__MAIN_TEXT__

Page 1


Editorial Team EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

Archishman Ray Goswami

KCL Geopolitical Risk Society is the only student society dedicated solely to intelligence and political, security, environmental and financial risk at King’s College London and is one of the only societies of its type in the UK.

SENIOR EDITOR

Marcus Tao Mox Lim

Our aim is simple. To educate GPRIS members on how political and security risks affect business, NGOs, investors, and society at large. From the ramifications of human rights violations in Xinjiang on sales of tech start-ups in Silicon Valley to the impact of extreme temperature variations in the Peruvian Andes on coffee prices in UK supermarkets, geopolitical risk is all around us in today’s increasingly interconnected world. At GPRIS we have a passion for exploring how risk is identified, analysed, and managed by governments, corporations, NGOs and other stakeholders at all levels from the local to global. Through our offering of speaker panels, networking events, and workshops, we create an environment of opportunity by connecting passionate students with experts in this booming industry.

COPY EDITOR Julia Hoffmann

CREATIVE DIRECTOR Caroline Kamper

Contributing Writers

kclgpris.com facebook.com/kclgpris linkedin.com/company/kclgpris

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying or recoding, or in any information storage of retrieval system without proper acknowledgment of King’s College London Geopolitical Risk Society. The views, responsibility for facts and opinions rests exclusively with the writers and their interpretation of not necessarily reflect on the views of KCL Geopolitical Risk Society.

02 | KCL Geopolitical Risk Forecast Report 2021

Lucia Ruiz Vila | Henry Levinson | Jean Balme | Elena Ruxandra Seniuc | Pierre-Axel Thuring | Hannah Martinez | Victor Oliveira da Costa | Michael Liu | Alexei Hoey | Dominic McClaran | Phalak Vyas | Avery Benton | Emma Visentin | Siobhan Pebody

Credits Images Front Cover: Shutterstock: https://www.shutterstock.com/da/image-vector/abstract-low-poly-3d-king-chess-1740241157 Table of Contents: Shutterstock: https://www.axios.com/coronavirus-press-freedom-e11cd2d3-c1c3-4b67-b985-102c882a223d.html Layout & Design Influences KCL Geopolitical Risk Society - Risk Report 2020: A World in the Next Decade & Risk 2020: Our World in the Next Decade United Nations Development Programme, “UNDP Brief Gender-Based Violence and COVID-19”, Published May 2020, https://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/ home/librarypage/womens-empowerment/gender-based-violence-and-covid-19. html


foreword e are most proud to publish the Geopolitical Risk Society’s third annual risk report - ‘Risk 2021: Navigating through the Geopolitical Whirlpools of Tomorrow.’ The aim of the Geopolitical Risk Society is to inform members, students and interested parties on how geopolitical risks shape our world, and how they can be managed by various stakeholders.

W

Each year, the Society seeks the most interested and analytical students to reflect our mission in the production of a risk report. 2021 is no different. Thank you to all those who worked on ‘Risk 2021’ - writers, editors, social media promoters, to name but a few - the report would not be nearly as great as it is without your collective contributions. The world has dramatically changed since we published our ‘Risk Report 2020’ which wrote on key macrotrends shaping geopolitics in the decade leading up to 2030. In October 2020, we published our first Special Report which focussed on the implications of Coronavirus. However, Coronavirus is just one factor, albeit significant and global, of many. This is reflected in this report, which understands where Coronavirus may be a causal factor in world events, and where it may be a red herring. We are proud to be the UK’s premier student society dedicated to geopolitical risk forecasting, monitoring and analysis, and we know we would not be such without our fantastic members. We know that many of our members will be industry leaders, and, as we have said in previous publications, we hope that our society and this report will be the first of many in the area of risk analysis. We hope that ‘Risk 2021’ will continue to encourage and inspire other societies and students to engage with the field of geopolitical risk.

Marcus Lim Tao Mox

President & Senior Editor, King's College London Geopolitical Risk Society

Carla Tilsiter

Vice President, King's College London Geopolitical Risk Society

Enjoy reading! Marcus Lim, Carla Tilsiter & the GPRIS Committee

Foreword | 03


RISK REPORT 2021

Editor’s Note

Archishman is a second-year BA International Relations student. He is the Editor-in-Chief of KCL Geopolitical Risk Society Blog. He is interested in geostrategy in South, Central and Southeast Asia as well the ways by which interactions between intelligence services, terrorist organisations and organised crime determine contemporary geopolitics

“So, what are you? “A patriot, I suppose.” “What of? Facebook? Dot-coms? Global Warming? Corporations so big they can gobble up your broken little country in one bite? Who’s paying you?” John Le Carré, Agent Running in the Field (2019)

P

erhaps nothing encapsulates the current crisis in global confidence, particularly in the West, than the short exchange outlined above in the late John Le Carré’s final novel ‘Agent Running in the Field’ between MI6 agent Nat and his old Soviet asset Arkady. In this Brave New World that we find ourselves in, traditional assumptions about the world order and geopolitics have been thrown out of the window, while some others persist. New stakeholders, such as the dotcoms, corporations and big-tech that Arkady berates in the excerpt above, stand to compete with governments in transnational power games, even as new security challenges, from climate change to cyber-threats and the evolution of international terrorism threaten to make the world of 2021 more uncertain and less safe than ever before However, with the Coronavirus pandemic hopefully on its way out at the time of writing as global vaccination programmes pick up pace, our attention shifts to a transformed geopolitical order emerging from the onslaught of the greatest black swan event of this century thus far, as Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar frames it in his book ‘The India Way’. I refer of course to the Coronavirus pandemic. The articles in this year’s Risk Report, “Navigating through the Geopolitical Whirlpools of Tomorrow”, focus on these cognate themes. With the KCL GPRIS Risk Report 2021 evaluating the world of tomorrow even as black swan events threat-

04 | KCL Geopolitical Risk Forecast Report 2021

en to shift the ground under our feet, our writers forecast the challenges and indeed the opportunities that the world of tomorrow must prepare to face. From Russia’s post-pandemic geostrategy in the Arctic to the changing face of global humanitarian aid and development, from ‘Astropolitics’ and Sino-American rivalry in the domain of space to the shape of international anti-globalisation movements in 2021 and from the USA’s potential multilateral grand strategy under the new Biden administration to the forms that transnational jihadist terrorism is expected to adopt both in the Middle East and in Europe, the topics covered in this year’s report are disparate and diverse. Yet they are bound together by one common concept- that of the unpredictable world order characterising 2021. There are many who made this monthslong project possible, and I’d like to thank them all: Julia, our First-Year Representative who supported me in sharing editorial responsibilities, Carla and Marcus for their oversight and help in planning the theme of the report, Tom and Vedant for their unceasing focus on promoting this publication on our social media platforms, and Caroline whose fantastic design and graphic skills should be extremely visible to all those reading this report. So read on, dear audience, and I hope you enjoy perusing this report as much as we did making it a reality! Much more remains to be said, but I believe that that would take away from the sharpness and objective nature of the writings published here. We hope that you are as excited about reading KCL GPRIS’s Special Report 2020 as much we were while editing and publishing it!


RISK 2021

Navigating through the Geopolitical Whirlpools of Tomorrow

06

A Changing Order?

30

Populism

09

Energy Security

33

Russia in Arctic

12

Multilateralism

Space

15

Organised Crime

36

Maritime Geostrategy

18

39

Proxy War

41

Ethno-Racial Politics

21

Defence

24

Non-Proliferation in the 2020s

Terrorism

44

27

Cybersecurity

47

Corona-Conflicts

Lucia Ruiz Vila

Henry Levinson Jean Balme

Elena Ruxandra Seniuc Pierre-Axel Thuring

Hannah Martinez Victor Oliveira da Costa

Dorottya Zsiborac Alexei Hoey

Dominic McClaran Phalak Vyas

Avery Benton

Emma Visentin

Siobhan Pebody

Michael Liu

Copyright © King's College London Geopolitical Risk Society All rights reserved. Published February 2021. No part of this publication may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying or recoding, or in any information storage of retrieval system without proper acknowledgment of King’s College London Geopolitical Risk Society. The views, responsibility for facts and opinions rests exclusively with the writers and their interpretation of not necessarily reflect on the views of KCL Geopolitical Risk Society.

Table of contents | 05


A Changing World Order? By Lucia Ruiz Vila

Lucia graduated with honours in International Relations from University of Deusto in Spain, having done a year abroad in University of Richmond in the United States. She has recently graduated with a distinction from the MA in Conflict, Security and Development at King’s College London where she researched on transitional justice, peacekeeping, DDR and SSR, and women’s role in international security.

tic fiscal emergency”, the country’s shrinking resources should be allocated to jobs and public services, prioritizing these areas over international aid. This cut will diminish the UK’s capacity to support development programmes it has been supporting to date, causing financing issues for the development sector [3].

T

The Politics behind International Development

he health crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has affected governments in all imaginable ways, but perhaps one of the most remarkable has been the urgent need to rearrange national budgets in order to face the job market crisis. Economists have predicted that the job crisis resulting from the pandemic will be ten times worse than the one caused by the global financial crisis of 2008 [1]. Consequently, governments have implemented a number of policies aimed at alleviating this economic turmoil through measures such as furlough schemes. Inevitably, this has called for a great investment which might leave other policy areas facing defunding and a general lack of attention. This article will explore the consequences of international aid becoming one of those unattended policy areas. In April of 2020, the United Nations warned about the long-lasting effects of donors defunding Official Development Assistance (ODA) urged governments to “reverse the decline” in ODA trends and make sure that Less Developed Countries (LDCs), most of which are in Africa, were not being left behind [2]. This fear was not irrational, as later in the year, the United Kingdom announced that they were cutting their aid spending. In a public statement, the Chancellor of Exchequer defended that in light of the “domes 06 | KCL Geopolitical Risk Forecast Report 2021

ODA is comprised of loans and grants with low interest rates given by the “most well-off countries” to LDCs with the aim of funding development programmes through local partners [4]. The reasons why this type of public-funded aid is important are twofold: firstly, it focuses on neglected sectors that receive little funding from private investors, and secondly, it helps LDCs’ economies grow through the creation of jobs and opportunities in the development sector [5]. Whereas defunding development aid might seem a matter of solidarity - or lack thereof - this decision can have an important political risk, ultimately affecting both the credibility of the West’s humanitarian discourse as well as the present international balance of power. The Undermining of the West’s Humanitarian Discourse At the beginning of the pandemic, there was a great concern about the impact that Covid-19 could have on LDCs, especially in an Africa just recovering from Ebola. Nevertheless, while LDCs have been affected by the pandemic,


current statistics show that the most affected region has been the West, namely the United States and Europe [6]. Because of this, 2020 has seen a considerable decrease in development finance investment, with foreign direct investment dropping by forty per cent compared to previous years’ levels. In light of this, the OECD issued a report defending that ODA should always be a reliable source of aid especially during times of economic uncertainty when private investment declines. The international organisation predicted that if donors are to tie their ODA to their GNI or GDP levels, this could lead to a great loss in many development projects not only in 2021, but also in the years to come [7]. The decision to defund development programmes jeopardises existing partnerships and trust relations between donors and recipients, and makes it impossible to plan in the long-term, a crucial aspect of these programmes [8]. With only a handful of countries meeting the 0.7 GNI target [9] and a severe economic crisis undergoing in the donor countries’ economies, if OECD countries step down from their responsibilities as donors, not only could they undermine the credibility of their humanitarian discourse, but they could also be paving the way for a new actor to fill in the vacuum. The most likely actor to do so? China. The Rise of China as an International Donor The case of China’s rise in the international development sector is worthy of study because of its distinctive approach to development. Back in the 1960s, the Chinese government established their eight principles of foreign aid, as they declared that they did not envision aid as “alms” but rather as a mutually benefiting partnership with foreign countries [10]. Today, Chinese aid is categorised as South to South cooperation, this is cooperation between developing countries from the Global South, as opposed to ODA, which is cooperation between wealthier countries and LDCs [11]. Accordingly, China is not part of the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the OECD, which is the body in charge of monitoring ODA [12].

ternational donor [14]. Chinese aid has not been free from criticism, as many believe that their mutually-economic-beneficial model only masquerades a “debt trap diplomacy” which makes it difficult for recipient countries to differentiate between aid from trade [15].In November of 2020, the United States’ State Department Policy Planning Staff released the report “The Elements of the China Challenge” which also criticised the Asian power to only provide aid to those countries who voted favourably to Chinese demands in the United Nations General Assembly. Additionally, the report aimed at raising awareness about the dangers of the rising power of China in the international arena, as it called on the West to gather forces to counterbalance said growth [16]. In an almost Cold War like narrative of changing world order, the United States is right to signal the rise of the Asian country and its consequences for the global balance of power. Nevertheless, they fail to acknowledge that amid reasonable critics to the Chinese model, there is something to learn from their approach to international development and cooperation. China’s investment in overseas aid is intended to establish horizontal relations with LDCs, and the diplomatic importance of this gesture of mutual recognition should not be underestimated. For instance, China regularly organises high level meetings with African leaders in order to strengthen its ties to the continent’s politicians, which some authors have pointed out to be a custom the West should learn from [17].

In 2020, China created a 283 million USD fund to help other countries face the Covid-19 pandemic, providing aid to various countries including Lebanon, Iran and Tunisia, to name a few [13]. The Head of the Chinese Mission to the EU declared last year that “despite the daunting task of outbreak response at home, China is doing its best to help those countries in need”, thus reinforcing the role of China as an inA Changing World Order? | 07


Conclusion ODA donors should be concerned about the damaging effects of not financing development programmes in LDCs during a time of true need. Defunding international aid is not only a matter of solidarity, but it also questions the credibility of the Western humanitarian discourse. Ultimately, this hampers ODA donors’ relations with receiving countries, which can have a long-lasting effect by creating distrust and a sentiment of abandonment among LDCs. Given the unstoppable rise of China as an international donor, it is likely that if there is to be a void left by Western donors, it will be filled by the Asian power. A step that the West might not be able to take back. Alleviating the job crisis and economic recession in Western countries is urgent, but reassuring the role of donors in the international arena as reliable actors is important. Decades of humanitarian discourse and the current balance of power is at stake, and the urgent cannot trump the important, much less when it comes to growth and international development.

Sources [1] “OECD Employment Outlook 2020: Worker Security and the COVID-19 Crisis”, OECD, Accessed 16th December, 2020 https://doi.org/10.1787/1686c758-en [2] United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force on Financing for Development “60 International Agencies Urge Rapid, Coordinated Response As Pandemic Threatens to Destabilise Poor Countries’ Finances Press Release” 9th April, 2020 https://developmentfinance.un.org/fsdr2020 [3] William Worley “Breaking: UK cuts aid budget to 0.5% GNI” Devex November 25th 2020 https://www. devex.com/news/breaking-uk-cuts-aid-budget-to-0-5-of-gni-98640 [4] “Development Aid: What’s it All About?” Agence Française de Développement, Accessed January 18th 2021 https://www.afd.fr/en/development-aid-whats-it-all-about [5] “8 Things to Know About the Official Development Assistance” Agence Française de Développement, Updated April 11th 2019 https://www.afd.fr/en/actualites/8-things-know-about-official-development-assistance [6] “Coronavirus Resource Centre Dashboard”, Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Centre, Last Updated 12nd January 2021 https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html [7] Yasmin Ahmad, Emily Bosch, Eleanor Carey and Ida McDonnell, “Six Decades of ODA: Insights and Outlook in the Covid-19 Crisis” Development Cooperation Profiles, 2020 OECD Publishing, Paris https:// doi.org/10.1787/2dcf1367-en [8] Emily Bosch, Claudio Cerabino and Kerri Elgar, “ODA as a Collective Effort: Latest Trends” in Development Cooperation Profiles, 2020 OECD Publishing, Paris https://doi.org/10.1787/16bc821c-en [9] “Official Development Assistance 2019. Preliminary Data” OECD, Accessed 16th December, 2020 https://public.tableau.com/views/ODA-GNI_15868746590080/ODA2019?:display_count=y&publish=yes&:origin=viz_share_link?&:showVizHome=no#1 [10] Zhou Enlai, “The Chinese Government’s Eight Principles for Economic Aid and Technical Assistance to Other Countries”, Historical and Public Policy Program, Wilson Centre, January 1964 http://digitalarchive. wilsoncenter.org/document/121560 [11] “What is ‘South to South Cooperation’ and Why Does it Matter?” United Nations Department of Economics and Social Affairs, Updated March 20th 2019 https://www.un.org/development/desa/en/news/intergovernmental-coordination/south-south-cooperation-2019.html

08 | KCL Geopolitical Risk Forecast Report 2021

[12] Leah Lynch, Sharon Andersen and Tianyu Zhu, “China’s Foreign Aid: A Primer for Recipient Countries, Donors, and Aid Providers” Centre for Global Development July 2020 https://www.cgdev.org/sites/default/files/chinas-foreign-aid-primer-recipient-countries-donors-and-aid-providers.pdf [13] “China International Development Cooperation Agency”. 2021. Accessed January 18th 2021 http://subsites.chinadaily.com.cn/cidca/index.html [14] “China to Expand COVID-19 cooperation special fund, says envoy at global pledging event” CIDCA, Updated 6th May 2020 http://en.cidca.gov.cn/2020-05/06/c_484173. htm [15] Cheng Cheng, “The Logic Behind China’s Foreign Aid Agency” Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy May 2019 https://carnegieendowment.org/files/09-26-18_ Cheng_China_Development.pdf [16] “Elements of China Challenge” US State Department Policy Planning Staff, Updated November, 2020 https:// www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/20-02832-Elements-of-China-Challenge-508.pdf [17] Lina Benabdallah, “Spite Won’t Beat China in Africa” Foreign Policy January 23rd 2020 https://foreignpolicy. com/2019/01/23/spite-wont-beat-china-in-africa/ Image Credits https://www.ktpress.rw/2021/01/china-africa-cooperation-prospers-against-covid-19/ https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/ nov/22/mps-from-seven-parties-urge-government-not-tocut-overseas-aid https://www.wsj.com/articles/for-foreign-investment-thewest-is-losing-its-appeal-11560358800


Energy Security and Conflict on the Nile By Henry Levinson

Henry Levinson is a MA student in International Peace & Security within the Department of War Studies at King’s College London. Originally from Los Angeles, his research interests focus on the Horn of Africa and the Middle East. He is particularly interested in climate change as a driver of conflict, conflict transformation and post-conflict reconciliation.

two things: how quickly the reservoir will be filled, and the consequent impact on the Blue Nile’s flow during the filling period.

