link.

      As for Venezuela, it has much the same problems as Russia, although writ larger, since its dictatorship is far less competent than Putin. Both are an example of putting too many of ones eggs in one basket, and then tripping on the way to market.

      Like

      • Sadly, the Podemos party in Spain has convinced many potential voters that Venezuela is a democratic model to follow. I am not kidding: the present polls indicate the Podemos “Chavistas” are 7 points ahead of the ruling party now.

        This kind of situation is both a sad reflection on European culture, as it is also a reflection of a failed political and social education. The Church also has failed the people in catechesis.

        Liked by 1 person

        • NEO says:

          Wow,and we think we have uniformed electorates! Venezuela is a good model to follow if failure, in all spheres, is your goal. As Unit said, toilet paper is nearly unobtainable there, Let alone, anything approaching a decent standard of living. If one must have a failed state for a model, I think Cuba would be better.

          European culture for some reason (or many) has been in decline since WW I. Part of it is I suspect, our influence, and the losses from the war. The birth statistics tell the story, and why I think it to be dying. Unfortunately, the church represents its culture, all too well.

          Liked by 1 person

        • the unit says:

          I think I’m going to be inspired to read more about these PoDEMOs. Probably will remind me “that life is hard, it’s even harder when you’re stupid.” 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  3. the unit says:

    The NWO is taking a smack and reeling. They’re asking each other in the order…

    Proposed solutions not very helpful. How might diminished oil prices be helpful?

    Liked by 1 person

    • NEO says:

      indeed.

      America was built on and still works best with low energy prices, we are so big that transportation cost is critical, and always has been. That’s why the Progressives always try to keep it expensive, it makes it harder to produce the underclass they need.

      That’s also why they favor illegal immigration, the poor are more easily led, and if you can double the total of the unskilled, you are likely to win. Trouble is the unskilled often have skilled (or better educated) offspring who see through the charade.

      Happens every time, Wilson failed, so did Roosevelt, and so is Obama. Just doesn’t work in a dynamic society, or the real world for that matter.

      Liked by 1 person

      • the unit says:

        I was really asking how maybe lower energy prices would be helpful to the NWO crowd? Major obstacle seems to be the Caliphate bunch, who don’t mind dying. Thinking it cuts into their ability to finance Caliphate efforts, or whatever is their goal. Was just thinking. We used to do that a couple of generations ago.
        Further, I think the efforts to get rid of ME dictators was the NWO thinking it would make the area easier to control. More “What can you do?” They climbed a tree.
        My thinking comes from a ways back when Armand Hammer flew unhampered into the Soviet Union. I thought then they all were planning how to rule the world, communism or capitalism, and I think they decided on something in between.
        Never mind me, just thinking. 🙂 And yeah lower gas energy prices are good for us. As long as it props up the NWO crowd too. Just more thinking.

        Like

        • NEO says:

          I think the Middle East will revert to being mostly irrelevant at some point. remember Columbus was looking for a way around it also. NWO? Well the world is fractious place and as long as we maintain a semblance of freedom, I wouldn’t worry overmuch, although we would be well advised I thin to withdraw (and throw out) its handmaiden the UN.

          Thinking is where change (for better and worse) starts so don’t stop. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

      • the unit says:

        Good idea and advice. Thanks.

        Liked by 1 person

        • NEO says:

          ideas and advice are cheap, even I can afford to give them. 🙂

          Like

        • the unit says:

          Everything I know, I knew wasn’t everything to know. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

        • NEO says:

          True for us all. that’s why we study and think.:-)

          Like

        • the unit says:

          Before we get too deep in events, the Ducks are going to win the College Football National Championship. How do I know? Easy name to remember, not Cornhuskers, Boilermakers, or Buckeyes. Change of pace. Hope no “the Won” minds. 🙂 And my son went to Fl. State and I live where if you don’t support Alabama…someone will put a cherry bomb in your mailbox. 🙂

          Like

        • NEO says:

          Hah! Reality! I think you’re right. 🙂

          Still it felt very good to see a Big 10 Ten beat Alabama 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

        • the unit says:

          I remember Nebraska glory years. Would love to see them up again. It will happen I’m sure.
          I love college game over NFL anytime. Of course the game is under attack as well by the left, but as you said earlier…Freedom will ring. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

        • NEO says:

          Living in Nebraska has somewhat soured me on the college game as well, here its more minor league than college, still it’s a lot better than the NFL. The left attacks anything that’s American, so its to be expected. But like the dog chasing the car, they wouldn’t know what to do if they caught it. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Modernity and now Postmodernity has ravished the whole West, not just Continental Europe, as the British Commonwealth! And South America, and even America! Again, this is the time (and it will grow) of Gentile Apostasy! Relativism is here to stay!

    Liked by 1 person

    • the unit says:

      True. However in my territory of the South, we cook bacon crisp and save the drippins in a grease jar…like ammo. Can flick a spoonful on a moments notice which will make the enemy flinch. Stay put a relative second will be plenty of time to finish the job. 🙂

      Like

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