quarterly forecasts

2016 Fourth-Quarter Forecast

6 MINS READOct 10, 2016 | 00:09 GMT
If the study of geopolitics focuses on the structural forces shaping the international system, then domestic elections only rarely matter. Leaders tend to bend to their environment, not the other way around. And yet in the final months of 2016 the United States, still the world's only superpower, will choose a president in an election that will shape U.S. foreign policy more than usual.

In the final months of 2016 the United States, still the world's only superpower, will choose a president in an election that will shape U.S. foreign policy more than usual.

(MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

Overview

If the study of geopolitics focuses on the structural forces shaping the international system, then domestic elections only rarely matter. Leaders tend to bend to their environment, not the other way around. And yet in the final months of 2016 the United States, still the world's only superpower, will choose a president in an election that will shape U.S. foreign policy more than usual....

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Europe

To the west of Eurasia lays Europe, a region predisposed to division. It is surrounded on nearly all sides by islands and peninsulas that make it difficult for Europe to cohere. The northern half of the continent, moreover, sits on a plain whose short, meandering rivers tend to empower countries without forcing them to work with others. The southern half is situated on more mountainous terrain that has historically impeded the creation of strong, unified economies. As a result, Europe is a continent riven by pockets of distinct cultures whose differences are all too often irreconcilable.

Oct 10, 2016 | 19:22 GMT
Europe is a continent riven by pockets of distinct cultures whose differences are all too often irreconcilable.

Europe is a continent riven by pockets of distinct cultures whose differences are all too often irreconcilable.

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  • Political and financial uncertainty in Italy will also have a ripple effect on banks elsewhere in the eurozone.
  • Elections in France and Germany will leave the European Union without leadership.
  • In the United Kingdom, preparations for negotiations to leave the European Union will continue.
  • Some of the strongest criticism of the European Union will come from Central and Eastern Europe, but they will keep their disagreements with Brussels within manageable levels.
  • The European Union will be unable to honor all the promises it made to Turkey.
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If the study of geopolitics focuses on the structural forces shaping the international system, then domestic elections only rarely matter. Leaders tend to bend to their environment, not the other way around. And yet in the final months of 2016 the United States, still the world's only superpower, will choose a president in an election that will shape U.S. foreign policy more than usual....

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Eurasia

Eurasia is the world’s most expansive region. It connects the East to the West, forming a land bridge that borders Europe, the Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and South Asia. Forming the borders of this massive tract of land are the Northern European Plain, the Carpathian Mountains, the Southern Caucasus Mountains, the Tien Shan Mountains and Siberia. At the heart of Eurasia is Russia, a country that throughout history has tried, to varying degrees of success, to extend its influence to Eurasia’s farthest reaches — a strategy meant to insulate it from outside powers. But this strategy necessarily creates conflict throughout Russia’s borderlands, putting Eurasia a near constant state of instability.

Oct 10, 2016 | 19:39 GMT
Eurasia connects the East to the West, forming a land bridge that borders Europe, the Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and South Asia.

Eurasia connects the East to the West, forming a land bridge that borders Europe, the Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and South Asia.

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  • Moscow's strategy in Ukraine and Syria is putting Russia on a path toward escalation with the United States.
  • Budget negotiations will compound the struggles between Russian security services, big businesses, elites and even President Vladimir Putin.
  • Central Asia will grapple with several problems, including political instability, social unrest and militancy.
See more on this Region

If the study of geopolitics focuses on the structural forces shaping the international system, then domestic elections only rarely matter. Leaders tend to bend to their environment, not the other way around. And yet in the final months of 2016 the United States, still the world's only superpower, will choose a president in an election that will shape U.S. foreign policy more than usual....