E

thiopia faces major challenges in meeting daunting residential and industrial electricity demands. Home to more than 110 million people, 70% of Ethiopians are not connected to the power grid. [1] As the country’s economy continues to grow, universal electrification has become a cornerstone policy objective for the government since 2017, following the launch of the National Electrification Program (NEP). To meet this target, the federal government is building a massive hydroelectric project spanning the Blue Nile, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Upon completion, GERD will be Africa’s largest such structure, forming a reservoir with a volume of 74 billion cubic meters [2], comparable to that of Lake Mead behind the Hoover Dam. The dam itself is expected to produce 5,150 Megawatts of electricity. [3] Moreover, Ethiopia stands to generate a power surplus from the dam. [4] Not only will this bolster the country’s economy by increasing productivity in previously unconnected rural areas and, hopefully, catalysing industrial investment, but it will also situate Ethiopia as a power exporter in a region with high demands for cheap, clean energy.

Egypt sees a disruption to the flow during filling as an existential threat as 90% of the country’s freshwater comes from the Nile. [5] Relations between Egypt and Ethiopia have been hostile as the two vie for control of the Nile’s waters. Egypt argues it holds veto power on any projects impacting the flow of the Nile per a 1929 British-sponsored treaty of colonies along the river, to which Ethiopia was never party. [6] Ethiopia has staunchly rejected these claims, and does not see itself bound by the treaty, thus justifying its right to constructing across the Blue Nile. Both countries have sizable populations and compete for regional influence. With Egypt’s population at nearly 100 million people, 95% of whom rely on freshwater from the Nile, the security risk of having an upstream rival with its hand on the tap is obvious.

There has been much talk of the potential for conflict between Egypt and Ethiopia over the dam’s construction. Egypt boasts Africa’s largest standing army [7], controls vital Red Sea shipping routes through the Suez Canal, and is a close strategic ally of the United States. However, it is Sudan that now plays an Despite the numerous benefits for Ethiopia and the region, Egypt increasingly central role in regional staand Sudan have long voiced legitimate concerns around the pro- bility since the outbreak of the Tigray ject. Negotiations between the three are primarily concerned with conflict in northern Ethiopia.

Energy Security | 09


Sudan, like Egypt, worries about the consequences of having the flow of the Blue Nile interrupted. Sudan’s concerns are far less urgent than Egypt’s - Sudan has access to freshwater from the smaller White Nile, it stands to benefit greatly from the cheap electricity that the dam will create and GERD will provide flood protection for vulnerable downstream communities in Sudan’s Blue Nile state. However, Sudan has its own legitimate grievances over the project and with the Ethiopian government, and relations between the two have grown increasingly tense since the start of the Tigray conflict. Sudan still wants to maintain more control over the flow of the Blue Nile than Ethiopia is willing to offer, and spillover from the conflict has put security pressures on the already fragile transitional government, and led to a build-up of Sudanese troops along its shared border. Khartoum has not shied away from using its role within multilateral negotiations to leverage concessions from Ethiopia on other issues. Sudan’s rising Sudan is a very different country today than it was when GERD negotiations began in 2011. A popular revolution in 2019 ousted long-time dictator Omar alBashir and a new civilian interim government has since overseen the country’s transition towards democracy. In 2020, Sudan was formally removed by the United States from the State Sponsor of Terrorism list, after Khartoum normalised relations with Israel. Sudan’s reintegration into the international community under the civilian government has given the country a new understanding of itself on the region’s geopolitical stage. Sudan’s geography explains its relevance to the conflict. Landlocked Tigray borders Amhara to the south, and is where most attacks by the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) have been staged from. To its east lies the Afar region, and to its north is Eritrea, whose military has retaliated to rocket attacks originating in Tigray against its capital Asmara. [8] Sudan lies to the region’s west and has taken in more than 60,000 Ethiopians fleeing violence that has little sign of stopping. [9] Although the Tigray conflict has already seen the involvement of foreign powers, namely Eritrea, Sudan’s

10 | KCL Geopolitical Risk Forecast Report 2021

participation would have massive consequences for the war and shift the mostly domestic conflict into a full-fledged internationalised one. How does this looming threat relate to ongoing GERD negotiations? In late December a skirmish between Ethiopian and Sudanese forces resulted in the deaths of four Sudanese and more than twenty injured. [10] The incident occurred in the al-Fashaqa border region, an 250 square kilometer area claimed by Sudan but farmed by ethnic-Amhara from Ethiopia. Sudan’s transitional council is unwilling to compromise on its sovereignty over territory they deem as rightfully Sudanese. [11] Should Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed make concessions on this land, he risks losing the vital support of the Amhara ethnic group in the federal government’s battle against the TPLF. The Amhara are a key ethnic constituency to Abiy’s ruling Prosperity Party coalition, and many Amhara have demonstrated they are prepared for battle over land disputes such as the one over al-Fashaqa. [12]

This struggle between Sudan and Ethiopia exemplifies areas of contention that were once left in perpetual limbo now being exploited against Ethiopia’s central government as it finds itself fighting a much more protracted conflict in Tigray. Leveraging its place at the table in tripartite GERD ne-


gotiations, Sudan has a valuable strategic card to play in regional geopolitics.

disaster not just for Ethiopia’s energy security, but for the region at large.

In addition to this, the US has been partial when it comes to GERD. Sudan was removed from the state-sponsored terrorist list in exchange for normalised ties with Israel and a hefty $335 million compensation [13] to survivors and families impacted by the 1998 attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Having recently made concessions with the US, the prediction of who would receive crucial American support should a war breakout is obvious. Sudan might be emboldened to take strategic risks that were previously unrealistic.

Sources [1] https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2018/03/08/ethiopias-transformational-approach-to-universal-electrification [2] Wheeler, K.G., Jeuland, M., Hall, J.W. et al. Understanding and managing new risks on the Nile with the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Nat Commun 11, 5222 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-19089-x [3] https://www.ezega.com/News/NewsDetails/7331/Power-Generation-Capacity-of-GERD-Slashed-to-5150MW-Ethiopian-Minister [4] Katrina Manson, Ethiopia uses electricity exports to drive ambition as an African power hub, Financial Times, URL: https://www.ft.com/content/ 14d2026a-902d-11e3-a776-00144feab7de [5] Maggie Michael, Dam upstream leaves Egypt fearing for its lifeline, the Nile, AP, URL: https://apnews.com/article/f2c30802d80247efa6872d5852882057 [6] Nizar Manek, Mohamed Kheir Omer, Sudan Will Decide the Outcome of the Ethiopian Civil War, Foreign Policy, URL: https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/11/14/ sudan-will-decide-outcome-ethiopian-civil-war-abiy-tigray/ [7] IISS The Military Balance 2020, p.372 [8] Mebrahtu Ateweberhan, Eritreans caught in dilemma over Tigray conflict, The Africa Report, URL: https://www.theafricareport.com/53978/eritreanscaught-in-dilemma-over-tigray-conflict/ [9]https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/1/12/ethiopia-warns-sudan-over-border-dispute [10]https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/1/12/ethiopia-warns-sudan-over-border-dispute [11] Nizar Manek, Mohamed Kheir Omer, Sudan Will Decide the Outcome of the Ethiopian Civil War, Foreign Policy, URL: https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/11/14/ sudan-will-decide-outcome-ethiopian-civil-war-abiy-tigray/ [12] Nizar Manek, Mohamed Kheir Omer, Sudan Will Decide the Outcome of the Ethiopian Civil War, Foreign Policy, URL: https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/11/14/ sudan-will-decide-outcome-ethiopian-civil-war-abiy-tigray/ [13] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-54554286 [14]https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/1/12/ethiopia-warns-sudan-over-border-dispute [15]https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/1/12/ethiopia-warns-sudan-over-border-dispute Image Credits https://natoassociation.ca/egypt-is-becoming-central-to-nato-area-geo-economics/ https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/7/2/sudanese-refugees-in-south-sudan-yearning-for-home https://www.wsj.com/articles/for-foreign-investment-the-west-is-losing-its-appeal-11560358800

Worsening situation Sudan’s attempts to garner concessions from Ethiopia may ultimately backfire. Ethiopia has made little indication towards backing down against Sudan, as doing so might prove fatal for PM Abiy. Ethiopia has warned Sudan against its increased military presence on their border, with Ethiopian foreign ministry spokesman Dina Mufti acknowledging “there are limits” to Ethiopia’s diplomacy. [14] Recent weeks have seen a dramatic escalation in rhetoric between the two and a breakdown in GERD negotiations. Sudan has repeatedly shown it is willing to derail tripartite negotiations, and both countries are now claiming border violations by the other. [15] Any further escalation would only serve to destabilise a region already facing massive pressures and could spell

Energy Security | 11


Multilateralism By Jean Balme

Jean Balme is a MA student in Geopolitics, Territory and Security within the Department of Geography at King’s College London. His research interests are primarily focused on politics sub-Saharan Africa, world diplomacy and geopolitical dynamics. Being French, he is a member of the think tank Les Jeunes IHEDN and has interned at the French embassy in the United Kingdom.

that can be overcome, especially China which seeks to steal the global leadership. What is at stake for Biden is to stop the U.S.’s decline of power. This idea is shared by the British historian Paul Kennedy in his much-acclaimed ‘The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers’ in 1987:

Multilateralism in the 2020s: What to expect for the new U.S. president in the game of thrones

I

“The task facing American statesmen over the next decades, therefore, is to recognize that broad trends are under way, and that there is a need to “manage” affairs so that the relative erosion of the United States’ position takes place slowly and smoothly, and is not accelerated by policies which bring merely short-term advantage but longer-term disadvantage.” [3]

n light of the recent events that have shaken Washington D.C. and the Capitol, we have assisted to scenes that are not worthy of the state that has dominated the world for the past 30 years. The decline of the U.S. seems inevitable and will constitute one of the major geopolitical matter of the 2020s.

With the rise of China, the risk of the EU taking its destiny into its hand or the Middle East’s deadlock, Biden’s administration will face burning challenges in 2021. The emergence of these phenomenona seem to be ineluctable in view of the past decade.

This is it. While the U.S. reviews its four years of inconsistent foreign policy [1], the newly elected President Joe Biden will have to compose with a more unstable world and define a strategy that would keep the U.S. as a hyperpower [2]. Since the end of the Cold War, the U.S. has imposed itself as the guarantor of international stability. It is clear that nowadays, this idea of liberal international order is running out of breath. Yet, the U.S. maintained hegemony, despite being constantly challenged. The past four years have changed the game. Undeniably, Trump’s biggest impact on international politics is the hastening withdrawal of the United States of America as the guardian of stability, even if the premises of this shift have been observed under Obama. Biden’s administration cannot reverse the flow of things. There is no denying that the U.S. is considered by its pairs as another actor

Firstly, the main concern for both the U.S. and the rest of the world is China. Undeniably, China’s economic power challenges the U.S. but recent years have proven that the PRC is becoming more and more involved in the political arena. Regarding Trump’s presidency, his personal style of communication did not play in the U.S.’s favour when it comes to the China-U.S. opposition. It is true that with Biden as president, there will not be any aggressive tweet or extravagant declaration. However, in substance, President Trump has shattered

12 | KCL Geopolitical Risk Forecast Report 2021


the consensus that takes its roots during the Den Xiaoping and Kissinger period. It consists in 30 years of excessive American-globalisation based on a pact called ‘Pax Americana’ [4], and the assumption that China would grow increasingly like the West through constructive engagement [5]. Trump changed all of it, there is no turning back. Republicans and Democrats both agree on the fact that China is the main issue Biden’s administration will have to work on. The newly elected president will have to reengage into trade deals in order to keep its influence over the Pacific. Trump withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. Policy-makers have interpreted this move as a symbol of a declining U.S. interest in the region and an inability to assert its leadership, allowing China to shape regional rules of commerce and diplomacy through its own trade and investment initiatives [6]. On trade war, China has already taken the advantage over the U.S. by signing the RCEP, the world’s biggest trade deal [7] with 15 countries of the Asia-Pacific region representing almost a third of the global population. The success of this operation could, once more, strengthen China’s power.

This opposition between the two superpowers is structural in the international order and will be the refrain of the 2020’s. One of the burning issues for President Biden that will certainly modify the world’s structure is the European question. While the United States and Europe were supposed to stand shoulder to shoulder to protect gains reaped from 70 years of cooperation [8], Trump’s administration ended this special rela-

tionship. They endorsed Brexit, supported Eurosceptic right-wing parties and escalated a trade fight on European goods. There is no denying that Biden will re-establish a more conventional and cordial relationship with the EU. Yet, the past four years might have opened the European’s eyes to their condition. Brexit has opened the door for a Franco-German incontestable leadership over the EU. Conscious of this new possibility, the French president Macron has praised for a stronger Europe and wishes an autonomous strategy in terms of defence and security issues [9]. Even if most of the EU members are reluctant to this option, still believing on NATO, the recent events have demonstrated that Europe cannot be naïve anymore. This could balance in Macron’s favour. The pandemic affected Europe more than anywhere else and the decision makers found out that a common response is more efficient. In response to the Covid-19, they launched the ambitious Next Generation EU recovery plan [10], proving that, conscious of its capacities, the EU does not hesitate to launch reforms that will have global impacts. Therefore, Biden’s administration will have to deal with a more autonomous European Union, freed from the NATO-friendly United Kingdom. The coming year will enlighten us on the possibility of Europe becoming a third superpower alongside China and the U.S., with a thin but possible rivalry with the latter. Beyond the rise of a more independent EU, another cause for concern for the U.S. is the threat of a rapprochement between China and the EU. The Sino-European relations have never been stronger than it is now. Indeed, with the historic adoption of the “Comprehensive Agreement on Investments” (CAI) on the penultimate day of 2020, China has opened its doors to a block that it has long shown only little openness. Both sides have a lot to gain from this agreement, but to the eyes of the U.S, this treacherous collaboration is a significant obstacle in their fight to maintain hegemony [11]. Last but not least, challenges that await the U.S. are in the most conflictual region in the world. For 20 years, various presidents got bogged down in the Middle East. However, since President Obama, we have observed a shift in U.S.’s foreign policy. Indeed, it is clear that President Biden will pursue his predecessors’ withdrawal from the Middle East. The American disengagement from the Middle East, now

Multilateralism | 13


irreversible, is already leading to profound changes, including the rise in power of Turkey and the strategic rapprochement between Israel and several states like Morocco or the United Arab Emirates [12]. Despite being a diplomatic success for Trump, the U.S. might not be considered as the protector of Israel anymore. No matter which future orientation the U.S. will take and the possibility of a new nuclear deal with Iran, new actors alongside Turkey such as Russia will try to take the upper hand on the region. The instability might increase considering the number of rivalries and alliances in the region.

Sources [1] McTague and Nicholas. ‘The World Order That Donald Trump Revealed’ in The Atlantic. October 20, 2020. [2] Védrine, Hubert. ‘To Paris, U.S. Looks Like a Hyperpower’. International Herald Tribune. The New York Times. February 5, 1999. [3] Kennedy, Paul. The Rise and the Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500 to 2000. New York, Vintage Books. 1987. [4] Nanjundan. ‘The New World Order?’. Economic and Political Weekly 26, no.22/23 (1991): 1389-392. [5] Leung, Z. Depp, M. ‘An American Consensus: Time to Confront China’. The Diplomat. January 17, 2019. [6] Fergusson, I. F. McMinimy, M. A. and Williams, B. R. ‘The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) : In Brief’. Congressional Research Service. February 9, 2016. [7] Xu Elegant, Naomi. ’15 countries signed the world’s biggest trade deal- but China is the clear winner.’ Fortune. November 16, 2020. [8] Ikenberry, J. ‘The Plot Against American Foreign Policy’. Foreign Affairs. Vol. 96 Issue 3, p2-9. 2017. [9] Maze-Sencier, Philippe. ‘After declaring NATO “brain-dead” has President Macron brought Europe any closer to strategic autonomy?’. Institut Montaigne. December 12, 2019. [10] European Union Commission ‘Recovery plan for Europe’. Available at https://ec.europa.eu/info/strategy/recovery-plan-europe_en [11] Elia Valori, Giancarlo. ‘The new Silk Road : The agreement between the EU and China opens up new geopolitics scenarios’. Modern Diplomacy. January 10, 2021. [12] Filiu, Jean-Pierre. ‘L’année où le Moyent-Orient a basculé’. Le Monde.fr. Available at https://www.lemonde.fr/blog/filiu/2021/01/03/2020-lannee-ou-le-moyen-orient-a-bascule/ [13] O’Connell, Brynn. ‘China’. KCL GPRIS Risk Report 2020. p. 22-23. Published by King’s College London Geopolitical Risk Society. January 2020. Image Credits https://time.com/5917389/joe-biden-foreign-policy/ https://financescp.net/2019/02/03/us-china-trade-war-effect-onthe-eu/ https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/1/13/us-military-presencein-the-middle-east-and-afghanistan

Clearly, the pandemic we are experiencing has changed our lives but some old mechanisms remain. States are not ready to give up their place as main actor in the international realm. The predisposition for a more multilateral world structured by the US-China opposition highlighted in last year’s Risk Report [13] has been reaffirmed despite the end of Donald Trump’s presidency. Joe Biden will have to mend the broken pots for the image, but under the curtains, he and his administration will have to face new forces inexorably unbalancing the slow agony of Uncle Sam.

14 | KCL Geopolitical Risk Forecast Report 2021


Organised Crime By Elena Ruxandra Seniuc

Ruxandra Seniuc reads Russian and East European Studies at the University of Oxford and holds a bachelor’s degree in Criminology from Durham University. She is mainly interested in transnational security threats and asymmetrical threats, with an ever-growing passion for strategic studies.

borders in Europe affected the illegal transport of weapons from the Balkans to Western Europe. In the Middle Eastern peninsula, Saudi Arabia was an exception to this trend, with the Saudi government reporting a proliferation of illicit firearms operations. [2]

Assessing organised crime trends conomic recession, uncertainty, and societal disillusionment represent current global challenges. The COVID-19 crisis demanded a realignment of state resources, especially with respect to law enforcement agencies, a sector already burdened by administrative chores and complicated rules of procedure. This left a vacuum in states’ capability to respond swiftly to emergencies. Moreover, the challenges posed by changes in socio-economic norms have also shaped the modus operandi of organised crime groups worldwide, regulated by demand-and-supply market constraints. The article examines how, if at all, criminal groups managed to adapt to these times of crisis.

