Top Risks 2019

Top Risks 2019

US-China relations are hitting the skids. The future of the Middle East is doubly uncertain now that US President Donald Trump wants to pull American troops out of Syria. Meanwhile, politics in Washington, DC are about to become a bitter smackdown.


And don't forget about the possibility of a no-holds barred cyber conflict.

But are any of these things the most important risks to watch in 2019?

Every January our parent firm, Eurasia Group, publishes a Top Risks report, which identifies the major political and geopolitical risks to watch in the year ahead. The full report is online (see it here), but here's a one sentence version of each risk to pique your interest (and your pulse.)

Let us know your thoughts

10. Nigeria's presidential election, which pits the ailing President Muhammadu Buhari against business tycoon Atiku Abubakar, could return an inconclusive result that leads to post-election upheaval in Africa's largest economy.

9. Ukraine: A little tension between Moscow and Kiev helps the presidents of both countries at home, but as Russia seeks to influence Ukraine's presidential and parliamentary elections this year, the armed standoff between the countries could get hot again, fast.

8. Mexico's popular and powerful new president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, brings to office a centralized style and spendthrift plans to tackle inequality and security that could rattle Latin America's second largest economy.

7. Coalition of the Unwilling: Trump may be unpopular at home and among the globalist elite, but a growing group of populist, nationalist, and authoritarian leaders around the globe will all bolster Trump's revisionist impulses on the world stage.

6. Innovation Winter: The global environment for technological innovation will feel a chill this year as governmental and popular backlashes over security and privacy lead to tighter restrictions on investment and data use across major economies.

5. US domestic politics is going to get supremely ugly as Democrats assume the House and a combative President Trump responds to a slew of investigations in ways that could lead to a constitutional crisis.

4. European populists will gain firmer footing within EU institutions in elections slated for May, giving them an opportunity to reshape the EU's policies on immigration, trade, and democratic norms.

3. The cybergloves will come off this year as the US goes on the offensive with its powerful cyberweapons as a show of force, and blowback from non-state actors as well as nation state rivals like Russia, China, and Iran could open a Pandora's box in cyberspace.

2. US-China relations will get worse as the world's two largest economies diverge on a whole lot more than just trade – technology, industrial policy and potentially even the South China Sea will emerge as bitter points of contention this year.

1. Bad seeds: The fraying of US alliances, erosion of the European Union, and deepening discord between the world's major economies are all "bad seeds" – none will lead to a catastrophe this year, but left untended they will put down deeper roots that erode global stability and leave the world vulnerable to fresh economic or security crises.

Don't want to read? Check out our Top Risks 2019 video, directed/scored by yours truly.

Emily Ademola lives in an area of Nigeria that has been attacked by Boko Haram militants in the past. Looking for water was very risky, and without access to water, the community – especially children – were at risk of waterborne diseases. Eni, in partnership with FAO, built a water well in Emily's community in 2019.

Watch Emily's first-hand account about how access to water "close to our doorsteps" has improved the quality of life for her community and her family.

There's never a great time to impose higher taxes on funeral services — but doing it in the middle of a raging pandemic is an especially bad move. Yet that was one of a number of measures that the Colombian government proposed last week in a controversial new tax bill that has provoked the country's largest and most violent protests in decades.

In the days since, the finance minister has resigned, the tax reform has been pulled, and President Iván Duque has called for fresh dialogue with activists, union leaders, and opposition politicians.

But demonstrations, vandalism, and deadly clashes with police have only intensified. Two dozen people are dead, 40 are missing, and the UN has criticized Colombian police for their heavy-handed response.

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While residents of wealthy countries are getting ready for hot vaxxed summer — COVID is still ravaging many low- and middle-income countries. The horrifying scenes coming out of India in recent weeks have gripped the world, causing governments and civil society to quickly mobilize and pledge support.

But on the other side of the globe, Brazil is also being pummeled by the pandemic — and has been for a year now. Yet thus far, the outpouring of aid and (solidarity) hasn't been as large.

What explains the global alarm at India's situation, and seeming passivity towards Brazil's plight? What are the politics of compassion?

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Paris-London face-off at sea: France and the UK are at loggerheads in the high seas this week over post-Brexit fishing access in Jersey, an island off the English Channel. Furious at regulations that they say makes it harder to fish in these lucrative waters, dozens of French fishing boats amassed near the Channel Island, threatening to block access to the port. In response, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson deployed two naval vessels — a move critics say was an unnecessary escalation, and an attempt by the PM to flex his muscles and bolster the Tory vote ahead of Thursday's regional election. France, for its part, sent its own naval ship and threatened to cut off Jersey's electricity supply, 90 percent of which comes from French underwater cables. Fishing rights was one of the final sticking points of Brexit trade negotiations, an emotive political issue for many Britons who say that they got a subpar deal when the UK joined the European Economic Community in the 1970s. Though an UK-EU Brexit agreement was finally reached in December 2020, it's clear that there are still thorny issues that need to be resolved.

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10: Joshua Wong was sentenced along with other Hong Kong democracy activists to 10 months in prison for participating in a vigil last year marking the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing. Wong is currently behind bars for participating in separate pro-democracy protests, and will only start this new sentence after that term concludes in November.

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What's the biggest foreign policy misconception that Americans have about the US's role in the world? According to international relations expert Tom Nichols, too few Americans believe that the US, in fact, has a critical role in the world, and that the things Americans enjoy, from cheap goods to safe streets, are made possible because of American global leadership. "Americans have become so spoiled and inured to the idea that the world is a dangerous place that they don't understand that the seas are navigable because someone makes them that way. They don't understand that peace between the great powers is not simply like the weather, that just happens," Nichols tells Ian Bremmer. Their conversation is featured on an episode of GZERO World, airing on US public television – check local listings.

Watch the episode: Make politics "boring" again: Joe Biden's first 100 Days

The cover story of The Economist declares that Taiwan is "The most dangerous place on Earth," because China might finally be ready to plan an invasion of the island. But are the consequences of such a move worth the many risks to China and its President Xi Jinping? Ian Bremmer breaks out the Red Pen to to explain why a US-China war over Taiwan is unlikely.

We are taking our red pen to a recent article from The Economist. The Economist, you ask, how could I? I love The Economist, I know, I know. But you'd lose respect if I give this piece a pass. In fact, it was the magazine's cover story this week, so I had no choice. The image and headline say it all. Here it is, Taiwan is now "the most dangerous place on earth" as US/China relations continue to sour in the opening months of President Biden's administration.

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Delhi-based reporter Barkha Dutt's decades of journalism couldn't prepare her for the horrific experience of covering the death of one specific COVID-19 victim: her own father. In a conversation with Ian Bremmer, Dutt recounts her desperate struggle to find an ambulance to take her father through Delhi traffic to reach the hospital, only for him to die in the ICU. Their in-depth discussion looks at India's struggle with the world's worst COVID crisis in the upcoming episode of GZERO World begins airing on US public television Friday, May 7. Check local listings.

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Would China really invade Taiwan?

The Red Pen

India’s COVID crisis hits home

GZERO World Clips
The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal