2017: Geopolitical Wrap-up


This year, was important in many ways in international relations. Several major shifts took place, primarily across the Eurasian landmass – a territory where the main geopolitical scenarios influencing the rest of the world are being played out.

A major struggle has been seen between Russia and the US. Russian hopes that the newly-elected President Trump would be able to assuage the crisis in the bilateral relations of the two countries turned out to be false. The US has considerably increased its military pressure on Russia’s borderlands. There is even an increasing number of facts pointing to further escalation in relations. 2017 showed that there happened an important shift in the US military stance as well towards Russia across the former Soviet space. Georgia and Ukraine are to receive more US military assistance. For instance, several days ago, the US announced it will provide Ukraine with "enhanced defensive capabilities" to help Kyiv "deter further aggression." The move prompted an angry reaction from Moscow, as everyone understands that this will embolden Ukraine in its struggle with the Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Another interesting development is the return of geopolitical thinking, pure realism, or its German equivalent - Realpolitik - to the Eurasian theater. Calculations based on the premises of balance of power are now taking precedence. This has been a slow process, but was eventually solidified in the new National Strategy of the United States.

In Europe, the year yielded some very positive results for the EU. There were serious doubts about the future of the Union as numerous far-right parties sprang up across the continent. However, the French elections, followed by the German ones, once again put aside any hopes of the enemies of EU integration. In this particular case, Russian plans were dashed as Moscow was pinning its hopes on said far-right parties, as they would have significantly weakened the notion of the European Union.

In 2017, in the Middle East, the war in Syria reached its culmination and, quite surprisingly, Russia, Iran and the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad gained some significant results in the conflict. Aleppo fell, as did major cities under ISIS control. Damascus is now almost entirely controlling the country.

The Middle East has also seen the rise of the Kurdish state in northern Iraq. Geopolitical constraints disabled its eventual creation, but the holding of a referendum of independence was a strong message of Kurdish ambitions. Overall, this year was also a year of separatism. Catalonia tried to separate itself from Spain, but failed, even after declaring independence.

In Asia Pacific, we witnessed interesting developments around North Korea and its nuclear ambitions. In all probability, the Kim dynasty already possesses a minimum nuclear arsenal and what is more troublesome is the fact that the US cannot do much to disarm Pyongyang.

Related to the latter development is the increased pressure heaped on the iconic Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) signed between the US and the Soviet Union. There have been numerous hints in the media that the INF treaty would eventually be scrapped. Both Washington and Moscow simply do not see any reason for keeping the agreement when there are other rising powers attaining/increasing nuclear capabilities.

The developments chosen and discussed here would have major repercussions for the year ahead. Geopolitics has now officially returned to Eurasia. This will only increase pressure on major powers and will make it more difficult to find compromises around major military and diplomatic crises (eastern Ukraine, Nagorno-Karabakh, the Kurdish issue etc.) across the continent.

Emil Avdaliani

27 December 2017 18:22