E

To begin with, a two-fold effect can be noticed. On the one hand, the pandemic disrupted some organised crime groups in carrying out traditional criminal activities, mostly by preventing them from maintaining a constant supply chain. On the other hand, the pandemic’s economic tool (mainly caused by unemployment and pre-existing economic strains) attracted more people to resort to illicit means. The closure of factories in Argentina, for example, led to a spike in cigarette contraband as it is an illegal means with high-profit margin at relatively low risk. [1] However, firearms trafficking was more prone to being constrained by geopolitical movement restrictions. Thus, the closure of internal Schengen

Contrary to expectations, drug markets in South East Asia and the Pacific have shown high levels of resilience and thrived in pandemic times. The production of methamphetamines – the most popular drug in the region – soared, with no changes in consumption patterns, prices and availability. [3] Similarly, global opium poppy harvests (Afghanistan, Myanmar and Mexico), cocaine production and cultivation (Latin America), and illicit cannabis cultivation (Africa) remained unaffected. [4] The situation is different in Europe and North America, where tougher travel restrictions disrupted transnational drug flows, [5] creating a shortage of psychoactive products on the black market. This resulted in drugs having higher prices and lower purity levels. A fluctuation in drug purity is extremely dangerous for the common frequent user since illicit businesses are highly unregulated and harms cannot usually be prevented. Therefore, the manufacturer might dilute the substance with even riskier and more addictive cutting agents, or consumers may combine multiple drugs to compensate for a better ‘high’ effect. In extreme cases, users can become victims of an overdose if purity levels are suddenly increased on the market. [6] Party drugs [7] suppliers

Organised Crime | 15


were the biggest losers as festivals and clubs did not open their gates last year and their demand reached its nadir. The Middle East and North Africa became a hub for archaeological looting as lockdown measures meant a decrease in security infrastructure, with less personnel being present at heritage sites. Museums, mosques and archaeological sites from Egypt, Morocco, Iraq or Israel were targeted and the captures were advertised on online black markets and sold abroad. [8] The loss for world heritage is inestimable as many of those objects are UNESCO protected artefacts, invaluable for the history of humankind. The current pandemic was also a global wake-up-call to counter wildlife trafficking, as it does not only affect the biodiversity of the planet and global ecosystems but can also be a direct threat to human beings, as unregulated wildlife exports have the potential to transmit zoonotic diseases (i.e. SARS-CoV-2 can be spread from animals to humans). Illicit exports of pangolins (the most trafficked wild mammals in the world, identified as a potential source of coronaviruses) [9] from Vietnam to China have temporarily stagnated due to the closure of borders. Meanwhile, in African countries, poaching is on the rise thanks to high financial incentives. [10] Migratory flows to Europe suffered significant reductions during the lockdown, however, a loosening in travel restrictions combined with prolonged economic difficulties, lack of opportunities and a surge in violence, may trigger episodes of irregular migration from Africa and the Middle East towards EU countries in the near future, thus generating significant profits for organised crime 16 | KCL Geopolitical Risk Forecast Report 2021

groups that engage in migrant smuggling. [11] Moreover, as the pandemic is likely to be followed by a severe economic recession, the intra-EU human trafficking is also expected to rise in order to supply the markets with easily exploitable cheap labour in sectors such as constructions, catering, agriculture, prostitution, begging and theft. [12] Secondly, the pandemic came in as a ‘game-changer’ as quarantine measures introduced during nationwide lockdowns and the increasing shift of social life towards the digital provided better opportunities for criminal groups to engage in cyber-related illicit activities, thus significantly enlarging their attack surfaces and implicitly, their impact. Scams and frauds related to the distribution of counterfeit or non-certified medical products and personal protective equipment (masks, gloves, full-body suits, visors, etc) were most prevalent. This is a global phenomenon considering that non-conform PPE materials were seized in Spain, Italy, Ukraine, Iran, and Azerbaijan, [13] and many African countries were exposed to large markets of counterfeit pharmaceuticals. [14] This should


not be taken lightly, as selling substandard goods is not just resulting in fooling one individual for the benefit of another but also in the possibility of permanently damaging one’s health. Phishing campaigns flourished in Europe as the ‘old Continent’ gradually became one of the worst-hit global regions by the COVID-19 crisis. Malware attacks increased in complexity and swiftness, as cybercriminals changed their modi operandi and shortened the time frame between the activation of ransomware and the initial infection with the virus, aiming for an immediate maximisation of profits. [15] Activities related to sexual exploitation and abuse of minors have also risen in lockdown circumstances and those materials were conveniently circulated online in paedophilia-consumer circles, producing hard-to-trace incomes in cryptocurrencies at a distance. [16] Children are also more exposed to becoming victims of online luring for sexual purposes, recruitment into criminal rings, or radicalisation for terrorist purposes. The pandemic was also a propitious moment for some criminal groups to restore their image and, paradoxically, to provide their own version of security governance. Taliban groups enforced quarantine measures in Afghanistan and Brazilian gangs imposed social distancing measures and curfews in favelas in order to diminish the governmental influence on territories and to make easy profits by regulating price controls of essential products. In Japan, Yakuza handed out free masks, in Afghanistan Taliban groups dispatched health teams to remote areas, and in South Africa, rival gangs called for a truce to distribute food parcels. [17] However, these activities were mostly staged publicity stunts that sought to undermine the credibility of local governments, whilst strengthening their links to those communities. In conclusion, shifts in transnational criminal flows were heavily shaped by geopolitical factors. Having their supply chains curtailed, organised crime groups proved to be resilient and quickly adapted to new marke topportunities by relocating to the cyber realm. Furthermore, in countries exposed to endemic corruption, traditional criminal activities thrived alongside newly exploitable illicit businesses. The consequences of these actions are severe and contribute to weakening governmental structures through corruption and institutional mistrust, increase the damage on economically vulnerable communities, and encourage the reinvestment of profits into other illicit activities. Tackling organised crime represents a global priority and responsibility under the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, an agenda adopted by all United Nations Member States.

Sources [1] Salomón, Josephina. “Argentina Smugglers Turn to Cigarettes in Coronavirus Lockdown.” InSight Crime, May 14, 2020. https://www. insightcrime.org/news/brief/smugglers-cigarettes-coronavirus-lockdown-argentina/. [2] United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. The Impact of COVID-19 on organised crime, 2020: 12-13. https://www.unodc.org/ documents/data-and-analysis/covid/RB_COVID_organized_crime_ july13_web.pdf. [3] Allard, Tom and Panu Wongcha-um. “Asia-Pacific drug trade thrives amid the COVID-19 pandemic.” Reuters, May 15, 2020. https://www. reuters.com/article/us-asia-crime-drugs-idUSKBN22R0E0?taid=5ebe3820691abf0001ee8334&utm_campaign=trueAnthem:+Trending+Content&utm_medium=trueAnthem&utm_source=twitter. [4] Eligh, Jason. “Crisis and Opportunity. Impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on illicit drug markets.” Global Initiative Against Transnational Crime, 2020: 9-10. https://globalinitiative.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Crisis-and-Opportunity-Jason-Eligh-GITOC.pdf. [5] Allard and Wongcha-um, “Asia-Pacific drug trade”. [6] According to Fiona Measham (University of Liverpool), quoted in: Spinney, Laura. “The great opportunity: how Covid transformed global crime.” The Guardian, December 27, 2020. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/dec/27/the-great-opportunity-how-covid-transformed-global. [7] Examples of party drugs: MDMA, LSC, ketamine, GHB and New Psychoactive Substances (NPS). [8] Porterfield, Carlie. “Smugglers Are Using Coronavirus Lockdowns To Loot Artifacts.” Forbes, April 30, 2020. https://www.forbes. com/sites/carlieporterfield/2020/04/30/smugglers-are-using-coronavirus-lockdowns-to-loot-artifacts/?utm_campaign=forbes&utm_ source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_term=Gordie/&sh=2ea4f56536bf. [9] United National Office on Drugs and Crime. World Wildlife Crime Report. Trafficking in protected species, 2020. https://www.unodc. org/documents/data-and-analysis/wildlife/2020/World_Wildlife_Report_2020_9July.pdf.[9] United National Office on Drugs and Crime. World Wildlife Crime Report. Trafficking in protected species, 2020. https://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/wildlife/2020/ World_Wildlife_Report_2020_9July.pdf. [10] Nuwer, Rachel. “Coronavirus Disrupts Illegal Wildlife Trafficking, for Now.” The New York Times, April 29, 2020. https://www.nytimes. com/2020/04/29/science/coronavirus-disrupts-illegal-wildlife-trafficking-for-now.html. [11] EUROPOL. Beyond the pandemic: how COVID-19 will shape the serious and organised crime landscape in the EU, 2020. https://www. europol.europa.eu/publications-documents/beyond-pandemic-howcovid-19-will-shape-serious-and-organised-crime-landscape-in-eu [12] Ibid, 11. [13] UNDOC, The Impact of COVID-19 on organised crime: 2. [14] Global Initiative Against Transnational Crime. #CovidCrimeWatch – n°9, May 20, 2020. https://globalinitiative.net/analysis/covidcrimewatch-n9/. [15] EUROPOL, Beyond the pandemic: 5. [16] Ibid, 11. [17] UNDOC, The Impact of COVID-19 on organised crime: 26. Image Credits https://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/tocta/TOCTA_Report_2010_low_res.pdf, p. 12. https://specials-images.forbesimg.com/image serve/683035937/960x0.jpg?fit=scale https://blog.rapusia.org/world/media/big/image192.jpg

Organised Crime | 17


Proxy war: the new warfare? By Pierre-Axel Thuring

Pierre is a MA student in International Peace and Security at the War Studies Department. Having studied Politics and Arabic in Lebanon and Jordan, his research interests are particularly focused on the Middle East & North Africa region.

committing its own forces on the ground. Dwight Eisenhower considered proxy war as “the cheapest insurance you can find” to overcome the issues associated with outside interventions, whether escalation, stalemate, or defeat. [4]

Is proxy warfare the new warfare? ill with a borrowed knife” is the third of the Thirty-Six Strategies written under the Ming Dynasty in the 14th century. From Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen to Russian private mercenaries fighting in Libya, this old military technique is omnipresent in the current strife dynamics. Not necessarily founded on alliances or donated assistance, proxy warfare involves an asymmetrical relationship between sponsors and proxies around a common strategy or ideology. [1] It provides a lens to understand internationalised civil wars as part of the global competition between world and regional powers. Today, Iran and the United States, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, Russia and Turkey, all confront each other indirectly by issuing “risk transfers” [2] to smaller actors. While this has benefits for sponsors as for proxies, it contains a threatening uncertainty. It also faces in 2021 several challenges.

“K

If proxy wars are getting so popular these years, it is because of the consequent advantages, for both democratic and authoritarian regimes, to employ such method. From a state’s perspective, using proxies is a way to advance interests “by, with, and through” [3] partners. As a result, it has the crucial advantage of avoiding the financial and human cost of direct confrontation. After the fiascos in Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States preferred to influence and even control conflict dynamics without

18 | KCL Geopolitical Risk Forecast Report 2021

Eisenhower’s remarks partially explain Russia’s recent use of proxies in Ukraine, Crimea and beyond. From a proxy’s perspective, acquiring a power’s patronage is first and foremost the modus operandi to get new resources such as money, weapons and training. It is often a means to achieve otherwise unattainable goals. It can also be a way to be legitimized at the global scale. Nevertheless, this military strategy has the risk to make conflicts less easily resolved. [5] The intervention can turn into a quagmire, as in Yemen for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Moreover, a large number of actors involved makes a peace process more complicated. Today, the whole difficulty of the Libyan peace process stems from the confrontation of the Russian, Egyptian, Qatari and Turkish interests, among others. If indirect warfare is increasing nowadays, it faces in 2021 three major challenges: the use of mercenaries, the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and the growing power of the proxies in the patron-client relationship. The use of mercenaries during proxy wars raises the question of what can and cannot be outsourced by a state.


Since the 2000s, the use of private military contractors has increased. Among the contemporary pioneers was the American company Academi, formerly known as Blackwater, that intervened on behalf of the US government in Iraq and Afghanistan. Rather than finding proxies, Russia has developed a network of Private Military Companies (PMC), including the Wagner Group, that became game-changing in several conflicts. [6] In the same vein, Turkey is accused of having sent several thousands of Syrian fighters to Libya in order to support the Government of National Accord (GNA) and in Nagorno-Karabakh to bolster the Azerbaijani army. [7] Sending mercenaries seems to be the ultimate outcome of proxy war logic. Indeed, it has the traditional advantages for governments to be cheaper and to give a capacity of deniability. But in addition to that, it allows a temporal and spatial flexibility in sending and returning unofficial armed troops to several regions at the same time. As long as mechanisms to enforce regulations do not exist, mercenary groups have a bright future in proxy wars.

The Covid-19 pandemic is not that much a pacifying element than an additional element to be taken into account in the complexity of the current indirect wars. At first glance, the virus as a common enemy affecting adversaries in the same way could have accelerated cooperation amidst conflicts. While the crisis has certainly not reduced the intensity of the clashes in Libya and Iraq, it has been part of an overall process of slowdown in Yemen and Syria, illustrated by the Saudi

willingness to cease fire in Yemen. The main concern of the patrons remains their domestic health security. Nevertheless, if the pandemic may pave the way for negotiations, it has not affected the various key actors in proxy wars to the point of making major concessions. [8] In the longer term, however, the Covid-19 could have deeper consequences. The inability of the proxies to manage the health crisis could call into question their popular legitimacy, which is necessary to maintain the proxies in question. [9] Moreover, the economic consequences, especially for the oil powers, could lead some countries to disengage from certain fights, thus bringing about even more instability. [10] Other countries like Turkey, which have managed the pandemic better, could then take advantage of it to extend their influence. Indeed, the health context did not prevent Recep Tayyip Erdogan from interfering in Nagorno-Karabakh. As a result of these successes, Turkey may be tempted in the future to wage another proxy war, this time against its Iraqi foe, the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK). Here again, the economic and health situation will dictate foreign policy. Last but not least, the vision inherited from the Cold War visualising proxy wars through the dichotomy between a dominant sponsor and a passive proxy is called into question. In today’s indirect wars, the fluid and complex nature of the relations between the two parties is increasingly emphasized. Non-state actors have now a major weight in international relations. As proxies, they often seek to promote their interest and therefore retain their own objectives. This was the case of the Kurdish partners employed by the United States in Syria, whose primary goal was territory. [11] Under certain circumstances, a proxy can in turn become a sponsor, as shown by Hezbollah’s military interventions. Moreover, the competition between sponsors no longer takes place only between two proxies, but within the support to a same proxy. Iran and Russia both rival each other in their support for pro-government militias in Syria. [12] This allows non-states groups to take advantage of it by requesting more resources from

Proxy Warfare | 19


state powers. This situation of mutual dependency can therefore be used to the benefit of the proxy. Although the asymmetrical relationship between the two parties is the very foundation of a proxy war, the development of a form of competition between the two sides [13] is a process that is bound to grow. The idea of using an outside group to fight is as old as the hills. What has changed is not really the reasons why an actor chooses to engage in a proxy war, but rather the environment in which he wishes to conduct his intervention. In the absence of a binding legislative framework, there is every reason to believe that proxy warfare will continue to be a tool of choice for both democratic and authoritarian regimes. Sources [1] Tyrone L. Groh, Proxy War: The Least Bad Option. (Redwood City: Stanford University Press, 2019), 26-40. [2] Andreas Krieg, “Externalizing the burden of war: the Obama Doctrine and US foreign policy in the Middle East”, International Affairs, Volume 92, Issue 1 (January 2016): 101. [3] Richard Rubright, “Non-Traditional Partners: Strategic Utility and Risk” in By with and through, ed. Emily Spencer (Ontario: Canadian Defence Academy Press), 87-107. [4] Morgan Paglia and Vincent Tourret, “L’Iran et ses proxys au Moyen-Orient”, Focus stratégique, Issue 95, IFRI, (March 2020). 10. [5] Alexandra Stark and Ariel I. Ahram, “How the US can escape the Middle-East’s proxy wars”, Geopoliticus, Foreign Policy Research Institute (October 2019). [6] Maxim Worcester, “Putin’s Proxy Warfare Strategy”, ISPSW Strategy Series, Issue 282 (August 2014). [7] Liz Cookman, “Syrians Make Up Turkey’s Proxy Army in Nagorno-Karabakh”, Foreign Policy, October 5, 2020. [8] Adam Baron, “Yemen and the Covid-19 Conundrum?”, Proxy Wars Initiative, (2020). [9] Emad Badi, “Covid-19 and Proxy Conflict: The Case of Libya”, Proxy Wars Initiative, (2020). [10] David Pollock, “Covid-19 & Middle East Proxy Wars: The Storm Before the Calm?”, Proxy Wars Initiative, (2020). [11] Kamaran Palani, “The US and Rojava: A Fluid Patron-Client Relationship”, Proxy Wars Initiative, (2020). [12] Reinoud Leenders and Antonio Giustozzi “Foreign sponsorship of pro- government militias fighting Syria’s insurgency: Whither proxy wars?”, Mediterranean Politics, (2020), 12. [13] Ibid., 15. Image Credits https://www.businessinsider.com/the-kurds-are-the-uss-best-hope-in-iraq-2014-8?IR=T https://www.trtworld.com/middle-east/how-much-influence-does-iran-have-on-the-houthis-29911

20 | KCL Geopolitical Risk Forecast Report 2021


Defence

By Hannah Martinez

Hannah Martinez is a second-year War Studies student participating in an exchange program with Sciences Po. She is interested in analyzing the threats to the ideal of Western Democracies as well as studying the causes and impacts of the civil and proxy wars in the Middle East. This past summer, she has been interning at the European American Chamber of Commerce based in Paris.

The 2020s: the decade of the reign of Artificial Intelligence and old power competitions

I

n the light of what is often referenced to as a contemporary Cold War between the People’s Republic of China and the United States, the defence policy of each country involved with those two actors is pivotal in the decade to come. The analysis of the prospective changes to national defence policies is therefore predominant to attempt to foresee the futur state of relations within the international system. First of all, technological progress regarding weapons can be analyzed as a change in the national defence policies of the 2020s. These technological advancements in weapons range from futuristic concepts such as the Russian hypersonic glide vehicle “Avangard“ who’s production began in 2017, to Artificial Intelligence (AI) cyberspace based weapons and hypersonic weaponry. Some weapons, such as drones, that have existed since the 1930s, have been or will also be perfected. The first massive swarm drone strike for example happened in September 2019 and was perpetrated by Houthi rebels against two oil production facilities in Saudi Arabia. [1] The main characteristic of the majority of these new weapons is that they are “standoff” weapons which means they are activated and used from a certain distance. The particularity of these weapons firstly entails a certain level of precision as they

are used and set off most likely in the comfort of an office space in which there is a possibility of hindsight and control of the situation. This characteristic allows a more reasoned use of force. Furthermore, “standoff“ weapons allow, by definition, discretion as well as the possibility of deniability, which has been and will be used by the political or military actors. [2] Finally, it can be argued that the technological advancement, violence and efficiency of these new weapons are new means of dissuasion. Moreover, these AI weapons consecrate big tech compagnies and GAFAs (Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple) as major if not primary political and military actors of the 2020s, a process that gradually shifts the power relations between States that depend not only on the technological advancement some firms produce, but also on the data they detain. It is forecasted that warfare will also progressively become more net-centric, a phenomenon directly linked to the concept of Revolution in Military affairs. This concept implies that the military doctrine and paradigm of Western warfare has evolved and changed since the 1990s, a phenomenon that national defence policies of the 2020 only seem to confirm. Information and disinformation are now key in an increasingly interconnected global security environnement to which the Tech Giants, who detain the data, have the keys. Although social media has not been militarized, it is used by military actors and has been weaponized as a characterizing feature of the national defence policies of the 2020s and thus far. [3] The use and taming of Defence | 21


and thus far. [3] The use and taming of social media is therefore forecast to become an increasingly fundamental aspect of national defence policies of the 2020s.

