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Escalation of military-political confrontation, trade wars likely in 2019: Eurasia Report

New Delhi, Dec 4 (IANS) Increased geo-political competition between Russia, the US and China, escalation of military-political confrontation and trade wars between these three nations and the possibility of a “Great War” in the Middle East are concerns for 2019, an international study has pointed out.

“The world faces major crises in 2019 with escalation of military-political confrontation and trade wars, humanitarian tragedies and environmental disasters,” according to the study ‘Global Risks for Eurasia in 2019’, conducted by 30 top global experts.

Highlighting the top 10 global risks for Eurasia in 2019, the study pointed out to escalation of the confrontation between China and the US; full-scale expansion of trade wars; the Great War in the Middle East; further degradation of relations between Russia and the West; “defrosting” of hotspots in Eurasia; growth of separatism and ethno-confessional conflicts; intensification of environmental and water challenges; strengthening and evolution of cyber threats; the beginning of a new arms race; and risk of major nuclear and technological disasters.

The study was prepared by the team of experts of the Institute of World Economics and Politics (IWEP) headed by its Director Yerzhan Saltybayev.

It was based on the opinions expressed by over 30 global experts and politicians, including several former heads of states and Nobel laureates. Additionally, more than 1,000 experts from 60 countries also provided inputs.

The study was presented recently as part of the fourth annual meeting of the Astana Club, an international discussion forum, held in Astana, Kazakhstan.

“The aggravation of geopolitical competition between Russia, the US and China is taking place not only in the global context, but also within the perimeter of the Greater Eurasia. It is necessary to realize: misunderstanding, miscalculations in crisis situations can potentially lead to military confrontation,” President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev said in his address at the meeting (November 12-13) of the Astana Club.

“We haven’t observed such confrontation in a long time. The so-called post-bipolar world order is being finally left in the past. We are now witnessing the formation of the ‘Greater Eurasia’ outlines.

“This process has been affected by the changing balance between global players as well as by the growing competition between regional powers. The fundamental disagreements in the main issue – the future format of the world order – cannot yet be overcome by all of them,” Nazarbayev said.

Notable authors of the study are geopolitical and strategic forecasting gurus and Nobel laureates, including Robert Kaplan, senior advisor at Eurasia group; Dan Smith, director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI); Mathew Burrows, director of the Atlantic Council’s Strategic Foresight Initiative; Samir Saran, President of the Observer Research Foundation; Matthew Rojansky, Director of the Kennan Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Centre; Rajendra Pachauri, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and president of the World Forum on Sustainable Development and Mohamed El Baradei, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (1997-2009) and Nobel peace prize winner in 2005.

The study has pointed out that the two most serious risks are associated with two areas of confrontation between the US and China.

“The first is in the military-political environment – involving mutual distrust and growing competition for dominance in Asia. The US will strengthen its policy of containing China, strengthening the anti-Chinese consensus in the Asia-Pacific region. This will provoke a response from China, which will seek to counteract the pressure.”

The second area relates to the trade war between the two giants which started in mid-2018.

“Tariff restrictions are sure to be extended, resulting in a slowdown in both countries’ economies. The effect of protective measures overflowing to other markets may be seen as a result also. A slowdown in global trade and investment will be caused by trade restrictions around the world.”

The consequences of the US withdrawal from a nuclear deal with Iran could trigger a largescale war in the Middle East, it added.

“In 2019, relations between Russia and the West will continue to deteriorate. Pressure on Moscow may be intensified by sanctions. The next targets may be the largest Russian banks, whose dollar assets may be frozen. The defrosting of Eurasia’s hotspots – the conflicts in eastern Ukraine and Nagorno-Karabakh and Afghanistan – could exacerbate relations between the great and regional powers,” the study said.

There is a high risk of a fresh round of violence between Sunni and Shia groups in the Middle East, and in the near future many thousands of refugees, especially Rohingya Muslims, are at risk of a humanitarian crisis.

Geopolitical confrontation will grow into cyberwar, with power plants and grids, military-industrial complexes, and electronic networks coming under attack. Losses from the actions of cyber-criminals are growing dynamically and nearing 1 per cent of world GDP, it pointed out.

President Nazarbayev proposed a number of measures to mitigate these risks, such as the establishment of a dialogue platform between the leading world powers.

–IANS
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