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Middle East and North Africa

The Middle East and North Africa is the world's crossroads. It encompasses the Arabian Peninsula, the mountains of Iran, the plains of Turkey, the deserts of the Levant, the lands north of the Sahara and all coasts in between. The story of the region, as is so often the case of places stuck between foreign players, is the story of trade, exchange and conflict. The traditional powers of the region are Turkey and Iran — Saudi Arabia and Egypt are the current Arab powers — and their competition for influence over the region's weaker states makes the Middle East and North Africa an arena of violence and instability.

Oct 10, 2016 | 19:53 GMT
The Middle East and North Africa encompasses the Arabian Peninsula, the mountains of Iran, the plains of Turkey, the deserts of the Levant, the lands north of the Sahara and all coasts in between.

The Middle East and North Africa encompasses the Arabian Peninsula, the mountains of Iran, the plains of Turkey, the deserts of the Levant, the lands north of the Sahara and all coasts in between.

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  • The interests of forces fighting in Syria and their foreign backers will diverge even more noticeably in the fourth quarter.
  • Turkey's incursion into Syria  will force it to maintain a working relationship with the other military powers operating in the area -- namely, the United States and Russia.
  • Iraq will begin trying to recapture Mosul from the Islamic State.
  • Iran will prepare to hold its presidential election in the first half of 2017 -- a race that the United States' upcoming November vote will factor heavily into.
  • OPEC leaders in the Gulf will begin to negotiate supply cuts.
See more on this Region

If the study of geopolitics focuses on the structural forces shaping the international system, then domestic elections only rarely matter. Leaders tend to bend to their environment, not the other way around. And yet in the final months of 2016 the United States, still the world's only superpower, will choose a president in an election that will shape U.S. foreign policy more than usual....

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Asia-Pacific

The Asia-Pacific is home to more people than any other region. Centered on the western rim of the Pacific Ocean, this region includes the easternmost countries of continental Asia as well as the archipelagos that punctuate the coast. Several of these countries, most notably China, experienced rapid economic growth in the second half of the 20th century, giving the region a new sense of global economic relevance that continues today. That relevance, however, depends largely on China, a power in transition whose rise is testing the network of U.S. alliances that have long dominated the region. How effectively Beijing manages its transition will shape the regional balance of power in the decades to come.

Oct 10, 2016 | 20:07 GMT
Centered on the western rim of the Pacific Ocean, the Asia-Pacific region includes the easternmost countries of continental Asia as well as the archipelagos that punctuate the coast.

Centered on the western rim of the Pacific Ocean, the Asia-Pacific region includes the easternmost countries of continental Asia as well as the archipelagos that punctuate the coast.

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  • China will continue asserting its claims in the South China Sea.
  • Washington's indecision over the Trans-Pacific Partnership will create doubt about long-term U.S. interests in the region.
  • Beijing's main concern throughout the quarter will be its economy, which will continue to slow over the next three months.
  • the main focus of Japanese politics this quarter will not be the legislative agenda but the debates within the Shinzo Abe administration over the future of Abenomics.
  • In Southeast Asia, the expected U.S. interest rate hike will pressure some countries' economies.
See more on this Region

If the study of geopolitics focuses on the structural forces shaping the international system, then domestic elections only rarely matter. Leaders tend to bend to their environment, not the other way around. And yet in the final months of 2016 the United States, still the world's only superpower, will choose a president in an election that will shape U.S. foreign policy more than usual....

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Americas

The Americas stretch from the Arctic Circle in Canada to the southern tip of Chile. This geographically, culturally and politically diverse region is home to the United States, a nation whose geography helped it become the foremost economic and military power in the world — an ascendance aided in part by bringing Mexico and Canada into its sphere of influence. Farther south, the nations of South America are like islands, separated by vast spaces of impenetrable mountains, rivers and jungles. Try though these countries may to integrate more closely, deeper ties such as those that characterize North America will prove elusive.
Oct 10, 2016 | 20:53 GMT
This geographically, culturally and politically diverse region is home to the United States, a nation whose geography helped it become the foremost economic and military power in the world

This geographically, culturally and politically diverse region is home to the United States, a nation whose geography helped it become the foremost economic and military power in the world

section Highlights
  • The dispute between Venezuela's government and political opposition over a proposed presidential recall referendum will be the major driver of events in the quarter. 
  • Mexico will have to contend with increased political and economic uncertainty in the fourth quarter.
  • During the fourth quarter, Colombia's government will begin to lay the groundwork for negotiations over a new peace agreement.
See more on this Region

If the study of geopolitics focuses on the structural forces shaping the international system, then domestic elections only rarely matter. Leaders tend to bend to their environment, not the other way around. And yet in the final months of 2016 the United States, still the world's only superpower, will choose a president in an election that will shape U.S. foreign policy more than usual....

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South Asia

Everything that informs geopolitics can be found in South Asia: challenging demographics, geographic diversity, and contentious, ill-defined borders. The Himalayan Mountains form the northern border of South Asia, whose two main rivers, the Indus and the Ganges, support the region’s great population centers. India is the region’s dominant country, home to the world’s fastest growing economy. But its rivalry with neighboring Pakistan, a fellow nuclear power and growing consumer market, has made South Asia one of the world’s most dangerous nuclear flashpoints. The region is also a testament to how militancy and militarism can undermine the regional integration needed to unleash higher economic growth.

Oct 10, 2016 | 21:03 GMT
Everything that informs geopolitics can be found in South Asia: challenging demographics, geographic diversity, and contentious, ill-defined borders.

Everything that informs geopolitics can be found in South Asia: challenging demographics, geographic diversity, and contentious, ill-defined borders.

section Highlights
  • Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's efforts to win 2017 elections in Uttar Pradesh -- India's most populous state and therefore most important electoral state -- will be the center of gravity in South Asia this quarter.
  • To win those elections, Modi will continue to criticize Pakistan, specifically over unrest in Kashmir.
  • Afghanistan's chief executive is unlikely to become the prime minister as outlined in the agreement that formed the unity government to begin with.
See more on this Region

If the study of geopolitics focuses on the structural forces shaping the international system, then domestic elections only rarely matter. Leaders tend to bend to their environment, not the other way around. And yet in the final months of 2016 the United States, still the world's only superpower, will choose a president in an election that will shape U.S. foreign policy more than usual....

section

Sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa is a study in diversity. Covering an area that spans the entire width of the continent beginning at the Sahara Desert and ending at the southernmost tip of South Africa, the region is home to countless cultures, languages, religions, plants, animals and natural resources. It’s no surprise that it captured the imagination of Europe’s earliest explorers — and that it continues to capture the imagination of current world powers eager to exploit it. And yet despite the region’s diversity, Sub-Saharan African countries have common challenges — transnational terrorism, rapid population growth, endemic poverty and corruption — that prevent them from capitalizing on their economic potential. The coming years will be critical for the region, especially as its political institutions mature in a rapidly globalizing world.

Oct 10, 2016 | 21:10 GMT
Covering an area that spans the entire width of the continent beginning at the Sahara Desert and ending at the southernmost tip of South Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa is home to countless cultures, languages, religions, plants, animals and natural resources.

Covering an area that spans the entire width of the continent beginning at the Sahara Desert and ending at the southernmost tip of South Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa is home to countless cultures, languages, religions, plants, animals and natural resources.

section Highlights
  • The Nigerian government will struggle to manage the country's economy, which has been weakened in part by low global energy prices -- a situation expected to persist through the end of 2016.
  • Still stinging from its electoral losses in August's municipal elections, South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) will try to win back voter support through the end of the year and into the next election cycle.
  • Ethiopia is moving from a period of relative political stability to one of contested rule. 
See more on this Region

If the study of geopolitics focuses on the structural forces shaping the international system, then domestic elections only rarely matter. Leaders tend to bend to their environment, not the other way around. And yet in the final months of 2016 the United States, still the world's only superpower, will choose a president in an election that will shape U.S. foreign policy more than usual....

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