Financial changes is also a criteria analyzed in order to assess the future state of a national defence policy. With the current global recession caused as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the majority of financial changes in national defence policies have gone one way: the national budgets for defence have been reduced and their part the each country Gross Domestic Product has declined. [4] Indeed, budgetary adjustments are necessary in order to reduce economic disparities and pay off debts at a national and supranational level. These budgetary adjustments are allowed by the reduction of nuclear warheads or the removal of troops on foreign soil for example. Throughout 2020, defence budgets have fallen globally, this is expected to widen discrepancies in power held between different nation-states. For example, not only is each member of the European Union decreasing its budget dedicated to national defence, they are also reducing their budget in the European Defence Union and European Common Security and Defence Policy and all institutions that follow such as Frontex. Therefore, European States will become increasingly more reliant on NATO who’s funding is assured by almost 70% by the United States. Indeed, the budget dedicated to national defence policies are already low for European Union countries, but under this economic pressure, European countries have no military and coercive power without NATO. The United States are there left as the main actor on the western military field. New doctrinal changes imply new threats to which doctrines adapt and if strong technological and financial changes can be analyzed in national defence policies, doctrinal changes in warfare are expected to be subtle in the 2020s. Indeed, the threats faced by each individual country and the international community as a whole since the beginning of the 21st century are still relevant today and are unlikely to vanish within the decade. To sum up, the current main threats to the securi-

22 | KCL Geopolitical Risk Forecast Report 2021

ty and that require a military response are global terrorism, nuclear weapons, proxy wars and in some case, climate change. Doctrinal changes in defence policies worldwide will primarily be motivated by great power competitions. For example, in the context of the Covid-19, China has showed belligerency in its diplomatic relations with surrounding countries and the international community as they have been accused of being responsible for the global outbreak of the pandemic. As diplomacy is the last resort before violence and acts of warfare, violent Chinese diplomacy certainly entails possible future deterioration of relations and strengthening of national defence policies. The diplomatic technique they therefore have been employing is the one of the “wolf warrior“ [5] in which they denounce jealousy as the main motivation of the critics to the regime. Furthermore, this hostile diplomatic strategy has influences their national defence policy, a statement that can be confirmed by their aggressive actions against surrounding countries such as Taiwan: Indeed, in April 2020, a Chinese aircraft carrier navigated two times in waters close to the island, according to the Taiwanese Ministry of Defense, an act that can be seen as one of intimidation and threat. [6] What does hostile acts from the first economic power in the world entail? Considering the regain of revolutionary wind in the Middle East after the shock of the pandemic that further revealed corruption and inequalities in that region, and the only growing tensions between China, Russia, Europe and the United States, the 2020s will be further punctuated by more foreign intervention, power play, wars on influence and proxy wars. Finally, the coerciveness of the national defence policies in the 2020s will only intensify with the threat of nuclear weapons. Indeed, no concrete steps disarmament steps have been made and the proliferation of weapons is not likely to stop. Furthermore, China, the main economic power and nuclear state of the 2020s has yet to join an arms control agreement. However,


Furthermore, China, the main economic power and nuclear State of the 2020s has yet to join an arms control agreement. However, the new American president has affirmed his country’s commitment to NATO’s Mutual Defence Guarantee agreement, proclaimed his will to extend the New Start agreement with Russia and come back on the Iran nuclear deal if Iran respects the terms. [7] Therefore, as contemporary global security threats are expected to further grow in chaos and national defence policies, one may expect to see the progressive attempt at nuclear disarmament. These steps towards the stopping of the proliferation of nuclear weapons might not prove to be effective in the decade to come but they annonce the beginning of the settling of international disputes on a subject such as nuclear weapons, a prospect that although seems utopian, can set the tone for further cooperation in the 2020s. Sources [1] Dr Antonio Missiroli, Nato Review, “Game of drones? How new technologies affect deterrence, defence and security“, 05 May 2020 [2] Andreas Krieg, Jean-Marc Rickli, Surrogate Warfare: The Transformation of War in the Twenty-First Century,(Washington D.C., Georgetown UP, 2019) [3] Emile Simpson, War from the Ground Up: Twenty-First Century Combat as Politics, (New York, Columbia University Press, 2012) [4] Patrick Keller, Current Challenges for Disarmament and Peace Operations on the Political Agenda, “Challenges for the Defense Budget after the Economic Crisis, a European View“, 113 [5] The Paper, “Wang Yi talks about ‘War Wolf Diplomacy’ for the first time. What is the logic behind China’s current diplomacy?”, 24 mai 2020 [6] Stephae Corcuff, Nathalie Vergeron, Diplomatie 104 , Affaires Stratégiques et relations Internationales, “Covid-19: Le raidissement diplomatique chinois sera-t-il durable?“,14 mai 2020 [7] The Economist, “Putting it back together again“, January 9th 2021 Image Credits An intercontinental ballistic missile lift off in Russia (AP: Russian Defence Ministry Press Service The Khurais oil field was attacked by drones of the Houthi rebels, September 2019 ( planetlabs)

Defence | 23


Terrorism

By Victor Oliveira da Costa

Victor has a bachelor’s degree in International Relations by the Candido Mendes University, Brazil. Is an associate researcher in the Nucleus of Political Philosophy of the Laboratory of Politics, Behavior and Media of the Pontifícia Católica University, São Paulo. Main areas of research include International Political Theory, International Security and Ethics in International Relations.

Iran regime with terrorist groups. [1] The political relationship between U.S and Iraq was also influenced by the dynamics regarding the activities of American government in the region, given the fact that after the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, Iraq parliament voted for the withdrawal of U.S troops of the country. [2]

The two faces of terrorism in the pandemic world

T

he rise of the Covid-19 pandemic could have been a moment for a decrease in tensions regarding political violence and terrorism. Yet as 2020 would have it, this was not the case. Even with the overall promotion of social restrictions provided by a more active presence of the state, the emergence of violent acts of terror in 2020 was at least significant. This can be attested upon observing the demonstrations around the world, besides the temptations of insurgences and political instabilities caused by terrorists’ threats. Some geopolitical configurations that went through alterations last year are also relevant to understand the risks associated with international security and terrorism threat to 2021. The tensions relating to the escalation of violence around the Middle East can be exemplified by the U.S allegations regarding the assassination of Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, a founder of al Qaeda and second in command. The operation, orchestrated on August 7th, was perpetuated by Israeli agents requested by the United States. Although the historical relationship between Iran and al Qaeda is marked by conflict, the terrorist leader was living in Iran since 2003. However, the information was denied by the Iranian authorities, who claimed that Washington and Tel Aviv are responsible for trying to link the

24 | KCL Geopolitical Risk Forecast Report 2021

The withdrawal of U.S forces not only in Iraq, but also in Afghanistan and Somalia may represent a fertile soil to the manifestation of traditional jihadist threat in classical conflict zones, something that would increase political violence and could lead to the reestablishment of a bigger conflict between terrorist groups and organizations in the Middle East. As Colin P. Clarke described, “with the United States drawing down forces in the Middle East, South Asia, and throughout Africa, al Qaeda, the Islamic State, and their respective affiliates could make a renewed push to capture new territory and destabilize countries and regions”. [3] In Somalia, the withdrawal of U.S troops has been complete in a moment of approximated presidential elections. At the same time, the concerns of the government and Somalia’s civil society about the al-Shabab terrorist attacks remain a priority. [4] The same kind of risk can be projected regarding the drop out of American forces from Afghanistan and Iraq. In the first scenario, the process is the result of a peace agreement between the United States and Taliban who has committed to maintain a counterterrorist activity


against other militants’ groups, such as Al-Qaeda and ISKP. Still, the trust in Taliban’s intentions, as well the capability to ensure the government stability, has been received with scepticism. Without the U.S troops the risks associated to escalation of conflict between terrorists’ groups and the government becomes higher. [5] In Iraq, the withdrawal of American forces is a setback to the counterterrorism efforts. As pointed by a 2020 Rand Corporation report: “withdrawal of American troops from Iraq would have a significant impact on the counter-Islamic State fight in both Iraq and in Syria”. [6]

In the last decade, with the emergence of ISIS as the world’s largest and most influential terrorist organisation, al Qaeda became no longer the major threat. However, while the focus was on ISIS, al Qaeda worked to reestablish its influence, reorganizing a network of action in South Asia and Syria [7]. At the same time, the ISIS’ forces became increasingly fragmented due to counterterrorist operations promoted by US and Syria forces. In March 2019, the group lost all its territory [8], becoming weaker than ever. However, the new configuration may lead to attempts of both groups to restore their activities in a larger scale. Meanwhile, the dangers of jihadist groups became less expressive in the number of deaths and terrorist attempts in the latest years: a tendency that follows the decrease of conflicts in the Middle East, but also observable all over the globe, as pointed by the Global Terrorism Index (2020). [9] Nevertheless, as described by Gabe Mythen and Sandra Walklate “we need to remember that - in Western nations at least - terrorism remains a high-consequence, low probability risk” [10], which may exemplify how the terrorist threat remains a political concern, given its impact in the current events. In 2020, there were some examples of the impact of terrorism in the social consciousness - The tragic events in Europe: in the Vienna attack on November 2nd by a young man and claimed by ISIS, at least four people were killed and many hurt.

[11] On October 16th, Samuel Paty, a teacher who showed a cartoon of Charlie Hebdo was brutally murdered in Paris. [12] On the same month, France experienced a new wave of terror resulting in three deaths in the Notre Dame attack claimed by local radicalized jihadists. The French president Emanuel Macron manifested a commitment with the republican values of freedom of speech against the rise of radical Islam. [13] Political rhetoric within Europe may frame the above developments in terms of a struggle between liberal secular democracies and radical Islam ideology, which may present an escalation of tensions within European society. Something that could be an opportunity for jihadist propaganda, representing a risk to stakeholders, governments, and civil society. In that case, the most concern threat to western European societies will probably come to self-radicalized individuals trying to cause instability and despair and concomitantly promoting a space for organized terrorist groups to spread their message. The plethora of problems regarding the sociological issue faced by European countries aligned with the transformations in strategic conflict zones can lead to the empowerment of ancient Middle East’s terrorist forces, at least in an embryonic sense. Apart from the traditional jihadist menace, the growth of global populist nationalism is strongly associated with political violence - most specifically from far-right groups. The relationship between the Islamic terrorism and the far-right one is closer than ever, given the increase of strikes and the emergence of radical right-wing populism is directly associated with anti-immigration sentiment present in western European societies. This phenomenon has been described in academic literature as a reciprocal radicalization. [14] In many aspects, the risks represented by far-right terrorism are quite considerable, not only in Europe but also in American context. Excepting the 9/11 numbers, between 1990 and 2010 there were 145 attempts along with 348 deaths caused by right-wing American extremists in comparison with only 20 deaths of Americans committed by Islamic terrorists. [15] In recent years, maybe the most representative event of that nature in Europe was the Christchurch

Terrorism | 25


attacks in New Zealand in 2019, resulting in the death of at least 50 people. [16] The growing peril of right-wing extremism is now not only associated with the anti-immigrant claims in the European context, but also with the social insecurities caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The spread of conspiracy theories and anti-establishment rhetoric has been used to foment violent narratives that vary between negationism and even proclamations against the government’s actions to manage the pandemic, beyond the preaching of anti-vaxxers. While it is estimated that the new coronavirus will persist over the remainder of 2021, vaccination campaigns have hastened. Yet governmental campaigns, particularly in the West, will occur in an environment of online misinformation - a security hazard that can transpire as offline violence. In fact, an attempt to blow up a hospital with COVID-19 patients [17], as well as a militia in the USA that was planning to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer under the pretense of “opposing tyrants”, were stopped by the FBI [18] last year. Right-wing terrorists are usually characterized by self-radicalization and lonely actions, facilitated by online spread of fanatical indoctrination. However, In the modern political ambiance the connection between extremists has become more intimate and intensive. The political configuration of certain countries is to be noted in the evaluation of the risks presented by these issues. In the American scenario, the political relevance of Donald Trump, being a public supporter for some of those conspiracy claims and anti-scientific propaganda [19], serves as a source of legitimation for the use of violence by far-right militants. The insurrection in the Capitol [20] on January 6th is a clear example of the potential danger of far-right movements in contemporary democracies, which must be monitored by investors, civil society, organizations, and international institutions - and mostly by security agencies. In a broader sense, the configuration of geopolitical scenario in the pandemic world has presented an accentuation of consequences associated to political violence and terrorism, despite a certain decline of terrorist armies and attacks in the latest years. This is represented first by a more intense manifestation of social and political problems present in western and democratic societies along with international conversions, but also by the instabili ty caused by an atmosphere of uncertainty concerning the rising of COVID-19. Furthermore, the prioritization of these internal conflicts and instabilities that most states

26 | KCL Geopolitical Risk Forecast Report 2021

could be more convenient to terrorist initiatives than an exposed and unstable world, what 2020 has already proved. Sources [1] BBC News. 2021. Iran Denies Al-Qaeda Leader Was Killed In Tehran. November 14, 2020. [2] (www.dw.com), D., 2021. Trends In Terrorism: What’S On The Horizon In 2021? - Foreign Policy Research Institute. Foreign Policy Research Institute. January 6, 2021 [4] Cara Anna, T., 2021. US Military Says Troop Withdrawal From Somalia Is Complete. [online] Military Times. January 18, 2021, . [5] Thomas, C., 2020. Afghanistan: Background And U.S. Policy: In Brief. [online] pp.1-17. [6] Rand Corporation, 2020. Weighing U.S. Troop Withdrawal From Iraq: Strategic Risks And Recommendations. Strategic Risks and Recommendations. [online] pp.1-10. [7] Mir, A. and P. Clarke, C., 2021. Al Qaeda’S Franchise Reboot. [online] Foreign Affairs. September 9, 2020, [8] Mironova, V., 2019. The Year The Islamic State Lost Its Last Strongholds. [online] Foreign Policy. December 27, 2019, [9] Institute for Economics & Peace. Global Terrorism Index 2020: Measuring the Impact of Terrorism, Sydney, November 2020. [online] pp.12-17 [10] Mythen, G. and Walklate, S. Terrorism, Risk and International Security: The Perils of Asking ‘What If’? Security Dialogue 39, no.2-3 (April, 2008) [11] BBC News. 2021. Vienna Shooting: What We Know About ‘Islamist Terror’ Attack. November 4, 2020 [12] BBC News. 2021. France Attack: What We Know About The Stabbings In Nice. October, 30, 2020, [13] Rahim, Z., Bairin, P. and Bell, M., 2021. A Teacher Is Beheaded, And France’s War Over Secularism, Freedom Of Speech And Religious Equality Reignites. October 21, 2020. [14] Abbas, T. Far Right and Islamist Radicalisation in an Age of Austerity: A Review of Sociological Trends and Implications for Policy. International Centre for Counter-Terrorism. [online] (January 2020): 3-4. [15] Feldman, M., 2018. Terrorist ‘Radicalising Networks’: A Qualitative Case Study on Radical Right Lone-Wolf Terrorism. In: K. Steiner and A. Önnerfors, ed., Expressions of Radicalization: Global Politics, Process and Pratices, 1st ed. London (Palgrave Macmillan), 41. [16] (www.dw.com), D., 2021. Christchurch Terror Attacks: What You Need To Know | DW | 16.03.2019. [online] DW.COM. March 16, 2019, [17] Couter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, 2020. Member States Concerned By The Growing And Increasingly Transnational Threat Of Extreme Right-Wing Terrorism. [online] pp.1-6. [18] “Militia Plot To Kidnap Michigan Governor Aimed To Inspire More Violence Against ‘Tyrants,’ FBI Says”. 2020. Homland Security Today.US. October 8, 2020 [19] Casarões, G. and Magalhães, D. The hydroxychloroquine alliance: how far-right leaders and alt-science preachers came together to tout a miraculous drug. Brazilian Journal of Public Administration, [online] (December 2020): 1-10. [20] Kliment, A. and Winkleman, A., 2021. ANARCHY! How The World Covered The Insurrection In DC. [online] GZERO Media. January 17, 2021, Image Credits <https://www.essence.com/amp/news/facts-you-need-know-charlottesville-white-nationalist-riots/?fbclid=IwAR1EKd9w9ftmITzFgkkbddZXqGCKWF6obySYOIzz2anc5yN3gnqWIjLX_9Q> <https://www.wsj.com/articles/france-knife-attack-in-nice-what-we-know-sofar-about-the-deadly-stabbing-11603975141>


Cybersecurity

By Michael Liu

Michael is a second year History and International Relations student at Kings with particular interests in the structure-agency relationship of international affairs. He has a profound liking for the strategies and tactics of warfare in general, with a keen eye for examining modern low-intensity conflicts.

ensure that successful cases are usually seen as the host state’s failure to safeguard itself rather than some particular malignity on the adversary’s part. Cyberespionage certainly makes for alarmist headlines but is so far a general practice rather than a deviation in the international system.

Cybersecurity in 2021 from a statist perspective: advanced and persistent, but not exceptional. ew domains are imagined with such otherworldliness as cyberspace, helped no less by Sci-fi. Fiction certainly captures the subconscious and stretches possibilities; reality is somewhat disappointingly but also thankfully more steadfast. The cybersecurity risks confronting states today are certainly serious. They are however not otherworldly, subjected to the same escalation and restraining mechanics that govern typical diplomacy and conflict.

