2020 has been one of the strangest, hardest and most eventful years this century. It began with the high-profile assassination of IRGC General Qassem Soleimani by the Americans, which almost provoked a war between Iran and the US, the fires in Australia, continued with the war in Nagorno-Karabakh, massive protests in the United States, the attempted colour revolution in Hong Kong and ended with the war in Ethiopia and the questionable victory of Democrat Joe Biden in the US.
2020 is also the year of the coronavirus, which has changed the world in a fundamental way, after which a return to the old ways of doing things will be impossible.
We have analysed what we can expect from 2021 and predicted the trends that will define global politics.
Coronavirus: new medical realities and control
The coronavirus was a point of no return that changed the economic, political and ideological views of entire nations. It has deprived thousands of people of their jobs, their confidence in the future, as well as their recreation and travel.
As vaccines are only now being introduced and their effectiveness is not yet proven, most countries will continue to impose broad social restrictions.
– Wearing masks and social distancing (which will regularly meet with both supporters and opponents of the approach).
– Restrictions on travel and international activities.
– Job loss.
– Transition of as many people as possible to online study/work.
– Introduction of better population tracking devices under the guise of health control.
– Increase in psychological distress.
– Increased distrust of global elites and an increase in conspiracy theories about Covid-19. For example, some writers and bloggers have pointed out that the World Health Organization in 2005 proposed a scenario similar to today’s in the wake of bird flu, and the Bill Gates Foundation, which is promoting its new vaccine, co-hosted a pandemic simulation exercise called “Event 201” in 2019, which brought together experts and epidemiologists to prepare a coordinated response to the emergence of a new virus. Bill Gates (a proponent of genetic modification in human bodies) was involved in the vaccine testing scandal, after which many women ended up infertile.
Accordingly, behind the vacuum of information about the virus’ real origins, people will be suspicious of those who, one way or another, benefit from the coronavirus.
– The rise of the anti-surveillance and anti-vaccination movement. Since new vaccines have not yet been time-tested, and since many players in this market – like Bill Gates – are already infamous, this will encourage many people not only to reject vaccines, but also to hold conspiratorial views about the process.
Social media: terror and resistance
The year 2021 may be a watershed in the relationship between states and media giants.
Social media and information giants – Facebook, Twitter, Google (and all related utilities including Gmail), Youtube, Instagram and others – in 2020 began to openly dictate who could express their opinions freely and who could not. It was a year of active blocking of all ‘undesirable’ personalities and movements. It went so far as to block or restrict the accounts of state leaders (e.g. US President Donald Trump) and parliaments (the official account of the Hungarian government). Youtube has taken down entire online TV channels broadcasting alternative agendas without warning, while Gmail has blocked thousands of accounts without recourse.
Moreover, the social giants actively crushed competitors this year and also openly tried to influence political processes. For example, they actively promoted protest posts (BLM, Hong Kong, etc.), but deleted the accounts and posts of those who reasonably expressed doubts about Joe Biden’s victory.
Amid this unprecedented interference, 2020 was also the year that individual states began attempting to reconcile social media.
– Turkey has legally obliged social networks active in Turkey to have official local representatives. The law, passed in July, also requires the platforms to comply with content removal requests and store data internally, among other measures. Failure to comply with the new law exposes operators to a five-step regime of sanctions, ranging from fines to forfeiture of advertising revenue and near-total access restrictions.
In November 2020, the Turkish government has already fined Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and other major platforms $1.18 million for failing to comply with the new social media law.
– Facebook and Google risk fines of up to 6-10% of annual revenues under new EU rules if they fail to comply with an order to remove terror propaganda or other illegal messages, according to a draft EU regulation. The EU plans are for regulators around the world to fight the powerful tech giants in an attempt to restore competition to their markets.
– In France, Google had to pay €100 million and Amazon €35 million for violations of rules around using cookie tracking tech.
– US: The US Federal Trade Commission and almost every US state sued Facebook Inc on December 9, saying it had violated antitrust laws and potentially should be dissolved. With the filing of the dual lawsuit, Facebook becomes the second major tech company to face a major legal challenge this autumn. They could, among other things, demand divestment of assets, including Instagram and WhatsApp. In its complaint, a coalition of 46 states, Washington D.C. and Guam also demanded that Facebook’s acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp be declared illegal. “For nearly a decade, Facebook has used its dominance and monopoly power to crush smaller rivals, snuff out competition, all at the expense of everyday users,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James.
– In Russia, Facebook received a fine of around $53,000 imposed by the Russian authorities for the company’s refusal to store data of Russian users on servers located in the country. Twitter, which was hit with the same fine, has yet to pay it.
Others, such as China, have thought more prognostically, and have long established alternative platforms, banning hostile and disruptive elements from their country.
Strengthening artificial intelligence
The year 2021 will also be a leap forward in artificial intelligence technology, the consequence of which will be the robotisation of many jobs and the loss of jobs for hundreds of thousands of people across the planet.
COVID-19 has only increased the potential value of AI to the enterprise. According to McKinsey’s State of AI survey published in November 2020, half of respondents say their organisations have already adopted AI.
Among the trends that IT expertise notes:
– Increased confidence in AI in manufacturing (the more trainable systems and fewer errors, the wider adoption)
– Development of AIOps. The complexity of IT systems has grown exponentially over the past few years. Forrester recently noted that vendors have responded by offering platform solutions that combine the once-combined elements of infrastructure, applications and networking. AIOps, it said, enables IT operations and other teams to improve key processes, tasks and decision-making through improved analysis of volumes and categories of data.
– Voice recognition will continue to evolve. Also, against the backdrop of the coronavirus, video-identification technologies (facial recognition systems) will be particularly in demand, and businesses will actively use the technology. The increase in remote working will encourage greater adoption of NLP and automatic speech recognition (ASR) capabilities, especially in contact centres in relation to customers.
– Consumer businesses, which tend to have more traffic and data than B2B businesses, will migrate more quickly to new technologies.
Geopolitical trends and forecasts
Middle East and North Africa
The center of attention in 2021, as in 2020, will certainly be Libya. In 2020, some steps were taken on the one hand to reconcile the GNA and Khalifa Haftar’s forces, but on the other hand, a provocative Tunisian process, under the auspices of the UN and the Americans, was organised with the potential to destroy the delicate balance in the North African state: the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum, organised by UNSMIL and led by American Stephanie Williams.
As we have mentioned before, the official aim of the forum was to form the interim authorities in Libya (the government and the Presidential Council) and, eventually, to prepare the country for full-fledged elections. In practice, however, it turned out that UNSMIL promoted candidates (e.g. Fathi Bashagha, head of the GNA Interior Ministry) with close links to radical groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafist group RADA.
While there were good preconditions for a gradual resolution of the conflict, the atmosphere became tense: Haftar did not participate in the negotiations and is visibly tense about the likelihood of Islamist takeover, and immediately after the Forum Salah el Din Al-Namroush, the Defence Minister of Libya’s government of national accord, described Khalifa Haftar as a ‘war criminal’, and claimed that no future political agreement will be reached with Haftar.
The year 2021 will therefore be a serious test for Libya. If radicals come to power thanks to the UN, a new wave of destabilisation will begin in the country: Haftar and some other groups will not accept the Muslim Brotherhood and they will defiantly refuse to cooperate with the LNA.
Meanwhile, if this scenario can be avoided, it is possible that two important events will still take place in Libya:
– General elections (December 24). The elections should consist of presidential and parliamentary elections. As 2021 approaches, it is unclear who could lead the country 10 years after Gaddafi. The most likely scenario is that unexpected names will emerge over the next 12 months that could change the outcome of the elections.
In Libya, despite the fragility of the situation, there is an optimistic outlook: in the final months of 2020, Presidential Council Ahmed Maiteeq managed to negotiate a mutually beneficial oil deal with Haftar and a series of meetings between Libya’s disparate economic institutions to agree on a unified official exchange rate for the Libyan dinar. Maiteeq-initiated economic arrangements provide Libya with an opportunity to recover from years of war and fragmentation and enable Libyans themselves to profit from oil exports.
– Libyan Constitutional referendum.
Syria elections (presidential)
According to the law, presidential elections in Syria are to be held between April 16 and May 16. Apart from President Bashar al-Assad (who has ruled since 2000 and is a Ba`ath Party candidate), Jamal Suliman (Syria’s Tomorrow Movement candidate) and Fahad Al Masri (independent candidate) are mentioned as possible candidates.
The Syrian authorities have stressed that the elections will be free and transparent, and that any citizen whose nomination does not contradict constitutional requirements will be able to take part in them.
All recommendations for constitutional change and the text of a possible new constitution will then be put to a popular referendum, pending approval by the members of the Syrian Constitutional Committee.
Western agencies deny in advance the legitimacy of the elections and accuse Assad of postponing the electoral process: even if the elections are successful, they will not recognise the results.
Israel’s parliament passed a bill for its early dissolution in a preliminary reading on December 2. The proposal to vote to dissolve the Knesset was put forward by the leader of the parliamentary opposition, Yair Lapid, head of the Yesh Atid. The discontent was triggered by the approval of next year’s budget.
Out of 120 deputies, 61 voted for the dissolution of the Knesset, while 54 voted against it. Once the procedure is fully completed, lawmakers will call new elections between March and June 2021.
Inside Israel, there is a stand-off between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Defence Minister and Kachol Lavan Party chairman Benny Gantz. Gantz has accused Netanyahu of deliberately frustrating budget approval deadlines.
If Trump has brought relations with Netanyahu to their highest level of confidence, then Gantz is the preferred candidate for the US Democrats. Thus, one way or another, the close alliance between Washington and Tel Aviv will continue, and this will directly influence joint interventions in the Middle East and, most likely, rapprochement with the Gulf countries.
