MER – Global dynamics in 2014

Global dynamics in 2014Three major developments left their mark on global dynamics in 2014. The first one was Russiaand#39s aggression in Ukraine, which culminated with the invasion of Crimea and the eastern provinces of the country taking a separatist path with Russian military support.

The second one was the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), first in Syria and later in Iraq. The organization shocked the world with its invasion of Mosul and rapid territorial expansion which rendered the border between Syria and Iraq more or less meaningless.

The third most important development was the rapid drop in oil prices.Letand#39s briefly analyze these three developments with an eye on expectations for 2015.

On the Russia-Ukraine front, Moscowand#39s belligerence generated alarmist talk about a new Cold War between Russia and the West. No doubt, Russian aggression in the region needs to be taken seriously.

However, it is also important to remind ourselves that Russia is no longer a superpower in a bipolar world. The terrible state of Russian demographics with dismal projections in the near future, and the state of the Russian economy with its total dependence on energy does not bode well for a country with global ambitions.

This is why a more accurate depiction of Russia is within the confines of a regional powerRussian President Vladimir Putinand#39s delusions of grandeur and his nostalgia for an imperial past can easily be accommodated if the West accepts the legitimacy of a Russian sphere of influence. So what should the West do about Russiaand#39s attempt to control Ukraine? Ukraine deserves to be an independent and sovereign state.

Yet, it is also obvious that the eastern half of the country feels closer to Russia This is why issues such as Ukraineand#39s membership in the transatlantic alliance or in the European Union should be best dealt with in the framework of a national referendum Even then it would be best for NATO to think twice before accepting Ukraine since such a step would be a total denial of Russiaand#39s sphere of influence.As far as the rise of ISIL is concerned, it is also important to adopt a balanced approach in order to understand what factors led to Sunni support for such a brutal and barbaric movement.

In the case of Iraq, the short answer to this question is the sense of Sunni resentment against the sectarian rule under the Shiite autocracy of former Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Now that this government has been replaced with a less confrontational one, it is still important to remind ourselves that the real fight against ISIL should be on the political front.

Only the inclusion of Sunni tribes and politicians in positions of central and regional power will address the root causes of ISIL. The situation in Syria is more complicated due to the absence of a political process that can include Sunnis in power in Damascus.

The civil war has created a vacuum on the moderate Sunni front, partly because of Western reluctance to support the insurgency at earlier stages. This vacuum was filled by jihadist radicals with no intention of sharing power with the Alawites and Christian minorities in a post-President Bashar al-Assad Syria This is why the only way to fight ISIL in Syria is with kinetic methods.

The challenge for Washington will be to do so without helping the regime in Damascus. As 2014 is coming to a close, despite improved prospects in Iraq, there is no room for optimism about the future of Syria and ISILand#39s presence there as a force that can dictate military and political conditions on the ground.

Finally, a couple of words about falling oil prices. It looks like the only country capable of stopping the free fall, Saudi Arabia, is more interested in hurting Iran and shale gas producers in the United States.

As a result, 2015 will be a very difficult year for oil producers such as Russia, Venezuela and Iran. Yet, there are also limits to how long the Saudis can rely on their savings before they face domestic political pressure from an increasingly restless and unemployed young population.

In short, 2015 will also be a difficult year for the Saudi kingdom as well.

SOURCE: The East African