F

The cyberespionage threat should persist with the ongoing pandemic, but as a continuation of typical trends. The pandemic has seen intelligence worldwide target vaccine research and development as part of global geopolitical rivalry for global technological dominance. [1] There is no denying that the stakes are high when state power fuses information and modern cyber technology. This, however, does not necessarily indicate increasing, or increased, danger. Espionage per se, whether in its severity or all-encompassing nature, is nothing new. It is an accepted feature of international relations to the extent that the US has not politically escalated its relations with Russia despite the scale of the recently discovered SolarWinds hack attributed to the SVR. [2] The prevalence of (cyber)espionage as a phenomenon tends to

A possible exception may be in US-China relations where US officials have cast Chinese cyberespionage in deterministically grave terms as part of growing US-China competition across all domains. [3] It should be noted still that the cyberespionage concern here is situated within a much broader set of issues relating to intellectual property, political economy and strategic competition. [4] Russia and many other countries no doubt commit similar cyberespionage against the US, but it is the sheer weight and complexity of the Chinese challenge that has made cyberespionage an open issue rather than its own intrinsic technicalities. How the issue develops between the US and China should thus be watched through the overall political climate rather than the pure technicalities of cybersecurity. With higher order threats as cyber disruption and cyberwarfare, the risks are significantly greater [GA1] though again, not necessarily exceptional. Some level of ambiguity still pervades the conduct of cyber operations. Cyber disruptions to critical civilian infrastructure, for instance, constitute a grey zone short of open war but allowing for kinetic repercussions still. Recent penetrations of the supply networks integral to vaccine

Cybersecurity | 27


logistics were not followed up by offensive actions. [5] But the capacity thereof is certainly present, with the potential to disrupt sectors like healthcare where lives can be endangered – few can forget the compromise of the NHS from WannaCry. [6] The prospect of these cyber-kinetic attacks is the one area where relative risks are most severe and probable of realisation. [7] The track record is already tainted. On various occasions in recent years, Russia has toyed with remotely shutting electricity to parts of Ukraine and endangering essential services. [8] While details on the series of explosions that rocked Iran from last July onwards, including at the Natanz nuclear facility, are still insufficient, should cyberattack be verified it will confirm again, as with Stuxnet in 2010, the kinetic lethality of cyberweapons. [9] Institution-building is not expected as a solution anytime soon. Difficulties in agreeing on even the basic norms of cyberspace have already prevented the latest completed round of the UN’s Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on information and communications technologies (ICTs) from reaching consensus. [10] Mistrust still prevents proposals on cybersecurity norms from taking shape. [11] Above all, proper enforcement is difficult, if not downright impossible – it is arguably the primary reason for the failure of the 2015 Sino-American agreement on limiting cyberespionage to produce tangible results. [12] Present and future conduct in cyberspace will continue to be shaped by nation-states themselves through experience. This is not a cause for pessimism; all world affairs are shaped by diplomacy, deterrence and coercion through power – institutions usually confirm rather than produce settlements. The absence of proper institutionalisation in cyberspace does not mean behaviour is nihilistic. Several trends are noteworthy. The first is that although great powers are more capable, the probability of the cyber-kinetic risk actualising among them is likely lower. The stakes are simply too high to permit any kind of warfare with direct kinetic consequences on home territories of great powers. Russia may not hesitate to shut electricity in Ukraine, but it has refrained from similar action on US soil despite successfully infiltrating power grids. [13] Its penetrations appear intended more for testing American defences and psychological effect as a threat rather than materialisation of actual warfare. America’s response to this from 2018 onwards was to reciprocate the gesture and plant its own malware within Russian power grids. [14] This response may seem escalatory at first, but the deliberately visible manner with which the act was carried out reflected its emphasis on demonstrating deterrence rather than actual payload delivery and execution. The escalation in fact

28 | KCL Geopolitical Risk Forecast Report 2021

may have stabilised the US-Russia relationship in cyberspace by establishing a variation of mutually assured destruction around power grids, effectively rendering power grid attacks a red line from Washington’s perspective. Such an emphasis on offensive actions as a complement to the defensive is likely to grow with the incoming Biden administration, which has pledged to ‘disrupt and deter ... significant cyber attacks in the first place.’ [15] Technicalities still remain vague – the target selection process for instance is not well known. Nonetheless, as the costs of direct kinetic repercussions remain unbearably high, it is not unreasonable to expect that Washington will escalate its scale and depth of penetration but continue to refrain from kinetic objectives.

As with regular warfare, cyberspace is ‘hotter’ at lower levels in the international system. Low-intensity regional conflict, as with that surrounding Iran and its proxies, should be watched most closely. [16] Cyber-kinetic actions are not unfamiliar to the Middle East. Iran, however, broke new ground in April 2020 with its failed attempt to dangerously increase chlorine content in Israel’s water supply. [17] This incident differed from power grid attacks in indiscriminately targeting civilian bodily health and safety as the direct intended recipient of the payload. The attack was no doubt historically significant. Attacks of this kind will however likely remain localised to their respective theatres of conflict rather than become a mass global phenomenon. Their intended kinetic consequences easily amount to acts of war, and even states competing in peacetime (as with the great powers) are


unlikely to actually prosecute targeted cyber-kinetic attacks of such degree. Iran was willing to mount a highrisk attack precisely because it has already been mired in bloody low-intensity conflict with Israel. It would be much harder for, say, Russia to actually justify and follow through with such an attack on the US. While there are indeed ambiguities in the blurred line between peace and war in cyberspace, that should also not be taken to suggest that limits are entirely inconceivable. Israel notably retaliated to Iran’s April attack by disrupting Iranian port operations, which satisfied the need for retaliation while still maintaining a red line of not targeting civilians directly. [18] So even in anarchy and war, states by their own initiative tend to observe certain limits to maintain the desired intensity and character of conflict. Wills may always be tested, and escalation can be threatened, but rhetoric and reality should be distinguished. The assessment here is behaviour in cyberspace actually has less to do with the ‘cyber’, but is heavily contextualised vis-a-vis broader political and strategic imperatives. The forgone conclusion of cyberspace assimilating into war as an additional front also, on the flip side, ‘normalises’ the domain, subjecting it to more regular and understandable mechanics affecting the (de)escalations of risks.

curity Officials Say,’ The Wall Street Journal, July 23, 2018, https://www.wsj. com/articles/russian-hackers-reach-u-s-utility-control-rooms-homeland-security-officials-say-1532388110 (accessed 2 Jan 2021). [14] David E. Sanger and Nicole Perlroth, ‘U.S. Escalates Online Attacks on Russia’s Power Grid,’ The New York Times, June 15, 2019, https://www. nytimes.com/2019/06/15/us/politics/trump-cyber-russia-grid.html (accessed 7 Jan 2021). [15] Biden-Harris Transition, ‘Statement by President-elect Joe Biden on Cybersecurity,’ December 17, 2020, https://buildbackbetter.gov/press-releases/ statement-by-president-elect-joe-biden-on-cybersecurity/ (accessed 16 Jan 2020). [16] Tom Allinson, ‘Israel-Iran conflict to be major Middle East issue in 2020,’ Deutsche Welle, February 1, 2020, https://www.dw.com/en/israel-iran-conflict-to-be-major-middle-east-issue-in-2020/a-51600787 (accessed 5 Jan 2021). [17] ‘Iran cyberattack on Israel’s water supply could have sickened hundreds – report,’ The Times of Israel, June 1, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/ iran-cyberattack-on-israels-water-supply-could-have-sickened-hundreds-report/ (accessed 7 Jan 2021). [18] Joby Warrick and Ellen Nakashima, ‘Officials: Israel linked to a disruptive cyberattack on Iranian port facility,’ The Washington Post, March 19, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/officials-israel-linked-to-a-disruptive-cyberattack-on-iranian-port-facility/2020/05/18/9d1da866-9942-11ea-89fd-28fb313d1886_story.html (accessed 7 Jan 2021). Image Credits https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-55363828 https://jsis.washington.edu/news/cyberattack-critical-infrastructure-russia-ukrainian-power-grid-attacks/

Sources [1] Joseph Fitsanakis, ‘Spy agencies target biomedical secrets in worldwide race to find COVID-19 vaccine,’ IntelNews, May 5, 2020, https://intelnews.org/2020/05/05/01-2769/ (accessed 7 Jan 2021). [2] Rory Cellan-Jones, ‘Tech Tent: Hacking the heart of the US government,’ BBC News, December 18, 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-55363828 (accessed 7 Jan 2021). [3] Adam Segal, ‘A New Old Threat: Countering the Return of Chinese Industrial Cyber Espionage,’ Council on Foreign Relations, December 6, 2018, https://www.cfr.org/report/ threat-chinese-espionage (accessed 7 Jan 2021). [4] Jyh-An Lee, ‘Shifting IP Battlegrounds in the U.S.-China Trade War,’ The Columbia Journal of Law & the Arts 43, no. 2 (2020), 147-195. [5] Gordon Corera, ‘Coronavirus: Hackers targeted Covid vaccine supply “cold chain”,’ BBC News, December 3, 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-55165552 (accessed 7 Jan 2021). [6] Justine Alford, ‘NHS cyber-attacks could delay life-saving care and cost millions,’ Imperial College London News, October 2, 2019, https://www.imperial.ac.uk/news/193151/ nhs-cyber-attacks-could-delay-life-saving-care/ (accessed 7 Jan 2021). [7] Scott D. Applegate, ‘The Dawn of Kinetic Cyber’ (5th International Conference on Cyber Conflict, NATO CCD COE Publications, Tallinn, 2013), https://ccdcoe.org/uploads/2018/10/10_d2r1s4_applegate.pdf (accessed 7 Jan 2021). [8] Donghui Park, Julia Summers, Michael Walstrom, ‘Cyberattack on Critical Infrastructure: Russia and the Ukrainian Power Grid Attacks,’ The Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, October 11, 2017, https://jsis.washington.edu/news/cyberattack-critical-infrastructure-russia-ukrainian-power-grid-attacks/ (accessed 7 Jan 2021). [9] ‘Israel’s alleged Natanz strike “as complex as Stuxnet,” a major blow to Iran,’ The Times of Israel, July 10, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/israels-alleged-natanzstrike-as-complex-as-stuxnet-a-major-blow-to-iran/ (accessed 7 Jan 2021). [10] Ann Valjataga, ‘Back to Square One? The Fifth UN GGE Fails to Submit a Conclusive Report at the UN General Assembly,’ The NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, September 1, 2017, https://ccdcoe.org/incyder-articles/back-to-squareone-the-fifth-un-gge-fails-to-submit-a-conclusive-report-at-the-un-general-assembly/ (accessed 7 Jan 2021). [11] Alex Grigsby, ‘Russia Wants a Deal with the United States on Cyber Issues. Why Does Washington Keep Saying No?,’ Council on Foreign Relations, August 27, 2018, https://www.cfr.org/blog/russia-wants-deal-united-states-cyber-issues-why-does-washington-keep-saying-no (accessed 8 Jan 2021). [12] ‘U.S. accuses China of violating bilateral anti-hacking deal,’ Reuters, November 9, 2018, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-china-cyber/u-s-accuses-china-of-violating-bilateral-anti-hacking-deal-idUSKCN1NE02E (accessed 10 Jan 2021). [13] Rebecca Smith, ‘Russian Hackers Reach U.S. Utility Control Rooms, Homeland Se-

Cybersecurity | 29


Populism By Dorottya Zsiboracs

Corottya is currently a first year BA International Relations student. Her principal interests are security issues, mainly conflict resolution processes, the role of diplomacy in statecraft and great power conflict. Furthermore, she is currently interning at Dryad Global, which is a maritime security risk management company.

emphasis on “us” versus “them”. Rather than exploring different types of populist movements, this paper will focus on the rise of right-wing populist movements that combine nativism and authoritarianism.

“Us” versus “them”- How many different faces does populism have?

H

ugo Chavez, the highly criticised former president of Venezuela, brought a significant democratic regression to his country by arresting government critics, manipulating electoral laws, and controlling media. Ahead of polls he propagated himself with the following sentence: “I am not an individual, I am the people” [1]. His political agenda was based on making enemies of the domestic elite, but ultimately targeted the United States as the head of an imperialist conspiracy. The recent rise of populist movements is not always as radical as the Venezuelan example; however, the continuous demise of liberal democracy witnessed partially around the globe undermines the idea of a pluralistic community of free and equal citizens [2]. The term “populism” has been broadly used since the emergence of the Populist Movement in the US in the 19th century.[3] One distinctive feature of populism irrespective of national characteristics includes a charismatic leader representing the “general will” of the people against the “corrupt elite” or “others”. [4] Nevertheless, it is hard to define populism, as it is not an ideology, but rather a style of politics structured around extreme identity politics with an

30 | KCL Geopolitical Risk Forecast Report 2021

The first issue to be addressed are the causes behind the rise and success of populist movements. As the lack of trust in the established liberal world order grows, populism is gaining ground. Establishment politicians have been accused of being incapable of solving global problems such as the financial crisis of 2008, the migration crisis of 2015 or the latest crisis caused by the coronavirus. In contrast populist leaders can use their direct line communication to the public during crises to their own advantage. Also, they aim to gain popularity by showing strong leadership, simplifying the political debate surrounding crisis resolution and displaying actions to protect ‘their’ citizens. Another factor behind the rise of populism is its ability to adapt to each new crisis and create new common enemies. [5] For example, Hungarian right-wing populism identified various enemies, such Western liberal democracies as a threat to traditional, national values; Brussel and the EU as a threat to national sovereignty; and migrants coming from other civilizations as a threat to Christian values. Moreover, in the globalised world we live in, populist leaders can succeed by promising collective action in the name of the nation and by cre-


ating a sense of belonging and strengthening national identity against the global, liberal institutions that advocate individual rights and enhance the detachment of people from politics. Since the government represents certain values, such as nation, family, and religion, it undermines pluralist views, established institutions and minority rights. For instance, right wing populism with its strong nationalist character can be hostile to religious and ethnic minorities. [6] Another form of governance that strengthens the populists’ position and undermines democracy is technocracy, the rule by experts. Populism emerges as a countermovement to technocratic governance by depoliticizing the art of statecraft and gradually dismantling bureaucratic institutions. An interesting example of a failed technocratic type of experts’ government headed by Mario Monti in Italy led to the emergence of bottom-up form of populist Five Star Movement. By bringing politics closer to the people and having their voice heard, populism seems more democratic and inclusive in the eyes of the people.

After the examination of the causes of the rise of populist movement, its future potential and its implications for democracy in the coming decades must be considered. Populist leaders are strengthened by the ever-increasing simplicity of direct interaction between leaders and the people via new communication technologies. [7] With the help of social media, leaders can engage in politics while receiving immediate and direct feedback about the popularity of their actions. Therefore, they can reshape their political agenda according to the changing “will of the people”. This implies that populism will remain intact in the future political landscape. Another factor that reinforces populism is the dissatisfaction of the citizens with the set political establishment. In a world of constant uncertainty and increasing inequality, the cost of any national or global issue falls on the poor [8] This can be witnessed in the present covid-19 ravaged world, where the white-collar workers have been able to adapt to the new situation by working from home or living up their savings. In

contrast, low-paid and low-skilled workers, such as waiters, cleaners, and retail workers, have been affected much worse by losing their jobs. Moreover, with rapid technological developments, many lowskilled jobs will be replaced by AI technology and machines. [9] Populists can exploit this situation and present themselves as the protector of the less fortunate. On the other hand, the question arises whether a populist leader can indeed convince the people without a clear political agenda and achieve long-term credibility without delivering on promises.

Through the case study of Hungarian-EU relations, the external relations of populist leaders and the role of the liberal world in dealing with populism will be examined. Hungary has followed a unique path since 2010 and set up its own national, strategic plan, often derided as the “illiberal democratic model”. [10] Even though the country has preserved the basic pillars of democratic governance, its interference into civil society by closing the status quo critic Central European University and the modification of appointment rules of the Constitutional Court and other such undemocratic actions have destroyed some of the key criteria of being in the democratic community of the European Union. Because of its structural weaknesses, however, the EU was not able to improve domestic politics in Hungary. [11] Orbán reflected on the changing nature

Populism | 31


of EU-Hungarian relations since 1989 with the following remark: “Twenty-seven years ago here in Central Europe we believed that Europe was our future; today we feel that we are the future of Europe.” [12] The growing polarization within the EU and globally, the widening gap between illiberal and liberal democratic governments and the surging protectionist policies annihilate the institutions essential to democratic order and create a deeper divide in society.[13] This attack on democracies across the world creates a downward spiral of hostility and division that ultimately benefits populist leaders. However, one could argue that there is hope for making a meaningful change by strengthening the authority of the EU and other institutions that were created in the name of democratic coherence and by the mobilisation of outside support for civil society organisations and domestic opposition against populist leaders. [14] However, these external and internal political reforms’ successes are uncertain and both directions, the strengthening of liberal democratic order and populism, are viable trends of the future political landscape. Sources [1] AFP “‘I Am the People,’ Chávez Tells Followers Ahead of Polls” (Sydney Morning Herald, January 24, 2010) http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-world/i-am-the-people-chaveztellsfollowers-ahead-of-polls-20100124-mryf.html [2] Rovira Kaltwasser, C., Taggart, P., Ochoa Espejo, P. and Ostiguy, P., The Oxford Handbook Of Populism. (Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press, 2015), 568. [3] Joseph Gerteis, Alyssa Goolsby, Nationalism in America: The case of the Populist Movement (University of Minnesota, 2005) 198 [4] Cas Mudde, Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser Populism: A Very Short Introduction. (Oxford Very Short Introductions, 2017) [5] Kaltwasser, Taggart, Ochoa, Ostiguy, The Oxford Handbook Of Populism 563 [6] Plattner, Marc F. Democracy’s Past and Future: Populism, Pluralism, and Liberal Democracy, (Journal of Democracy 21, no. 1, 2010) 90. [7] Benjamin Moffitt. The Global Rise of Populism: Performance, Political Style, and Representation. (1st ed., Stanford University Press, 2016) [8] Birdsall N, Rising inequality in the new global economy , (International Journal of Development Issues Vol. 5 No. 1, pp. . https://doi.org/10.1108/eb045856, 2006) [9] Smith A., Anderson J. Views From Those Who Expect AI And Robotics To Displace More Jobs Than They Create By 2025. (Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech., 2014) [10] Zoltán Ádám Explaining Orbán: A Political Transaction Cost,Theory of Authoritarian Populism, (Problems of Post-Communism, 66:6, 2019) [11] Jenne, Erin K., and Cas Mudde. “Hungary’s Illiberal Turn: Can Outsiders Help?” (Journal of Democracy 23, no. 3 ,2012): 149. [12] “Full Speech of V. Orbán: Will Europe Belong to Europeans?” (Visegrád Post, 24 July 2017) (https://visegradpost.com/en/2017/07/24/full-speech-of-v-orban-will-europebelong-to-europeans) [13] Thomas Carothers, A., How To Understand The Global Spread Of Political Polarization, (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2019) [14] Jenne, ,Mudde. “Hungary’s Illiberal Turn” (2012): 149. Image Credits Gwenbauv, Course ‘Dystopic Diversity? Narrating Migration In Populist Mobilization’ At The University Of Helsinki. ( Mobilizing the Disenfranchised, 2017) Europe’s populists are waltzing into the mainstream (The Economist, 2018) https://www.scmp.com/comment/insight-opinion/article/2089528/how-rise-populism-bringsmany-risks-also-potential-benefits

32 | KCL Geopolitical Risk Forecast Report 2021


Russia in Arctic

By Alexei Hoey

Alexei Hoey is a first-year History and International Relations Student, whose dual British-Russian background has given rise to his interests in energy security and the impact of political risk on international business. He has also interned at the international law-firm Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner and barristers’ chambers 23 Essex Street.

Russian Arctic Strategy

Perhaps what is most striking when comparing the two documents is the consistency in Russia has shown in its Arctic policy. [5] In the recent document Russia declares its continued support for international Arctic cooperation which helps consolidate its position as a regional leader (through active participation in the Arctic Council) and secures its economic objectives as it continues to invest in the region. Notwithstanding its support for international cooperation, analysis of the Russian media’s coverage of Arctic affairs reveals increasing discourse on conflict in the region, which draws the Arctic into a larger narrative on the importance of consolidating national security. [6][7] However, this rhetoric is backed by actual efforts to expand Russia’s Arctic military presence.

