European Geopolitics 2024–2030

European Security Policy Scenario for this decade

Previously, I wrote about how the Russia-Ukraine-conflict should be understood in the broader context of US domestic politics. I claimed that Russian actions are best understood from the perspective of very likely period of American isolationism that escalates in two years (2024).

After publishing that text, I realised that it’s actually possible to narrate the chain of actions in European and global security policy even further. This text considers this decade, and again my claim is that the events I present here seem very likely to me. Current geopolitics are on a track where I have trouble identifying alternative chains of events in the broad structure I’ll explain next.

My previous text described the rationale for Russia to do a bit more than “minor incursions” in Ukraine and elsewhere in Europe. If their actions provoke inflation and if their actions increase the isolationist sentiments in USA, they might encourage Americans to vote for a candidate that actually pulls USA from Nato. The isolationism in USA would in this case not be a lightning from the sky, but instead a continuum of a development that started already some 6 years ago. Joe Biden, it should be noted, is also a somewhat isolationist president.

The really interesting question is of course what happens after 2–3 years when the idea of US troops leaving Europe is not just a peculiar detail in provocative foresight scenario, but a realisation the policymakers and bureaucrats have to face.

Broad outlines of the internal developments in Western European countries

This will be the decade of climate transformation. The transformation is rapid, causes economic turmoil and leads to lower living standards for the middle class and the have-nots. It seems almost inevitable that under these conditions populist parties surge and internal conflicts intensify.

The US focus

From the financial perspective, NATO was always just a sales channel for American number one exports: weapons. But as the Finnish F35 deal shows, American companies can sell their goods even without this connection. If only money matters, these days they would probably sell a lot more in Europe without the explicit security guarantees from the US.

On top of the fact that US very likely will have an isolationist president, USA isn’t really concerned about Ukraine or even Eastern Europe. Their focus is on the Pacific. Their change of focus seems to me to be based on the false assumption that withdrawal from one place does not lead to problems elsewhere, e.g. Taiwan. Leaving allies in one place is asking for trouble in China relations.

The game from the Russian perspective

I suggest that the often-cited idea that Russians elites aim to recreate the Soviet Union is only a half the story. While that might be a worthy goal for some individuals, there is also a more practical aspect that should be covered.

The Russian prosperity (no matter how few Russians benefit from it) comes from liquid, gaseous and solid hydrocarbons: oil, natural gas and coal. Those constitute some 40% of the federal budget income and 60% of exports.

This prosperity that relies on fossil fuels have a shelf life and in this particular case it’s possible to give it an exact date: in 2030, Germany aims to produce 65% of its energy with renewables. As Russians deliver roughly one third of Germany’s gas demands, it’s reasonable to assume that by 2030, give or take a few years, Germany can end their reliance on Russian exports if they want to.

The question of the decade

A Europe with increasing internal quarrels. A transformation away from hydrocarbons. The inevitable isolation of the US. The Russian budget dilemma.

All this provides a narrow window of approximately 6 years (2024–2030) for the Russians to have significant leverage on European security matters and a motivation to do so.

How are they going to use these six years? I’d suggest they can have geopolitical and economic goals, former of which I would consider more important, because economic prosperity guarantees internal coherence. Only internally coherent country can credibly push their geopolitical goals in the longer term.

Talking about geopolitical goals, I don’t think Russian geopolitical goals are guided by the goal to re-establish Soviet, Romanovian or Muscovite borders. Instead, Russian geopolitical goals aim at creating a series of controllable buffer or vassal states around Russia. There are many purposes to aim to create this kind of countries, although the military benefits of buffer zones is probably smaller than it was, say, 100 years ago.

Nevertheless, the economic goals are more important for Russia, and they also are an urgent issue for them. The high level economic goal for Russia is to guarantee Russian prosperity after the world (presumably not including Russia) has moved past fossil fuels.

The key question is: how can Russian use their leverage to reach this goal? How to use “military capital” to generate economic transformation? They have to come up with some kind of answer to this question when the move away from hydrocarbons intensify.

Some ideas can be presented, although the question is very complicated.

  1. They can try to bully themselves into beneficial trade deals that stimulate economic growth in Russia, especially with potential new vassal states.
  2. Maintaining military supply chains and forcing oneself into trade embargoes creates internal markets for various kinds of goods, diversifying economy.

Especially the latter might actually work. In this sense, the military interventions are essentially investments for self-reliance and divergence of economy. Such investments might be difficult to make directly without protests and disapprovements.

Alternative scenarios?

It might be that any of the events I have described here don’t happen. People are incompetent and events are random. Developments rarely happen as anticipated.

However, if we take for granted that Russia has short timespan to reset their domestic economy and security environment to guarantee their internal and external safety (and the safety of the Russian ruling class), and if we acknowledge that they have means to do so, any alternative scenario should investigate ways to reach these goals without both metaphorical and concrete collateral damage.

That kind of alternative scenarios might actually help making better decisions in the years to come.

Aivazovsky

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Researching journalism platforms. Foresight and business model specialist.

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Johannes Koponen

Johannes Koponen

Researching journalism platforms. Foresight and business model specialist.

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