Over the next seven days, most of the world's leaders will attend a string of summits in Europe and make a series of decisions that will shape the world. The discussions at these meetings will focus on the global economy, the overall tone and strength of U.S.-European relations, and the United States' course for the future.
The world is about to change. During the course of the next seven days, most of the world's leaders will be attending a series of rolling summits and side meetings in Europe and Turkey on everything from global financial infrastructure to the way the United States interacts with allies and rivals alike. Collectively, these gatherings constitute the greatest density of decision points in the modern world since the summits that brought about the end of the Cold War. The discussions that will take place fall into three broad categories. The first type of talks will address the economic crisis. The United States has kept its place at the center of the global economic and financial systems for more than 60 years. At STRATFOR, we do not see the United States losing that role, but that hardly means there will not be movement. The key issue is the degree of agreement — or more to the point, disagreement — between the United States and some of its closest allies on how far to go in revamping the global financial architecture and stimulating the global economy. The Americans see stimulus as the most logical road forward; they have already launched their program and expect the Europeans to follow suit. The Europeans see exporting to the United States as the way out of recession, and therefore see few reasons to launch a new stimulus effort. How these talks progress will deeply affect the second category of discussions: the timbre and strength of the overall U.S.-European relationship. There is more in play between the United States and Europe than "simply" trade: There is the most robust security relationship in the modern world, at a time when Russia is looking to extend its influence deep into Europe. U.S. President Barack Obama has made much political hay at home over claims that he can get more out of the Europeans in terms of security on the Continent or contributions to the war in Afghanistan. In Europe, Obama's popularity is largely predicated on the opposite — that he will not ask as much as his predecessor did of the Europeans. Balanced between those two positions is not only the security of Obama's political position at home, but the degree to which he will trust and involve the Europeans in global affairs in the future. This brings us to the final category: the U.S. path. The need to counter the recession, the need to fight the war in Afghanistan and the need to counter a rising Russia are all givens for the United States. In these summits, Obama will see the only wild card — the role Europe can be convinced to play — turned over. And then he will have to make some choices. How much Obama gets out of Europe will determine what sort of deals he will seek with the final player: Turkey. Turkey wields influence in Pakistan and Afghanistan as well as the Middle East and in much of the former Soviet region. If the Europeans — who repeatedly have refused to extend EU membership to Turkey — decline to assist the Obama administration, the question will be what sort of offers Obama can make to the Turks. How these various summits progress will answer a wide-ranging list of questions: How soon will the recession end? How coherent will NATO be in countering Russia? How powerful will Turkey become? How competently will the war in Afghanistan be fought? Will Europe be part of Obama's multilateralism? What will be the balance of power on the entire Eurasian landmass? It is going to be a busy week. And it will slightly derail our timeline in publishing our forecast for the second quarter. STRATFOR's quarterly forecast is designed to pair our ongoing intelligence-gathering efforts with our understanding of the way geography shapes events, projecting forward three months. In this case, the events of the next seven days will establish the parameters of global interactions not only for the coming weeks, but for years.