Accounting for 53% of the Arctic coastline, Russia is undoubtably a major regional actor and given its geographical location, stands to gain economically as the Arctic continues warming. Putin has long attached great importance to the Arctic, performing arguably jingoistic acts such as having a Russian flag symbolically placed on the seabed underneath the North Pole in 2007 [4], but also making more consequential moves such as Basic Principles 2020 and Basic Principles 2035 that outline interests and objectives in the Arctic.

Over the past decade Russia has recommissioned over fifty Arctic military bases, modernised its military across the Kola Peninsula (home to its Northern Fleet Headquarters and sea-based nuclear deterrent) and as of January 2021 is elevating the Northern Fleet’s status to that of separate military district: revealing the growing strategic importance of the Arctic to Russia. [8] While ostensibly defensive [9], Russia’s military expansion has concerned some hawkish elements in the US who believe that Russia has achieved Arctic military superiority [10] and is behaving aggressively in the region. [11] However, an analysis of Russia’s Arctic military capabilities, with a greater consideration for how they compare against those of NATO, reveals that Russian capabilities are far outweighed

A

s Arctic temperatures rise at double the global average [1], 2020 saw Siberia record what is considered the highest ever Arctic temperature. [2] Concomitant with the rapid rise in temperatures has been the recession of sea ice. Since 1978, 761,000 square miles of December sea ice extent has been lost and in 2020 the Laptev sea recorded its lowest December sea ice extent since satellite records began. [3] While these environmental changes are a stark reminder of the impending danger climate change poses to the world, receding sea ice is providing access to lucrative opportunities for resource extraction and commercial shipping in the Arctic.

Russia in Arctic | 33


in terms of both technology and numbers. [12] Acknowledgement that the regional balance of power strongly favours the US and appreciation of Russia’s longstanding cooperation in the Arctic (playing a constructive role in the Arctic Council and fealty to the UN Law of the Sea process to resolve Arctic territorial disputes) suggests that the hawks may have exaggerated the military risk that Russia poses in the region. The more realistic geopolitical risk for the US from Russia’s Arctic strategy is that Russia’s build-up of forces could break the strategic chokehold created by NATO’s control of the Greenland-Iceland-United Kingdom Gap, thereby undermining NATO’s regional dominance, but not to such an extent as to tip the regional balance of power in Russia’s favour. [13]

As Putin’s Russia seems certain to continue developing its military capabilities in the Arctic, the level of risk this creates seems to depend on how Biden will respond when he assumes office. So far, Biden has not outlined an Arctic policy, and even failed to mention it in his foreign policy essay. However, in January 2021 the US Navy set out its strategic blueprint for the Arctic; this document posits that the US should be more assertive in the region because “peace and prosperity will be increasingly challenged by Russia and China, whose interests and values differ dramatically from ours”. [14] This is the first time that the US has explicitly named Russia and China as Arctic threats, thus if Biden follows this strategic blueprint, the risk of confrontation in the Arctic over the next decade will increase. Alongside national security, development of the Northern Sea Route (NSR) is also fundamental to Russia’s Arctic strategy in Basic Principles 2035. The NSR is currently navigable for three to four months of the year but is projected to be accessible year-round by 2030, thereby providing unrestricted access to a transit route from Europe to China that is 40% faster than existing routes. [15] Moreover, the melting of Arctic sea ice would increase physical access to Arctic oil and gas reserves. It is estimated that approximately 90

34 | KCL Geopolitical Risk Forecast Report 2021

billion barrels of oil, 1,669 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and 44 billion barrels of natural gas liquids remain undiscovered. Significantly, 84% of these resources are estimated to be offshore, meaning that the melting of sea ice extent is going to have a considerable impact on the ability to access them. [16] Amidst growing international competition over rights to these resources, Russia’s geographical position (making up 53% of the Arctic coastline, therefore dominating the NSR) gives it an indisputable stake in the region and the opportunities that come with it. Opportunities that Russia has been active in realising, with plans to increase the volume of shipping through the NSR from 31.5 Mt in 2019 to 130 Mt in 2031, alongside ambitious plans to develop hydrocarbon reserves and increase LNG production from 8.6 million Mt in 2018 to 91 million Mt in 2035. [17] Like Russia, China is looking to increase its influence in the Arctic, publishing its first Arctic White Paper in 2018 which defines China as a near-Arctic state and thereby asserts that China has legitimate regional interests. China’s turn to the Arctic has antagonised certain US political actors, who reject China’s definition of itself as a near-Arctic state and its claim to legitimate regional interests, taking a cynical view of China’s Arctic goals. [18] However, for Russia, China’s Arctic presence has led to improved relations between the two as China stands to benefit from the development of the NSR (planning to incorporate it into its Belt and Road Initiative) and has therefore made significant investments into the region, for example the China National Petroleum Corporation owns nearly 30% of NOVATEK’s Yamal LNG. [19] While friction remains possible between Russia and China in the Arctic, with Russian shipping companies receiving exclusive rights to transport hydrocarbons along the NSR contradicting China’s 2018 paper’s emphasis on the right to freedom of navigation and use of the NSR, mutual interests in the region and the potential for Chinese investment lessens the risk of a fallout [20], especially as the US considers them both regional opponents.


eminence and wealth. Unfortunately, the perception of the Arctic as the future theatre for competition is only going to exacerbate the ecological damage that is occurring in the region, increasing the risk of economic, environmental and public health disasters [21], the ramifications of which will be felt across the world.

tic Institute, 2020) https://www.thearcticinstitute.org/china-arctic-trajectories-the-arctic-institute-china-series-2020/?cn-reloaded=1 [19] Ekaterina Klimenko, Shipping along the Arctic’s Northern Sea Route will be determined by Russia–China cooperation in the region (SIPRI, 2018) https://www.sipri.org/commentary/expert-comment/2018/shipping-along-arctics-northern-sea-route-will-be-determined-russia-china-cooperation-region [20] ibid. [21] Phantom Peril in the Arctic: Russia Doesn’t Threaten the United States in the Far North – But Climate Change Does Image Credits https://www.csis.org/features/ice-curtain-russias-arctic-military-presence

Sources [1] Sandra Cassotta et al., “Polar Regions,” in IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (Geneva: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2019), https:// www.ipcc.ch/srocc/chapter/chapter-3-2/. [2] Harry Cockburn, “Arctic Records Highest Temperature Ever Of 38C” (The Independent, 2020) https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/arctic-temperature-record-climate-change-38-siberia-a9578846.html. [3] “Ho, Ho, Ho-Hum December | Arctic Sea Ice News And Analysis”. 2021. Nsidc.Org. https:// nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/2021/01/ho-ho-ho-hum-december/. [4] Tom Parfitt, “Russia Plants Flag On North Pole Seabed” (The Guardian, 2007) https://www. theguardian.com/world/2007/aug/02/russia.arctic. [5] Ekaterina Klimenko, “Russia’s New Arctic Policy Document Signals Continuity Rather Than Change” (SIPRI, 2020) https://www.sipri.org/commentary/essay/2020/russias-new-arctic-policy-document-signals-continuity-rather-change. [6] Ekaterina Klimenko et al. “Narratives in the Russian media of conflict and cooperation in the Arctic” (SIPRI, 2019) https://www.sipri.org/sites/default/files/2019-08/sipriinsight1908.pdf [7] “Foundations Of The Russian Federation State Policy In The Arctic For The Period Up To 2035” (Russia Maritime Studies Institute, United States Naval War College), trans. Anna Davis and Ryan Vest https://dnnlgwick.blob.core.windows.net/portals/0/NWCDepartments/Russia%20 Maritime%20Studies%20Institute/ArcticPolicyFoundations2035_English_FINAL_21July2020. pdf?sr=b&si=DNNFileManagerPolicy&sig=DSkBpDNhHsgjOAvPILTRoxIfV%2FO02gR81NJSokwx2EM%3D. [8] Rebecca Herman, Eric Brewer and Maxwell Simon, Deep Dive Debrief: Strategic Stability And Competition In The Arctic (Center for Strategic & International Studies, 2021) https://www.csis. org/analysis/deep-dive-debrief-strategic-stability-and-competition-arctic. [9] Janis Kluge and Michael Paul “Russia’s Arctic Strategy through 2035: Grand Plans and Pragmatic Constraints” (German Institute for International and Security Affairs, November 2020) https:// www.swp-berlin.org/fileadmin/contents/products/comments/2020C57_RussiaArcticStrategy.pdf [10] Pavel Felgenhauer, Russia Claims Total Military Superiority in the Arctic, Eurasia Daily Monitor, Vol.16, Issue 36 https://jamestown.org/program/russia-claims-total-military-superiority-in-the-arctic/ [11] Simon Johnson, Pompeo – Russia is ‘aggressive’ in Arctic, China’s work there also needs watching (Rovaniemi: Reuters, 2019) https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-finland-arctic-council/pompeo-russia-is-aggressive-in-arctic-chinas-work-there-also-needs-watching-idUKKCN1SB0S2?edition-redirect=uk [12] Robert David English and Morgan Grant Gardner, Phantom Peril in the Arctic: Russia Doesn’t Threaten the United States in the Far North – But Climate Change Does (Foreign Affairs, 2020) https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2020-09-29/phantom-peril-arctic [13] ibid. [14] A Blue Arctic: Strategic Blueprint for the Arctic (Department of the Navy, 2021) https://news. usni.org/2021/01/05/new-navy-marine-corps-strategic-blueprint-for-the-arctic [15] Deep Dive Debrief: Strategic Stability And Competition In The Arctic [16] Emmanuelle Quillérou, Mathilde Jacquot, Annie Cudennec and Denis Bailly, The Arctic: Opportunities, Concerns and Challenges (Ocean & Climate Platform, 2019) https://ocean-climate.org/en/presentation-of-the-ocean-and-climate-scientific-items/the-arctic/ [17] Rosemary Griffin, Russia Approves Arctic Strategy up to 2035 (Moscow: S&P Global, 2020) https://www.spglobal.com/platts/en/market-insights/latest-news/coal/102720-russia-approvesarctic-strategy-up-to-2035 [18] Sanna Kopra, China and its Arctic Trajectories: The Arctic Institute’s China Series 2020 (Arc-

Russia in Arctic | 35


Space

By Dominic McClaran Dominic is an MA Intelligence & International Security student at King’s College London. Previously serving as KCL Geopolitical Risk Society’s Editor-in-Chief in 2019, he is now the Head of Internal Comms at King’s Intelligence and Security Society. With interests revolving around intelligence, strategy, current affairs, and international security, Dominic has enjoyed relevant experience in both the public and private sector.

O

Space in 2021

n 4th December 2020, the stars and stripes of six American flags that scattered across the lunar surface over the course of five decades, acquired a new neighbour. Fifty years after Neil Armstrong’s one small step for the United States (US), the Chang’e-5 mission marked the moon with a flag showcasing the People’s Republic of China, or ‘PRC’. Of course, this national feat mirrored the famous Apollo missions with the ‘excitement and inspiration’ that it evoked. [1] However, it differed in one significant detail: America’s flags were made from standard and vulnerable fabrics while the PRC’s had been provided with extra protection, including coldness-resistance measures. As one official, Cheng Chang, told the Global Times, ‘An ordinary national flag would not survive the severe lunar environment’. [2] Cheng’s message was clear. While the US was bleaching white in the sun, the PRC intends to make a lasting impact in space. ‘The moon too will become yet another base for mankind. ‘But who will get there first, and establish their claims? ‘And when they do…Will they let you be second?’ Anthony T. Hincks

36 | KCL Geopolitical Risk Forecast Report 2021

Of course, the Chang’e-5 mission has received far less attention than its more famous counterpart - Apollo. This is unsurprising, if no less important. With the world gripped by a global pandemic, and many of its citizens bound indoors, declining interests in events beyond Earth’s atmosphere are to be expected. Unlike Covid-19, however, this resurgent ‘Space Race 2.0’ is unlikely to go away. [3] In fact, ‘critical astropolitics’ – understood to be ‘the geopolitics of space control and the transformation of state sovereignty’ – is an emergent trend that is only growing in importance, with weighty implications for life on Earth. [4] Paralleling geopolitical realities on the ground, alliances and formations within this increasingly contested domain are following clear lines of established, and revisionist powers. Within all of this, moreover, is the role of private actors and assets, labelled by one academic as ‘New Space’. [5] As a result, states and individuals alike are increasingly jostling for advantage; while the US is likely to maintain its lead through 2021, China has emerged as its most serious competitor. ‘Who controls low-earth orbit controls near-Earth space. ‘Who controls near-Earth space dominates Terra. ‘Who dominates Terra determines the destiny of humankind.’ Everett Carl Dolman


In light of recent events, Astropolitik has more than a hint of the prophetic about it; battlelines are already being drawn. In the Western world, the last couple of years have witnessed the steady formalisation and bureaucratisation of the space sector within existing military command structures: in 2019, Donald Trump announced the re-establishment of US Space Command, ‘USSPACECOM’; more recently, the United Kingdom (UK) has committed to end an ‘era of retreat’ in defence spending with over £16.5 billion being directed towards aero and cyberspace; France added ‘Space’ to its Air Force; and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) has created new departments to account for this increasingly important issue. As far as collective defence is concerned, therefore, the US and its allies are lining up to capitalise on this ‘vital domain’. [7][8]

Away from collective defence formations, however, there are clear divergences across the Atlantic Ocean regarding the commercial opportunities provided by further space exploration. Companies are jostling for privileged access to an astonishing array of activities: commercial flights; establishing satellite networks; and, looking further into the future, asteroid mining. [9] As Gwynne Shotwell, President and Chief Operating Officer for SpaceX, once commented: ‘This is a race being run by entrepreneurs’. [10] Indeed, SpaceX appears set to continue its domination of the US, taking the West along with it. In each of its three business lines – launching satellites, operating its individual Starlink internet network, and commercial air travel – it is keeping up a steady lead. [11] Of course, SpaceX must compete with a slew of other American companies, such as Boeing and parallel projects in Europe. While the continent’s leading powers are pursuing their own agendas – with Britain’s OneWeb venture ranged against a

Franco-German project, the US will remain the unparalleled country on this side of the world. [12]

In fact, SpaceX’s dominance in the field has only been contended by the PRC: during 2020, the former flew 26 missions into space; China’s space agencies, meanwhile, managed 34. It should be remembered, of course, that SpaceX accounts for just over half of a total of 40 orbital launches carried out under US jurisdiction last year. [13] As such, the US is still the leading player in space as of the moment. It would be an oversight, however, to overlook China’s rise among an emergent group of astropolitical competitors. Exploiting their competitive place in advanced tech, moreover, the PRC have developed what they have termed an ‘“unhackable” form of global satellite communications’, utilising quantum physics to deeply encrypt its signals. [14] Reflecting a peak in diplomatic relations on the ground, deep-space exploration is also an endeavour subject to ‘an emerging [Sino-Russian] alliance with stronger strategic components and mutual trust’. [15] As such, revisionist powers are gearing up to challenge the US lead. ‘Though China has stated that it sticks to the peaceful use of space, we must make sure that we have the ability to cope with others’ operations in space.’ Wang Ya’nan

Space | 37


As in so much else, therefore, the Covid-19 crisis appears to be accelerating trends in astropolitical competition along a Sino-US split. Given the relative impotence of prevailing international laws, such as the 1967 Outer Space Treaty (OST), the possibility of such competition receding is highly unlikely. Despite the vast differences between the geopolitics of Earth and the vast, final frontier, it seems that humanity will be taking its anarchic system of international relations with it. As one academic put it, ‘Astropolitics is what humans seek to make of it’. [16] Sadly, humans appear to be seeking selfish agendas, making mutual suspicion in the process. Sources [1] ‘China becomes second nation to plant flag on the Moon.’ BBC News. December 4, 2020. (Accessed 08/01/2021). https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-55192692 [2] Steinbuch, Yaron. ‘China plant its flag on moon before return trip to Earth.’ New York Post. December 4, 2020. (Accessed 07/01/2021). https://nypost.com/2020/12/04/china-plants-its-flag-on-moon-before-return-trip-to-earth/ [3] Rajagopalan, Rajeswari Pillai. ‘Space Race 2.0.’ Observer Research Foundation. December 30, 2020. (Accessed 06/01/2021). https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/space-race-2/ [4] Duvall, Raymond D and Jonathan Havercroft. ‘Critical Astropolitics.’ In Securing Outer Space: International Relations Theory and the Politics of Space. Abingdon: Routledge, 2009. [5] Unal, Beyza. ‘Cybersecurity of NATO’s Space-based Strategic Assets.’ Policy Commons BETA. July 1, 2019. (Accessed 09/01/2021). https://policycommons.net/artifacts/613565/cybersecurity-of-natos-space-based-strategic-assets/ [6] Alonso-Trabanco, Jose Miguel. ‘The Dawn of the Age of “Astropolitics”?’ Geopolitical Monitor. December 16, 2019. (Accessed 08/01/2021). https://www.geopoliticalmonitor.com/the-dawn-of-the-age-of-astropolitics/ [7] Erwin, Sandra. ‘Trump formally re-establishes U.S. Space Command at White House ceremony.’ Space News. August 29, 2019. (Accessed 06/01/2021). https://spacenews.com/usspacecom-officially-re-established-with-a-focus-on-defending-satellites-and-deterring-conflict/ [8] Wickham, Alex. ‘Boris Johnson announces UK’s biggest defence spending boost since Cold War.’ Politico. November 19, 2020. (Accessed 07/01/2021). https://www.politico.eu/article/uk-to-announce-biggest-defense-spending-boost-since-cold-war/ [9] Dorrian, Gareth. ‘Forget the space race, a lunar gold rush is about to start. Here’s why that’s a problem.’ The World Economic Forum. May 31, 2019. (Accessed (07/01/2021). https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/05/lunar-gold-rush-is-about-to-start-and-we-could-exhaust-the-solar-system-in-fewer-than-500-years/ [10] ‘Outlook on the Global Agenda 2014: The New Space Race.’ World Economic Forum. 2014. http://reports.weforum.org/outlook-14/the-new-space-race/?doing_wp_cron=1575645300.62491 01161956787109375 [11] Fernholz, Tim. ‘Is SpaceX versus China the only space race that matters?’ Quartz. December 31, 2020. (Accessed (09/01/2021). https://qz.com/1949790/is-spacex-versus-china-the-only-space-race-that-matters/ [12] Morgan, Sam. ‘France and Germany launch space race alliance.’ EURACTIV. December 14, 2020. (Accessed 09/01/2021). https://www.euractiv.com/section/outer-space/news/france-and-germany-launch-space-race-alliance/ [13] Fernholz, Tim. ‘Is SpaceX versus China the only space race that matters?’ Quartz. December 31, 2020. (Accessed (09/01/2021). https://qz.com/1949790/is-spacex-versus-china-the-only-space-race-that-matters/ [14] Fouquet, Helene. ‘Europe Bets on China’s “Unhackable” Tech to Win Space Race.’ Bloomberg. January 5, 2021. (Accessed 06/01/2021). https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-01-05/europe-bets-on-china-s-unhackable-techto-win-space-race [15] Zhou, Laura. ‘China and Russia don’t need a military alliance, says Moscow’s ambassador.’ South China Morning Post. December 30, 2020. (Accessed 05/01/2021). https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy/article/3115737/china-and-russia-dont-need-military-alliance-says-moscows [16] Bowen, Bleddyn E. ‘Astropolitics and International Relations.’ Deep Space Commodities. 2018: 151-157.

