What Happened This Week:
It’s a new year which means Eurasia Group, the risk consultancy I founded and run, has just released our annual look ahead at the top 10 geopolitical risks facing the world in 2019. Buckle up.
Why It Matters:
Because politics matter now more than ever, both to international markets and to the way people live their everyday lives. The Top Risks are intended to help you better understand what political stories you need to pay attention to this year. It’s never been more difficult to distinguish between “signal” and “noise”—made harder by an unrelenting news cycle that makes the “noise” near-deafening.
What Happens Next:
Plenty; it’s going to be a long year. Among the things Eurasia Group analysts will be keeping an eye out for in the calendar year ahead:
- A U.S.-China relationship that becomes increasingly defined by the fundamentally different approaches the two world powers take towards technology, security and economic growth.
- Washington getting more assertive about cyber deterrence, raising the risk of spillover in both the virtual and actual worlds.
- European populism entering the political mainstream via elections to the European Parliament, giving euroskepticism the type of institutional heft that has so far eluded it.
- U.S. domestic politics becoming more dysfunctional and partisan, potentially leading to a constitutional crisis in the world’s largest economy.
- The politicization of all things tech, resulting in a lackluster upcoming generation of emerging technologies.
- More world leaders railing against the injustice and failings of the current world order, in turn weakening that same world order further.
- A Mexican government led by an unpredictable and interventionist president. Elections in Ukraine that will inevitably invite Russian attention and interference. And an election in Nigeria contested by two candidates who only look good when compared to each other.
But there’s one thing Eurasia Group will be paying attention to above all else this year: long-term problems. Because the world will continue to be consumed by addressing the various political crises of the day, the broader challenges facing the globe will continue to go unaddressed — from the erosion of U.S. democratic institutions, to the fracturing of key global alliances. That means when a crisis does hit down the road, its impact will be devastating. That’s the very top risk of 2019.
The One Thing to Read About It:
Eurasia Group’s full report, obviously. If you prefer your risks in more visual form, we have accompanying videos as well.
The One Major Misconception About It:
That 2019 is shaping up to be the most politically explosive year ever. Yes, all the long term trendlines for global politics are trending downwards, but it takes years for a geopolitical order (complete with norms, customs and institutions) to unravel, and years for the next one to take hold in earnest. 2019 isn’t going to be a year where everything suddenly changes. Instead, we’ll see many of the same problems we saw in 2018, and plenty of them will bleed into 2020 as well.
The One Thing to Say About It:
People think it’s boom times for the political risk industry. But this gig is kind of like driving a taxi—you want it raining hard enough that everyone wants your services, but not so hard that people avoid leaving the house altogether.
The One Thing to Avoid Saying About It:
That Brexit is a huge risk for 2019. The U.K’s current political situation only got an asterisk is Eurasia Group’s report this year—that’s because there’s as much chance things will be just fine as everything going belly-up, and we just don’t know which is which at this point. The Brits can’t even do political risk right.
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