Geopolitical Shifts Will Enable Cyprus’ Reunification

Nicosia Cyprus
The sun sets on Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus (Shutterstock/Iv Nikolny)

In 1974, Turkish forces invaded Cyprus, splitting the island into a Turkish north and a Greek Cypriot south. Now, for the first time in decades, unification seems at hand. Once the sorest point for the NATO alliance, the Cyprus dispute may soon be consigned to the dustbin of history.

What’s happened here? Why has everyone suddenly started acting so reasonable?

The short answer: the geopolitical conditions that caused the 1974 war are dead and buried. Read more “Geopolitical Shifts Will Enable Cyprus’ Reunification”

The Arab Spring In Review

A protester waves an Egyptian flag in Cairo, February 4, 2012
A protester waves an Egyptian flag in Cairo, February 4, 2012 (Alisdare Hickson)

Five years later, the dismal record of the Arab Spring is all too apparent. Syria burns, Egypt’s new pharaoh goes from strength to strength while the Gulf monarchs, having launched war in Yemen, have rarely seemed so lethal. Democracy, it is clear, did not sweep in with the revolutions of the 2011-12.

But that’s no reason to dismiss the spring entirely. All such wide-scale events have resonance. For better or worse, the Arab world is certainly different and in some slim ways even improved since 2011.

Here now is the geopolitical review of the Arab Spring. Read more “The Arab Spring In Review”

What Oil Prices Mean for Geopolitics

Persian Gulf drilling platforms
Saudi drilling platforms in the Persian Gulf (Aramco)

2003 was a different era. The United States waged a war of choice in Iraq; Vladimir Putin’s Russia was seen as a paper tiger; China’s economic boom roared but didn’t threaten; Dubai was unknown; and the United States seemed like it would forever be an oil importer.

Much has changed. But today, the price of oil dropped to $27 a barrel, last seen in the heady days of the first W. Bush Administration.

There’s a lot going on here. Let’s get super. Read more “What Oil Prices Mean for Geopolitics”

Why European Nationalism Is Back

The German flag is lowered in Berlin, March 25, 2015
The German flag is lowered in Berlin, March 25, 2015 (Bundesregierung)

The continent that gave us two world wars is rousing.

The litany of nationalist events is long: a near-miss Scottish secession, a looming Catalonian one, the rise of the United Kingdom Independence Party, the relative success of France’s National Front and now, following the mass attacks on women in Cologne and other German cities on New Year’s Eve, a sudden public shift against migration in Germany. A continent that once embarked upon the transnational European Union aiming to end nationalism is now turned rightwards.

There is a tale to tell here. Let’s begin. Read more “Why European Nationalism Is Back”

Bad News Made Worse: Saudi Arabia Is in Free Fall

View of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, October 17, 2014
View of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, October 17, 2014 (Andrew A. Shenouda)

It’s important to look forward as one year ends and another begins: to make resolutions, regret our mistakes and to wonder where it could all go wrong in the next twelve months.

There are fewer countries on Earth that have as much explosive potential in 2016 as Saudi Arabia.

Yes, there are failed or nearly failed states like Syria, Iraq, Somalia, the Central African Republic, etc. But such sores spots are in the blatant open: for them to get much worse seems difficult, considering how bad things are in such places.

Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, has all the sheen of stability and security: massive oil reserves, stable institutions, a powerful monarchy headed up by a king who seems to know what he wants and an all-important alliance with the United States.

Don’t let any of that fool you. Saudi Arabia is facing its biggest crisis in its history and the odds are against the Kingdom navigating it well in 2016. Read more “Bad News Made Worse: Saudi Arabia Is in Free Fall”

2015 in Geopolitical Review

World leaders speak at the G7 summit in Bavaria, Germany, June 11
World leaders speak at the G7 summit in Bavaria, Germany, June 11 (Bundesregierung)

Geopolitics is about trends. Individual events add up to patterns; patterns melt into inertia; inertia gains social gravity; inevitably, maps are redrawn, regimes fall and through the litany of news reports we wonder how it all came about.

So while it is beyond cliché to do a yearly review, for geopolitics, it’s also extremely useful. What were the trends in 2015 and where might they go in 2016 and beyond? Let’s get super. Read more “2015 in Geopolitical Review”

How America Earned Donald Trump

Businessman Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 27
Businessman Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 27 (Gage Skidmore)

From Coney Island apartment tower lord to Republican frontrunner, Donald Trump has come a long way. But nobody should assume the man has remade America: rather, his success is not in changing Americans but following the most profitable trends.

His real estate empire was built upon a New York City ready to renew itself at nearly any cost: his real estate deals capitalized on the frantic rebuilding of much of the city’s decayed infrastructure in the 1980s and 1990s. He set up casinos in New Jersey; he made himself into a reality TV star. He didn’t create such conditions but rather exploited them.

And this tendency explains virtually all his successes. Trump is not a man who invents trends: he exploits them. Now he is exploiting the Republican Party and the American electorate and Americans have no one but themselves to blame. Read more “How America Earned Donald Trump”

How to Have a Geopolitical Conversation with a Nativist

Businessman Donald Trump makes a speech in Derry, New Hampshire, August 19
Businessman Donald Trump makes a speech in Derry, New Hampshire, August 19 (Michael Vadon)

It’s not such a big deal that Donald Trump has called to ban all Muslims from entering the United States: it’s a big deal that there are people who support him.

This anti-refugee nativism is found worldwide, but is, right now, especially powerful — and dangerous — in the West. It manifests itself as Trump and his wing in the Republican Party in the United States, as the English Defense League and the and UKIP in the United Kingdom and as the National Front in France. To varying degrees, each seeks to wall off their nations from the outside world — and each is dead wrong for seeking that.

Thankfully, each of these nation states is democratic and these views can be fought with conversation and facts. Here now is how to have a geopolitical conversation with a nativist. Read more “How to Have a Geopolitical Conversation with a Nativist”

The Geopolitics That Allowed Turkey to Down a Russian Jet

Russian military jet
A Russian military jet takes off from Bassel al-Assad International Airport in Latakia, Syria, November 5, 2015 (Russian Ministry of Defense)

If it had been accident, we wouldn’t be talking about it. If the Turks had misfired, if they hadn’t understood the target, hell, if they had outright denied doing it, today’s article would be quite different.

But a NATO state shot down a Russian fighter. On purpose. And no apology seems forthcoming.

Why? When you know your enemy has nuclear weapons, when you know to antagonize them could spiral into Armageddon, why take that kind of risk?

Here now are the geopolitical conditions that allowed Turkey to shoot down a Russian fighter jet — and why things didn’t spiral into World War III. Read more “The Geopolitics That Allowed Turkey to Down a Russian Jet”