38 | KCL Geopolitical Risk Forecast Report 2021


Maritime Geostrategy

By Phalak Vyas

Phalak Vyas recently completed his Masters in South Asia and Global Security program. He is interested in issues relating to India’s maritime security and Indian foreign policy.

China is one of the world’s largest consumer of energy, it is estimated that by 2035 its energy imports will double. [3] Having a secure supply of energy is one of the primary concerns of Beijing. Being the second-largest economy and world’s largest trading nation the sea lanes of communication (SLOCs) in the Indian Ocean holds a key position in its economic and security policies. [4] Geographically, China does not have direct access to the Indian Ocean, nor, did it have a significant naval presence until recently. Beijing has justified Chinese presence in the IOR to safeguard its energy supplies and to conduct anti-piIndia and China in the Indian racy operations. China through its Belt Road Initiative (BRI) has emerged Ocean Region and as one of the biggest trading partners of he comprehensive shift of the economy from Europe many Indian Ocean littorals. and America to Asia and the rising geostrategic importance of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) has fo- In 2015, the Chinese Government remented a competition amongst the regional and ex- leased ‘China’s Maritime Strategy’ on tra-regional powers. The Indian Ocean plays a significant role in its maritime security priorities and asthe world economy as it has been a vibrant trade route since the pirations. The document stated that early medieval period. It carries half of the world’s container ships, “the People’s Liberation Army – Navy one-third of the world’s bulk cargo traffic, and two-thirds of world’s (PLAN) will gradually shift its focus from oil shipments. Once a strategic backwater, the Indian Ocean is in- ‘offshore waters defence’ to the comcreasingly seen as an arena for strategic competition, it is steadily bination of ‘offshore waters defence’ emerging as a geostrategic hotspot amongst two regional rivals with ‘open seas protection’.” [5] It also highlighted that maritime space is part namely, India and China. of China’s critical security domain with The ‘rising China’ and ‘emerging India’ are two significant play- the observation that “the traditional meners in this region. With increased growth on the economic front, tality that land outweighs sea must be their stature are amplified on the global level. Both are the leading abandoned,” and prominence should be economies of Asia and are highly dependent on energy imports given to managing the seas and oceans from Middle Eastern nations. India imports nearly 80 per cent of and protecting maritime rights and interits crude oil and petroleum from the Gulf. [1] On the other hand, ests. [6] As a result in 2017, China es70 per cent of China’s oil supply and almost 80 per cent of its total tablished a 250,000 square feet military trade traverses the Indian Ocean region. [2] Both nations have a base in Djibouti which can station up to legitimate interest in protecting their energy and trading lifelines. 10,000 troops. [7] On the other hand,

T

Maritime Geostrategy | 39


Pakistan has emerged as China’s primary partner, a de facto ally in IOR vis-e-vis India. China has been Pakistan’s major arms supplier and receiving substantial economic push under its Belt and Road Initiative. [8] Additionally, Chinese funds have become a major source of investment for the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Myanmar. Consequently, the possibility of Chinese economic influence via debt-trap diplomacy translating into an actively hostile grand strategy against India remains high. [9] Besides that, China’s deployments of submarines and intelligence ships in the IOR has created a unique geopolitical situation for India. [10] In 2019, Indian Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lamba stated that at any stage six to eight vessels are operating in IOR, besides the submarines. [11] On the other hand, India’s biggest advantage in the IOR is its central position, being the established power in the region, India cannot see China’s increasing influence in the IOR. India considers the Indian Ocean region as its own strategic backyard and presence of Chinese research vessels and submarines in India’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) clearly shows Beijing’s growing interest in the IOR. [12] As John Measheimer points out in ‘The Tragedy of Great Power Politics’, states can never be certain about the intentions of other states. Thus, great powers balance against capabilities, not intentions. [13]

Against the Chinese backdrop, India has devoted a significant amount of energy in strengthening its ties with the littoral states of IOR. India has focused on improving its maritime domain awareness (MDA) to secure its maritime interests in the region. To keep the Chinese presence in check, India has initiated mission-based deployments in IOR which will cover water areas around India, beyond its EEZ overlooking the entry and exit points of the Indian Ocean. [14] India is also focusing on its naval modernisation program by investing heavily in the development of aircraft carries, nuclear-powered submarines, and autonomous unmanned vessels. Another major aspect in this strategic competition is New Delhi has moved beyond its traditional policy of non-alignment

40 | KCL Geopolitical Risk Forecast Report 2021

and engaged itself with like-minded nations in the IOR. Conducting joint operations and yearly naval exercises with the US, Australia, Singapore, and other key states of IOR has advanced India’s strategic partnerships and increased Indian Navy’s operational awareness. India and China are each other’s biggest trading partner and a confrontation can significantly impact their economies. However, given the past trajectory of Sino-India relations and more recent clashes on the Himalayan front, many have raised questions on China’s role in the IOR. Over the years, India has solidified its presence in the IOR and China acknowledges the fact that it cannot challenge India’s position. Nevertheless, a series of clashes such as Galwan valley confrontation reorients India’s focus on its northern flanks, where India lacks strategic advantage. Growing frictions at the land boundaries will reinforce India’s attention towards army and air force stationed there at the cost of Indian Navy. Sources [1] Sudheer Pal Singh, “Can India Halve Oil Import Dependence by 2030?,” Business Standard, April 8, 2015, https://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/can-india-cut-down-its-oil-import-dependence-by-a-halfby-2030-115040800227_1.html. [2] Gopal Suri, “China’s Interests in the IOR,” in China’s Expanding Military Maritime Footprints in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) (New Delhi: Pentagon Press, 2017), 16–42. [3] China Power Team, “How Is China’s Energy Footprint Changing?,” China Power, August 26, 2020, https://chinapower.csis.org/energy-footprint/. [4] Vijay Gokhale, “China Sees Indo-Pacific Idea in Terms of Balance of Power, Not for Advancing Common Interests,” The Indian Express, July 7, 2020, https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/the-indian-oceanfront-6493234/. [5] Richard a. Bitzinger, “The Chinese People’s Liberation Army in Transition: Implications for 16 Indian Defence,” in Defence Primer: An Indian Military in Transformation, ed. Pushan Das and Harsh V Pant, (New Delhi: Observer Research Foundation, 2018), 16–25. [6i] Ibid. [7] Abhijit Singh, “India Has a Bigger Worry than LAC. China Now Expanding Military Footprint in Indian Ocean,” The Print, June 12, 2020, https://theprint. in/opinion/india-has-a-bigger-worry-than-lac-china-now-expanding-militaryfootprint-in-indian-ocean/439934/. [8] Harry I. Hannah, “The Great Game Moves To Sea: Tripolar Competition in the Indian Ocean Region,” War on the Rocks, April 1, 2019, https://warontherocks.com/2019/04/the-great-game-moves-to-sea-tripolar-competition-inthe-indian-ocean-region/. [9] Jhoomar Mehta, “China’s Growing Threat via Debt Trap Diplomacy,” Live Mint, June 17, 2020, https://www.livemint.com/news/india/china-s-growingthreat-via-debt-trap-diplomacy-11592410677912.html. [10] Venkateswaran L, “Vital Sea Lanes of Communications as a Core Interest for China: Inferences for India’s National Security,” Observer Research Foundation, August 18, 2020, https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/vitalsea-lanes-of-communications-as-a-core-interest-for-china/. [11] Ibid. [12] Singh, “India Has a Bigger Worry than LAC. China Now Expanding Military Footprint in Indian Ocean.” [13] Abhishek Saxena, “Balancing or Strategic Autonomy,” The Kootneeti, May 8, 2020, https://thekootneeti.in/2020/05/08/strategic-balancing-strategic-autonomy/. [14] Sujan Dutta, “Indian Navy Informs Government about the Fleet’s Reoriented Mission Pattern,” The New Indian Express, April 1, 2018, https:// www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2018/apr/01/indian-navy-informs-government-about-the-fleets-reoriented-mission-pattern-1795404.html. Image Credits https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/lessons-india-china-border-clashes https://gcaptain.com/maritime-security-perception-or-reality/


Ethno-Racial Conflicts By Avery Benton

Avery is a third year undergraduate studying Ancient History BA. She is heavily involved in and keen on researching contemporary world events: particularly, she is interested in nationalism and manifestations of democracy and their effects on state’s domestic and international policies, US foreign policy, and Transatlantic relations.

The Rise of the Right: Anti-Globalisation Backlash and the Ugly Face of Ethno-Nationalism in the 2020s

E

thno-racial politics in the 2020s is going to be defined by globalization, or more accurately, by anti-globalization. The backlash and resulting sociopolitical movements shaped by ethnocentrism can be grouped into nationalistic and populistic tendencies. Ethno-nationalism is what is on the rise this decade, and it is markedly different from its counterpart, civic nationalism. The ethno-racial quality of ethno-nationalism and it’s polarizing quality of politics is what further divides a country from the inside out. It is the “us vs them” mentality which harms the cohesiveness of the nation, and it is through ethno-nationalism on a broader, international scale and white nationalism in Anglo nations which have started to emerge from the depths. Nationalism and populism both adapt the definition of globalization, usually in the form of anti-globalization, to fit their political aims of uniting an ethnicity against an “other”, whether it be a different ethnicity, elites, or another country, etc. [2] Nationalism and populism adaptations of anti-globalization in the forms of segregated ethnic-racial politics, while it might spell the preservation of the nation-state for now, also poses a huge geopolitical risk in terms of conflict. [3]

There has been a buildup of nationalism across the globe in the past decades, most notably, white nationalism in the Western world with the United States as a hot spot.[4] 2020 as a year alone had the amount of spectacles expected in a decade, and the United States is a warning for the trend for the rest of the globe. The recent attempt on the Capitol and Senate, the election of Donald Trump and his subsequent fall from grace, coupled with the rising of right-wing parties in Europe, all against the backdrop of emerging fascists in the Philippines and Turkey, all spell a dangerous combination of divisive political landscapes for the 2020s as a decade. [5] Modi in India, Erdogan in Turkey, and Trump in the US all show signs of dangerous political antics that centralize ethno-racial politics as their core source of power. While Modi and Erdogan have been in power before Trump, the ramifications of Trump’s presidency are emboldened nationalist and right-wing populist players across the globe, and the 2020s will feel this effect. [6] The world has essentially been divided into two ethno-racially focused political camps: White nationalists and Ethno-nationalism. Both of these nationalist politics are underlined by strong rightwing populist political rhetoric, fueling both parties on the conservative side. The National Front in France, Modi’s Hindu-focused Bharatiya Janata Party, Erdogan’s Muslim-Turk focused political rhetoric, and the United State’s Republican Party swing towards alt-right politics is to name only some of the right-leaning

Ethno-Racial Conflicts | 41


populist parties that have been building up for years, and now are starting to raise their heads. [7]

White nationalism is rising white majority settler and host nations, notably the United States, Germany, Britain, Hungary, and France, Ethno-nationalism is congregating in countries like India, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Iran, and North Korea. The most notable difference in the rise of white nationalists versus ethno-nationalism is that white nationalists are characterized by more rhetorical features of deep rightwing politics, such as anti-truth, specific authoritarian worship of the “true” leader of the people, insular governmentality, rejection of “outsiders” or “others” and prosecution of those who go against their people. [8] Ironically, it is also defined by ethno-racial identity: white nationalists must be white. Ethno-nationalism encompasses a much more broad spectrum of people. Their goals, however, remain the same. Anti-truth, specific authoritarian worship of the “true” leader of the people, insular governmentality, rejection of “outsiders” or “others” and prosecution of those who go against their people. This is evidenced by the persecution of the Armenians in Azerbaijan, a proxy for Turkey. Armenians are targeted by the government on the belief that they are infringing on the rights of the Turkish and Azerbaijani peoples. The attacks on the Capitol in Washington D.C. are further evidence of the violent reactionary populist politics that both of these ethno nationalisms hold. Both of these examples are also defined by the anti-globalization belief that outsiders are poisoning the democracy or the government of the “true” people. In Washington, it is the belief that Democrats, or the “global order”

42 | KCL Geopolitical Risk Forecast Report 2021

is targeting Trumps and Republicans. In Turkey, it is the belief that the Armenians are “outsiders” who want to change the status or the power of the “pure” people of the host-nation. The general anti-pluralism and anti-multiculturalism based rhetoric is based off the desire to not “share” the nation-state with those who are “other”. [9] The rise of globalization also brings dangerous opposition to ethno-racial political ideals, especially ones held by white nationalists and ethno-nationalists. Those ideals that are characterized by the fear of “global orders” or the “other” that migrates into the country, or even the minority population that is well established pose a risk to the political integrity and cohesiveness of the nation These volatile and reactionary politics may define the decade and the decline of Western (US) hegemony. [10] The rise of anti-globalization, and by extension anti-liberal [11] political regimes, poses may return political thinking and organization to a more primitive state, one defined by cultural seclusion and suspicion of those that are different. [12] The current trajectory of white nationalist and ethno-nationalist politics leads this statement to be true, especially evidenced by the polarizing and violent conflicts of the attempt on the Capitol and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

We have already witnessed that the risk involved with right-wing ethno-racial politics and anti-globalization are damaging to all aspects of the current capitalist world order. These include economic protectionism, tightening immigration restrictions, limits on the general movement of peoples, less international job opportunities, harder visa requirements, etc. [14] The 2020s face the risk of such insular pol-


itics threatening not only the current world order, but also more existential elements. Issues like climate change threateni the entire species and require global cooperation and a fundamental coming-togetherness for the survival of humanity. This kind of cooperation cannot be achieved with such polarizing politics dominating the world stage. To remedy the risk of right-wing ethno-racial politics, the liberal order will need to be revitalized, restamped, and redistributed throughout the world with a better focus on justice and collectivity. [1][15] Essentially, to mitigate the risk brought about by ethno-racial nationalist and populist politics, the liberal order will have to reorder its politics in a more populist fashion, essentially to unite the left, to generate steam to overcome the dangers of right-wing politics. Sources [1] Manfred B. Steger, A Very Short Introduction: Globalization, (Oxford University Press: Fifth Edition, 2020) 17. [2] Anthony D. Smith, Nationalism, (Polity Press: Second Edition, 2010). Samuel P. Huntington, “The Clash of Civilizations?” (Foreign Affairs 72, no. 3 1993): 22-49. [3] Huntington, “The Clash of Civilizations?” 22-49 Liah Greenfeld, “The Globalization of Nationalism and the Future of the Nation-State.” (International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society 24, no. 1/2 2011): 5-9. [4] David Neiwert, Alt-America, (Verso, 2018). [5] Jack Synder, “The Broken Bargain: How Nationalism Came Back” (Foriegn Affairs, 2019) [6] Lars-Erik Cederman, “Blood For Soil: The Fatal Temptation of Ethnic Politics” (Foreign Affairs, 2019). Jack Sullivan, “The World After Trump: How the System Can Endure” (Foreign Affairs, 2018). Azar Gat, “The Return of Authoritarian Great Powers” (Foreign Affairs, 2007). Fareed Zakaria, “Populism on the March: Why the West is in Trouble” (Foreign Affairs, 2016). [7] Bart Bonikowskia and Noam Gidron. “The Populist Style in American Politics: Presidential Campaign Rhetoric, 1952–1996.” (Social Forces 94(4), 2016) 1593– 1621. [8] David Neiwert, Alt-America [9] Cas Mudde and Cristobal Rovira Kaltwasser, A Very Short Introduction: Populism, (Oxford University Press, 2017) Steven Grosby, A Very Short Introduction: Nationalism, (Oxford University Press, 2005) Aurelien Mondon and Aaron Winter, Reactionary Democracy: How Racism and the Populist Far Right Became Mainstream, (Verso, 2020). Marco Revelli, The New Populism: Democracy Stares Into the Abyss, (Verso, 2019). [10] Jack Sullivan, “The World After Trump: How the System Can Endure” [11] Joseph S Nye Jr, “Will the Liberal Order Survive? The History of an Idea” (Foreign Affairs, 2017). [12] Huntington, “The Clash of Civilizations?” 22-49 Lamont Dehaven King, “Nations without Nationalism: Ethno-Political Theory and the Demise of the Nation-State.” (Journal of Developing Societies 18, no. 4, 2002): 354–64. [13] Rida Fatima, “Civic and Ethnic Nationalism in a Populist World: Behind the Facade of Dichotomies” (moderndiplomacy, 2020). [14] Richard C Levin. “Anti-Globalization.” In A World Connected: Globalization in the 21st Century, edited by Chanda Nayan and Froetschel Susan. (Yale University Press, 2012) 290-327. [15] Jack Synder, “The Broken Bargain: How Nationalism Came Back” Joseph S Nye Jr, “Will the Liberal Order Survive? The History of an Idea” Image Credits https://tribune.com.pk/article/93205/why-is-the-world-embracing-right-wing-politics https://time.com/5021203/trump-group-handshake-asia-trip/ https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-11-02/12th-street-riot-police/9111494?nw=0

Ethno-Racial Conflicts | 43


Non-Proliferation in the 2020s By Emma Visentin

Emma Visentin is a final year Master student in International Security Studies at Trento University. Her research interests within geopolitics are area-focused on China and Africa, and on nuclear proliferation as a subject. She is currently a Junior Analyst at Analytica for Intelligence and Security.

How I started worrying about the bomb (again)?

T

he Cold War was marked by the never-ending fear of the nuclear threat and by deterrence strategies, leading to an unprecedented nuclear arms race that could have proved deadly for the entire planet. The collapse of the USSR seemed to have put an end to it, with a significant decline in the number of warheads (from 70,300 in 1986 to an estimated 13,410 in early-2020 [1]) and to frenetic developments in the non-proliferation and arms control domains. But did it really? Or was the world just letting the sleeping dogs lie? This report will analyse the current standing of four main actors in nuclear arms control (the United States, Russia, China and the EU) and examine the contemporary trends that, if not carefully observed, could lead to a renaissance of the nuclear arms race. In international relations, nuclear deterrence is still a “currency of power”: that is, nuclear weapons are still considered both powerful military instruments and means to acquire political influence and prestige [2]. In other words, the nuclear threat was never really gone, but lurking in the shadows.

