Geopolitics in the Never Normal
“There is no more world order, and the geopolitical landscape is more unstable than at the peak of the Cold War during the Cuban Missile Crisis.”
In his Magnum Opus "World Order", Henry Kissinger described the recipe for strategic disaster: "You cannot remain relevant by simply projecting the familiar forward". As we're drawn further into the 21st century by the dawn of a new decade, the very concept of 'world order' seems more elusive than ever before.
I'm a prodigious fan of Ian Bremmer, the NYU professor and political scientist who coined the 'G-ZERO' concept. In the realms of the G-20 summits, the G-8 gatherings and the G-7 world leaders, we're now down to G-zero. There is no more world order, and the geopolitical landscape is more unstable than at the peak of the Cold War during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
The pandemic of 2020 only accelerated the propensity towards a more unstable global order. Not only did we see an intensity of the tensions between the US and China, where a trade war escalated into a full blown technological cold-war deadlock. On top of that we have seen the rise of the technological digital giants, who grew even mightier as a result of COVID-19. This evolution clearly illustrated the further transition of power from nation states towards corporations, towards the global technological platforms.
One thing is clear: Geopolitics is back on the agenda. The post pandemic world will see a completely different future for the further globalization of the world economy. Geopolitical tensions and biological or ecological seismic shocks could considerably force companies to rethink global supply chains.
In all this global instability, I remain the perennial technological optimist. In the decade to come, we will witness the true nature of disruption, when its ‘virus’ spreads to exciting fields as healthcare, food, agriculture and energy. These will probably create even more systemic shifts in society and economy than the 'digital' revolution of the last decade. With that background of impending disruptions, in the light of this global instability, companies, countries and regions will have to dramatically accelerate their Day After Tomorrow vision.
In a region like Europe, wedged between the US and Asia, the very nature of its relevance on the global scene is at stake. The agonizing Brexit debacle has shown the cracks in the system, and although recently Europe has shown extremely high levels of ambition (the Green Deal for example), it will require more than narrative and rhetoric to reclaim the relevance of the Grand Old Lady.
One thing is clear: Kissinger was right. In this exciting future ahead of us, the most foolish thing to do is to 'project the familiar forward.' A recipe for disaster, indeed. Instead, we need fresh thinking, novel ideas and skillful creativity to master the transition to this Never Normal.