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Inicio arrow Análisis arrow Mundo arrow Political Situation in the World: December 2014

Political Situation in the World: December 2014 PDF Imprimir E-Mail
Jan-15-15 - by Rosendo Fraga

1. Year 2014 opened with the crisis between Russia and Ukraine that ended up involving the West. The fall of the pro-Russian Government besieged by pro-Western protests in the streets, precipitated the secession of Crimea and its occupation by Russia. This in turn encouraged separatism in the pro-Russian regions of East Ukraine, a civil war of "low intensity", which has already claimed 4,000 lives in less than a year. This led relations between Russia and NATO countries to their worst level since the Cold War. The economic weakness of Russia has led Putin to redouble the bet, with a military deployment within Ukraine and the Baltic Sea, to show the only instrument on which it keeps relative advantage. This situation led to closer relations with China. In a Europe that failed to get out of the economic stagnation in 2014, the failure of separatism in the referendum in Scotland and the retreat of Catalan independent movement, have moderated the impulse of the projects of secession in the continent, which is still latent. The year closes in Europe with an unstable Greece again with an uncertain election.

2. The emergence of the Islamic State (ISIS) by setting its "caliphate" in regions of Iraq and Syria, pushed Islamist terrorism into the global scene. The establishment of territorial Governments combined with network broadcasts of beheadings and other atrocities, together with the return to orthodox Muslim practices of the past and the persecution of religious minorities, transformed this group in the most relevant movement of Islamic extremism in the world in 2014, displacing Al Qaeda in this role. The absence of a centralized organization, terrorist groups in other parts of the world such as Boko Haram in Nigeria, begin to adopt this model, as well as in Libya, which have hastened into chaos, when the Israeli-Palestinian conflict escalates dangerously. The situation in Iraq and Syria has led the U.S. and its allies to military intervention but only in air combat for now. In this context, negotiations with Iran on nuclear matters have been dilated. The change in status has led Obama to increase the number of military advisers in Iraq to close to 3,000 and leave 12,000 men in Afghanistan despite the formal withdrawal of the NATO mission at the end of the year.

3. The defeat of Obama in the mid-term election crowned a year when he lost his protagonist role as leader and the United States as a global power. This happened although the economy recovered more than expected and employment improved, although public opinion does not perceived it this way. The return of racial disturbances showed one of the pending issues of the country, which has the highest level of poverty since the 1930s. The Republicans control both houses of Congress, but without a clear candidate to win the presidential elections, while the nomination of Hillary Clinton among Democrats gained terrain. According to new GDP measuring methods - based on purchasing power- already in 2014 the Chinese economy seems to have exceeded that of the US. But at the same time, the US not only achieved oil self-sufficiency with the exploitation of shale gas, but is projected as an exporter, confirming its great economic and technological dynamism. The agreement with Cuba has strong impact on the media but lower strategic relevance.

4. The APEC and G20 summits in November, showed a constructive role of China as a global power. Beijing hosted the first, where Obama arrived after the electoral defeat, looking to advance in the trans-Pacific FTA comprising 12 of the 21 countries of this forum, excluding China. But the President Xi responded by proposing that APEC becomes a large free trade zone joining in the United States and China. The year 2014 showed the Asian power by reducing its growth and Japan without being able to get out of the recession. It also evidenced the revitalization of nationalism in the major countries of Asia, such as China, Japan and India. These three countries are governed by "strong" leaders. Xi has completed his first year of Government moving forward to make his country the power of Asia. Abe in Japan had a landslide victory in early elections and seeks to revitalize the economy and more nationalism, and Modi, in six months of Government, has met with Obama, Xi and Putin, showing the importance of India as a global power. In response, Western leaders (Obama, Cameron, and Hollande and to some extent Merkel), appear as weak leaders.

5.  The drastic fall in the price of oil at the end of the year, produces both economic and political consequences. It occurs in the general framework of a global economy that fails to recover after the financial crisis of 2008 and with a general decrease in the price of raw materials. The large oil exporters such as Russia in Eurasia, Iran in the Middle East and Venezuela in Latin America, lost political influence and can complicate governance. The U.S. and Saudi Arabia do not reduce the supply of oil, and this impedes the recovery of prices, claimed by most of the OPEC countries. Putin sees in this phenomenon a strategic maneuver in the West to destabilize his Government, together with the sanctions imposed by the U.S. and EU over the conflict in Ukraine. The year closes with the open discussion not only up to until when will the oil price continue to fall in 2015, but also about whether the phenomenon is going to emphasize the global economic stagnation or can contribute to the revival.

6. To conclude:

a) The year started with the conflict between the West and Russia around Ukraine, which still is unsolved. The European economy fails to recover and separatism hit the political agenda.

b) The Islamic State (ISIS) emerged as a central player in fundamental terrorism and in the geopolitics of the Middle East, leading the West to military intervention, although in a limited manner.

c) The mid-term election weakens Obama as the US improves its economy though with difficulties to assume a global role.

d) The Summits of APEC and the G20 consolidated China as the Asian power in a continent where Japan and India are also governed by strong leaders.

e) The drop in the oil price is the major political and economic event at the end of the year, affecting countries like Russia, Iran and Venezuela while the US and Saudi Arabia fail to reduce their offer.

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