44 | KCL Geopolitical Risk Forecast Report 2021

The 2020’s started with concern as the last arms control treaty binding the US and the Russian Federation, the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), was to expire in February 2021 with little to no negotiations from either part. President Trump’s aggressive determination in including China [3] determined the entrance of the PRC in the restricted club of arms control negotiators, even though the estimated number [4] of its warheads is extremely small compared to those of the other two. It seems evident that the US considers China a threat, particularly after the 2019 Department of Defence report [5] noted that the PRC was modernizing its arsenal to possibly develop the capability to “launch on warning” of an incoming nuclear attack. However, it is unlikely that China will throw itself in a full-blown nuclear arms race, given that it would need to undertake a massive economic effort to catch up. Up till now, China has repeatedly refused to be part of any arms control agreement [6] as they impose verification mechanisms that would require the disclosure of exact numbers, types and locations of its nuclear warheads, thus endangering its current strategic advantage, based on unpredictability [7]. China does have a No-First-Use policy but has often been often criticized time and time again by Western governments for not being dependable on, even though it has been respected thus far [8]. The underlying risk, given the lack of precise information about its arsenal, is that a


possible attack would be difficult to assess and prevent. China is not alone in the modernization trend: according to SIPRI, all Nuclear Weapons States have continued to modernize their nuclear arsenals [9] in 2019, above all the United States. Under Trump’s presidency, the US nuclear weapons industry has boomed: with the budget for manufacturing and maintenance rising more than 50% from the Obama era and projected to increase again in 2021 by 3 billion [10]. The Trump administration also introduced a budget line for a new warhead (W93) that, if developed, would directly challenge the notion of “no new capabilities” by the precedent administration [11]. The resurgence of the nuclear-industrial complex doesn’t necessarily mean that the US plans to engage in a new arms race, but it does raise questions on its continued adherence to the no-test policy and on how far the increased competition with China and Russia, given the current hostile environment for bilateral arms control, will go [12]. Likewise, the Russian Federation is trying to keep its foot in the door in the competition: its nuclear arsenal is arguably one of the most important factors contributing to its still-standing superpower status. President Putin is well aware of the need for parity with the US, even if more for a political than strategic reason [13], given the chronic stagnation of the Russian economy since the 2008 financial crisis.

In June 2020, for the first time, Russia has publicly released its previously classified nuclear deterrence policy, described as “defensive by nature” [14]; however, its modernization efforts, combined with an increase in the number and size of military exercises adds to the uncertainty [15] about Russia’s long-term intentions. As a consequence, it leads to the continuous expansion of nuclear modernization programs and to political opposition to further nuclear

weapons reductions in Western Europe and the United States. The noticeable modernization trend has been converging with the collapse of bilateral arms control, as negotiations for the New START have been tortuous and are currently stalled due to a Russian refusal of a framework that would also include China. Newly-elected President Biden is expected to re-engage in talks immediately after being sworn into office and has signalled to being open to the 5 years extension provided by the treaty [16]. In addition, President Biden will have to deal with another critical arms control issue, the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA), the infamous Iran deal [17]. The much trumpeted end to the Iranian nuclear crisis, negotiated with the crucial diplomatic and technical assistance of the EU in the E3 format (France, Germany and UK), came to an abrupt end in August 2018. Since the US unilaterally withdrew from the agreement [18], tensions between Washington and Teheran have been accelerating, up to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announcement in January that Iran was starting to enrich uranium at 20% once more [19]. Biden has declared his determination to resume consultations with Iran, but the unpredictable variable is Iran’s willingness to further pursue the deal. The risk would be a prolongation of the crisis and the indiscriminate proliferation of nuclear weapons in the area, which would be extremely destabilizing for the strategic interests of both the US and the EU. In fact, the JCPOA is a pivotal issue on the EU’s agenda: foreign policy concerns aside, its efforts have not been sufficient to manage the crisis. Despite its ambition and its commitment to the international non-proliferation regime, the EU is still a nuclear actor “in the making”, mainly due to the difference among the security cultures [20] of its member states and the intra-institutional competition. The crisis of multilateralism and of the relationship with

Non-Proliferation in the 2020s | 45


the Atlantic ally, compounded with Russian warheads increasingly deployed near the borders with the EU, have prompted President Macron to propose the creation of an European deterrent by “Europeanizing” French nuclear weapons [21], the only arsenal left in the EU after Brexit. Even if the scenario can be considered just a proposal, it is a sign of the desire of independence that cannot be ignored, especially given the security threats the EU faces. The modernization of arsenals of all Nuclear Weapons States (NWS), coupled with the substantial failure of bilateral agreements between the two main nuclear superpowers and the escalation of the Iranian crisis highlights how nuclear weapons are today a silent but present geopolitical risk for the entire international community. We are still considerably far away from the aim of article VI of the NPT, which provides for negotiations in good faith for nuclear disarmament [22]. As of today, the main variable to watch out for will be the conduct of President Biden’s foreign policy, but the developments in the field need to be closely monitored as not to risk another arms race. Sources [1] Status of World Nuclear Forces, “Status of World Nuclear Forces,” Federation Of American Scientists, 2019 [2] Tom Sauer, “Power and Nuclear Weapons: The Case of the European Union,” Journal for Peace and Nuclear Disarmament 3, no. 1 (January 2, 2020), 41–59, https://doi.org/10. 1080/25751654.2020.1764260. [3] Reuters Staff, “Trump Calls for Arms Control with Russia and China in Putin Call,” Reuters, May 7, 2020 [4] “Status of World Nuclear Forces” [5] US Department of Defence, “Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China,” May 2019 [6] Xinhua, “Envoy: China Won’t Take Part in U.S.-Led Trilateral Arms Control Negotiation,” newsus.cgtn.com, October 2020 [7] Zhenqiang Pan, “A Study of China’s No-First-Use Policy on Nuclear Weapons,” Journal for Peace and Nuclear Disarmament 1, no. 1 (January 2, 2018): 115–36, https://doi.org/1 0.1080/25751654.2018.1458415 [8] Ibidem [9] SIPRI, “Modernization of World Nuclear Forces Continues despite Overall Decrease in Number of Warheads,” www.sipri.org, June 2019, [10] R. Jeffrey Smith, “Under Trump, America’s Nuclear Weapons Industry Has Boomed,” Los Angeles Times, December 24, 2020 [11] Center for Strategic and International Studies, “U.S. Nuclear Warhead Modernization and ‘New’ Nuclear Weapons,” www.csis.org, December 10, 2020 [12] Ibidem [13] Rose Gottemoeller, “Russia Is Updating Their Nuclear Weapons: What Does That Mean for the Rest of Us?,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, January 2020 [14] Shannon Bugos, “Russia Releases Nuclear Deterrence Policy,” www.armscontrol.org, August 2020, [15] Gottemoeller, “Russia is updating” [16] Julian Borger, “Nuclear Stand-off: Can Joe Biden Avert a New Arms Race?,” the Guardian, January 11, 2021, [17] Ibidem [18] “Special Briefing: U.S. Withdraws from Iran Nuclear Deal,” Reuters, May 8, 2018, [19] Francois Murphy, “Iran Tells IAEA It Plans to Enrich Uranium to up to 20% at Fordow Site,” Reuters, January 1, 2021 [20] Şebnem Udum, “Towards the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference: EU Policy on Nuclear Non-Proliferation” (ENTER Policy Brief Series, June 2020) [21] Michel Rose, “Amid Arms Race, Macron Offers Europe French Nuclear Wargames Insight,” Reuters, February 7, 2020 [22] Nobuyasu Abe, “The NPT at Fifty: Successes and Failures,” Journal for Peace and Nuclear Disarmament 3, no. 2 (September 30, 2020): 1–10, https://doi.org/10.1080/2575 1654.2020.1824500. Image Credits https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-50671003 https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/03/13/china-nuclear-arms-race-mystery/

46 | KCL Geopolitical Risk Forecast Report 2021


Corona-Conflicts By Siobhan Pebody

Siobhan is an MA Student reading War Studies. She read History and Politics for her undergraduate, focusing on IR and security. Her academic interests range from comparative analysis of civil conflicts to civil-military relations. She is currently particularly interested in foreign policy decision-making processes concerning the use of force, especially within democratic states.

less able to cope with it. Citizen trust in governments has been tested to its limits and will continue to be, as depressed economies attempt to fulfil unprecedented health and social care requirements. The mix of deprivation and reduced trust in governments greatly increases the risk for social unrest, and thus conflict, especially where it is felt that the impact of the pandemic has been unequally borne or exacerbating pre-existing division.

T

How the COVID crisis translates into ongoing conflicts around the world

he Coronavirus pandemic has been an enormous test of state and governmental capability. Responses have often been extremely resource-intensive, leading to economic stress, and challenged citizens’ trust in their governments and institutions. Whilst in developed Western democracies, this might take the form of searing opinion pieces or public criticism, in more politically fragile states, there can be greater ramifications. Economic decline raises the risk of civil conflict and organised crime which may be more devastating given reduced state capacity as governments deal with the pandemic. International attention and resources are similarly distracted, allowing conflict to flourish where there might otherwise be intervention. Risks of conflict, exacerbated by the pandemic, tend to be especially found among substate and local actors and transnational groups taking advantage of the absence of state attention. Pandemic-caused economic slowdown has left states less able to provide social support when their citizens most need it. 150 million people are at risk of falling into extreme poverty by the end of 2021, the first rise in 20 years [1]. Whilst there is not a direct correlation between poverty and conflict, conflict typically increases with economic instability and makes communities and states

More practically, the military has been utilised in more non-traditional ways: greater logistic support rather than security provision. President Biden referenced the military’s increased logistical role within the US to support his pick of not-long retired General Austin as defence secretary [2]. This, coupled with reduced likelihood of international intervention or pressure as states are distracted at home, emboldens substate actors and organised crime units. Importantly, while in the developed world there might be glimmers of vaccine-borne hope, global access to the vaccine is set to be shockingly unequal with poorer states unable to start vaccination until later in 2021 [3]. Though the overall impact of Coronavirus has so far been mercifully less pronounced in many African states, a new surge is a great risk given already fragile healthcare systems and economies [4]. The knock-on risks could persist for years to come.

Corona-Conflicts | 47


Organised crime and transnational groups Criminal activity in much of the world was initially stalled with a reduced movement of goods and people. However, reports suggest many criminal gangs have since taken advantage of overstretched security forces and now enjoy increased territorial control [5]. In Mexico and parts of Latin America, gangs have also increased their hold over local populations by providing vital resources [6]. With trade and movement once-more resuming, gang activity will too, and it appears that state efforts against criminal gangs in Central and South America have no end in sight.

In Africa, Islamist insurgencies continue to be a significant risk to local and regional stability and development. Sahel and western African states such as Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Senegal and Ghana have grappled with attacks and incursions by Al-Qaeda and IS-affiliated militias and will continue to in 2021 [7]. Boko Haram remains a threat in Nigeria and Cameroon and seeks to exploit the pandemic [8]. It claimed responsibility (though disputed) for the kidnapping of 300 schoolboys in Kitsana last month [9]. Covid-19 and its economic impact, including depressed oil prices, will further destabilise the region, exacerbating existing pressures on governments and overstretched security forces making violence and suffering more likely, as reports of increased child trafficking in Mali illustrate [10]. This will in turn place greater pressure on contentious elections [11]. The postponed elections in Somalia, where the struggle against AlShabab reaches the 15 year-mark, demonstrate how these stresses can lead to political friction and fears of unrest [12]. Covid-19 is an additional strain many states in the region will not be able to easily bear. Ongoing conflicts There was some initial success in negotiating ceasefires in response to the UN Secretary-General’s call to enable effective pandemic responses. However, many ceasefires were only unilaterally agreed, and violence quickly recommenced [13][14]. The 2016 Colombian peace deal was already unravelling but the ELN, FARC and other groups 48 | KCL Geopolitical Risk Forecast Report 2021

took advantage of lockdown measures to seize more territory and became more violent [15]. Reduced international pressure as governments and citizens are consumed with domestic concerns may also worsen the situation, the recent ending of a decades-old ceasefire in Western Sahara is an alarming reminder how easily conflicts can flare up [16]. Yemen looks likely to continue to be the worst humanitarian disaster of recent times. Whilst the conflict itself has not changed, the risk this conflict poses has increased exponentially with the pandemic. Already impoverished, malnourished and with little to no healthcare, Yemenis are immensely susceptible to the virus and the humanitarian disaster is only set to increase, particularly as the state is unlikely to be able to rapidly purchase vaccines and foreign aid dwindles [17]. New conflicts Ethiopia is the starkest example of new pandemic-related violence. Conflict re-emerged along ethnic lines after President Abiy postponed national elections, ostensibly as a lockdown measure. Tigrayan forces, long unhappy at Abiy’s centralising reforms and determined to retain their regional autonomy, labelled the government illegitimate and breaching constitutional values and held their own regional elections. These were subsequently deemed illegal by Abiy and the region was cut off from the rest of Ethiopia. Bloody skirmishes killed fighters on both sides and caused over 50,000 refugees to flee to Sudan [18].

Whilst the Tigrayan capital of Mekelle was captured by federal forces at the end of November, the risk of conflict has not abated. Tigrayan separatist sentiment has long been a disruptive force in Ethiopia and will not disappear, just as it did not after civil war in the


1980s. The TPLF remains a strong force of up to 250,000 with a history of successful guerrilla warfare and a stated intention to continue fighting [19]. Beyond the sizeable risk of civil war and political disintegration of Ethiopia, the conflict threatens a humanitarian disaster and to destabilise the region. The 50,000 refugees in camps present a severe risk of malnutrition and diseases including Covid-19. Eritrea and Sudan risk being drawn in. The TPLF considers Eritrea an enemy and there have been reports of rockets fired at the Eritrean capital- actions which will severely undermine the Ethiopian-Eritrean peace of 2018 [20]. Several Sudanese troops were also killed near the border [21]. More widely, Ethiopia plays a key leadership role in the Horn of Africa and the AU and a step back risks critical ramifications for the whole area [22]- Ethiopia has already withdrawn troops from the AU mission against al-Shabab due to Tigrayan unrest [23]. Conclusion It is difficult to directly attribute conflict to the pandemic, however, it cannot be denied that it has exacerbated many of the risk factors associated with conflict, particularly economic crisis and stained state capability. In many fragile states this might simply be one stress too many and it remains to be seen how states deal with it longterm.

[11] Crisis24 and WorldAware, ‘Global Risk Forecast 2021: Executive Summary’. [12] Robert Malley, ’10 Conflicts to Watch in 2021’, Foreign Policy, December 29, 2020, https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/12/29/10-conflicts-to-watch-in-2021-ethiopiairan-yemen-somalia-venezuela/. [13] Richard Gowan, ‘What’s Happened to the UN Secretary-General’s COVID-19 Ceasefire Call?’, International Crisis Group, June 16, 2020, https://www.crisisgroup. org/global/whats-happened-un-secretary-generals-covid-19-ceasefire-call. [14] https://pax.peaceagreements.org/static/covid19ceasefires/. [15] Crisis Group, ‘Colombia: Peace Withers amid the Pandemic’, International Crisis Group, September 30, 2020, https://www.crisisgroup.org/latin-america-caribbean/andes/colombia/colombia-peace-withers-amid-pandemic. [16] Heba Saleh, ‘War brews in Western Sahara as Trump strikes Morocco-Israel deal’, Financial Times, December 7, 2020, https://www.ft.com/content/1ee096027f01-4227-a787-0b3c07728cf8. [17] Bethan McKernan, ‘Yemen: in a country stalked by disease, Covid barely registers’, The Guardian, November 27, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/nov/27/yemen-disease-covid-war. [18] Crisis Group, ‘Clashes over Ethiopia’s Tigray Region: Getting to a Ceasefire and National Dialogue’, International Crisis Group, November 5, 2020, https://www.crisisgroup.org/africa/horn-africa/ethiopia/ethiopias-clash-tigray-getting-ceasefire-and-national-dialogue. [19] The BBC, ‘Ethiopia’s Tigray crisis: PM claims capture of regional capital Mekelle’, BBC News, November 29, 2020, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-55111061. [20] Reuters Staff, ‘Tigray forces claim to have shot down Ethiopian plane, taken town’, Reuters, November 28, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/ethiopia-conflict/ ethiopia-says-military-operation-in-tigray-region-is-over-hunt-for-tigray-leaders-begins-idINKBN288098. [21] Khalid Abdelaziz, Ali Mirghani, and Nafisa Eltahir, ‘Analysis- Spillover from Tigray conflict adds to pressure on Sudan’, Reuters, December 18, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/ethiopia-conflict-sudan-analysis-int-idUSKBN28S1X1. [22] The BBC, ‘Viewpoint: How Ethiopia is undermining the African Union’, BBC News, November 29, 2020, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-55099908. [23] Robert Malley, ’10 Conflicts to Watch in 2021’. Image Credits https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-54904496

Sources [1] The World Bank. ‘COVID-19 to Add as Many as 150 Million Extreme Poor by 2021’, The World Bank, October 7, 2020, https://www.worldbank.org/en/ news/press-release/2020/10/07/covid-19-to-add-as-many-as-150-million-extreme-poor-by-2021. [2] Joe Biden, ‘Why I Chose Lloyd Austin as Secretary of Defense’, The Atlantic, December 8, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/12/ secretary-defense/617330/. [3] Cara Anna, ‘African health official blasts ‘terrible’ vaccine inequality’, AP News, December 10, 2020, https://apnews.com/article/public-health-africa-kenya-coronavirus-pandemic-9fac8abbee08b4eb75169864f49a926f. [4] Cara Anna, ‘African health official blasts ‘terrible’ vaccine inequality’. [5] Drazen Jorgic and Uriel Sanchez, ‘As Mexico focuses on coronavirus, drug gang violence rises’, Reuters, June 18, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/ article/uk-health-coronavirus-mexico-cartels/as-mexico-focuses-on-coronavirus-drug-gang-violence-rises-idUKKBN23P1T5?edition-redirect=uk. [6] Vanda Felbab-Brown, ‘Mexican cartels are providing COVID-19 assistance. Why that’s not surprising’ Brookings, April 27, 2020, https://www. brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2020/04/27/mexican-cartels-are-providing-covid-19-assistance-why-thats-not-surprising/. [7] Crisis24 and WorldAware, ‘Global Risk Forecast 2021: Executive Summary’, GardaWorld, 2020, https://crisis24.garda.com/sites/default/ files/2020-12/2021-Global-Risk-Forecast-Executive-Summary-Crisis24.pdf. [8] John Campbell, ‘Beyond the Pandemic, Boko Haram Looms Large in Nigeria’, Council on Foreign Relations, June 11, 2020, https://www.cfr.org/inbrief/beyond-pandemic-boko-haram-looms-large-nigeria. [9] The BBC, ‘Nigeria’s Katsina school abduction: Boko Haram says it took the students’, BBC News, December 15, 2020, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/ world-africa-55295701. [10] Lisa Schlein, ‘Conflict and COVID Trigger Upsurge in Mali Child Trafficking’, Voice of America, December 10, 2020, https://www.voanews.com/africa/ conflict-and-covid-trigger-upsurge-mali-child-trafficking.

Corona-Conflicts | 49


Copyright © King's College London Geopolitical Risk Society Published February 2021. All rights reserved.

Profile for kclgpris

Risk 2021: Navigating through the Geopolitical Whirlpools of Tomorrow  

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement