If there is one thing the 2008 financial crisis taught us, it’s that globalisation has effectively taken place. There are no ifs and buts: nations are no longer isolated states, but outward-thinking economically-linked entities. Indeed, in short form, the whole world economy collapsed due to a U.S. mortgage crisis, showing the extent of how nations are tied together. To many, this phenomenon of globalisation is seen a positive factor in the world, which fosters strong international relations and co-operation. Yet, in 2012, it could pose a big problem in that the world. National politics and elections will take over many of the world’s leading nations, leaving many power holes in global affairs.
In a year that requires stability and co-operation, the road ahead seems very rocky
France, China, Russia and the U.S. are all on set for elections this year. The problem of this does not lie in a ‘changing-of the-guard’ scenario – in most of these cases, it is likely the incumbent will retain power – but that the world will be in a state of flux. With the economic climate requiring urgent and constant attention, this could be potential damaging with states unable to co-operate due to national politics taking over.
In fact, proof of this can be seen in the already strong coverage of the presidential-election campaign. The election does not actually take place until November, and yet the race for the White House is already on. The ramifications of this for the rest of us is negative. The U.S., as the world’s superpower (and de facto leader), is the nation that is often required to give backing to international agreements. However, the nation will be in a state of limbo with Obama concentration on the election resulting in the U.S. unlikely to agree new trade or economic agreements.
But despite its possession of political coverage, it is not just the U.S. that will be experiencing election fever this year. In fact, the world’s other ‘superpower’, China, will also seen a change at the top – though of course this will not be due to elections. Both the Prime Minister, Wen Jinbao and President Hu Jintao, will probably leave office by the end of year with their replacements already chosen and set to go. This will likely damage relations between the U.S. and China who, under Obama and Jintao, have build a trusting relationship. Moreover, such a move will only add to China seemingly nationalistic – and militaristic – direction with fears that many of the leading Chinese nationalists will rise up in the hirearchy.
The European situation is no different. In Russia, Vladimir Putin’s return to the President is close to certain, despite recent protests against a rigged election last month. Indeed, Dmitry Medvedev’s appointment in 2008 was merely a way to bypass a Russian constitutional rule that required a incumbent president to bow out after two terms of office; in fact, Putin never gave up real power despite becoming Medvedev’s subordinate. The reaction from many in Russia will be unfavorable, but this job swap also poses problems for the world. Medvedev has pursued a policy that has been less hostile to other world nations – he remained neutral in regards to the NATO intervention in Libya while Putin opposed such actions – and has built a new improvement in Russian-American relations. The Kremlin, under Putin, will once again pursue a more suspicious outward policy towards the EU and US, especially as it seeks to create it own version of the EU in the former Soviet states.
France too will take to the polls, on April 22nd and May 6th, and Nicholas Sarkozy is in danger of losing his presidency. The European Euro and general economic crisis then will be put on the back burner until then, leaving Europe essentially half leaderless. Germany will be able to take charge on some accounts, but will be left in the lurch. If Sarkozy loses the election, the situation will be intensified as both of his main two opponents, François Hollande and Marine Le Pen, are campaigning as euro skeptics. Le Pen has claimed she would leave the Euro altogether. It seems France’s already fractious relationship with Germany could potentially worsen.
All in all, 2012 will see a possible change of four of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. These nations will be looking inward, dealing with their internal state politics with international relations very much on the back-foot. In a year that requires stability and co-operation, the road ahead seems very rocky.