Iran: presidential election
It is important to note that the thirteenth presidential election in Iran will take place next year. The president of Iran is the country’s highest directly elected president, head of the executive and the second most important post after the Supreme Leader.
The most likely candidate is Hossein Dehghan, a military adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He is a former cadre officer in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), who worked in the Air Force from 2013-2017.
Other names and possible participants include Abbas Akhoundi, former Minister of Roads, Fereydoon Abbasi, Member of Parliament, Ali Motahari, former Member of Parliament.
In any case, the transfer of power in Iran is likely to be calm and consistent, as trust, credibility and discipline in Iran stand above pseudo-democratic processes along US lines.
Turkey: strengthening its position and raising the stakes
Turkey has increased its geopolitical influence in 2020 to such an extent that opponents increasingly refer to it as the new Ottoman Empire. These are a number of important factors at play:
– The Mediterranean. Firstly, the exploration of natural resources in the region is of direct economic interest to Ankara, but it is also increasing its confrontation with Greece in particular and more broadly with the EU. Secondly, there are geopolitical alliances – such as the maritime arrangements with Libya’s GNA, which allow Turkey to realise its strategic goal in accordance with the Mavi Vatan (Blue Homeland) concept.
Turkey, which has the longest continental coastline in the eastern Mediterranean, has rejected Greek and Greek Cypriot claims in the region to sea borders and stressed that these excessive claims violate the sovereign rights of Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots.
– Active role in Libya, good contacts with the GNA.
– Strengthened position in other regions – Latin America, Africa. Turkey has been pursuing a “Partnership Policy with Africa” since 2013. Trade between Turkey and Africa has increased from $5.4 billion in 2003 to $26.2 billion in 2019. As part of the opening of Turkish embassies in the Latin American and Caribbean regions, the number of embassies increased from six in 2010 to 17.
– Deteriorating relations with the EU and the US.
In 2021, Turkey’s power and economic ties will only intensify.
Turkey will continue its entrepreneurial and humanitarian foreign policy in this direction in 2021, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Saturday. According to Anadolu, Turkey has allocated more than 5.7 billion Turkish liras (more than $738 million) for the ministry’s central and foreign offices.
In 2002, the number of foreign missions in Turkey was 163. Currently, there are 248 representatives, including 142 embassies, 13 permanent representations and 91 consulates-general, as well as a trade mission. In the near future, the country intends to cover 275 representatives abroad.
The number of foreign representative offices operating in Turkey is also increasing as a result of the interest shown in Turkey. In 2002, there were 166 foreign representatives in Turkey. Now the number is 289.
Çavuşoğlu also stressed that Ankara will monitor the rights of its citizens abroad in 2021. The ministry also set up a database to track attacks against Turkish expatriates motivated by discrimination, xenophobia, racism and Islamophobia.
Çavuşoğlu also reiterated Turkey’s strategic interests abroad, including continuing drilling operations in the eastern Mediterranean, strengthening ties with Libya, continuing its efforts to find a solution to the Cyprus issue and unjust restrictions imposed on Cypriot Turks. Ankara stresses that it will not sit at the negotiating table just to negotiate and that it is time to talk about a two-state resolution based on sovereign equality.
On the agenda in 2021 will again be the possibility of withdrawal from NATO. Biden will try to lure Turkey back into the neoliberal orbit, and the end depends on Erdogan’s decision: to manoeuvre, or to take a firm stand to form a multipolar world.
There are still problems hindering the foundations of the Turkish-American relationship, including the fact that Washington gives the Fethullah Gulen`s Terrorist Organization (FETO) free movement space and refuses to stop its engagement with the YPG/PKK terrorist group. Washington is also actively supporting destabilisation in Turkey itself: Biden has previously stated that he is ready to support the opposition in Turkey.
Confrontation with France will be on the agenda, as Macron and Erdogan are rivals of all of the above regions.
On Turkey’s part, the line of defending pan-Islamic peace will continue, despite Macron-inspired provocations.
In the US with the arrival of Biden, as we wrote earlier, there will be an attempt to return to a globalist unipolar orbit in the spirit of former President Barack Obama.
The major protests that swept the US at first under the guise of Black Lives Matter or against the lockdown were in fact a natural expression of popular protest against a fundamentally unjust social system: no access to full education, medicine, protection of the public, etc. Even the coronavirus deaths for different categories of people in the US showed the strongest stratification of society according to financial, social, religious and racial categories. Thus, the manifestations of racism in the US are not the work of Trump, as the Democrats claim, but a consequence of the flawed system itself.
As the domestic situation under Biden will only further expose all the flaws of the neoliberal system, there will be more protests in 2021. Considering that so many people remained dissatisfied with the system of the last presidential election and do not even recognise the victory of Biden and that states such as Texas are even beginning to talk about the possibility of Texit, then we can expect great discord in the coming year both in domestic and foreign policy issues.
A trial against the police officers involved in the murder of George Floyd is scheduled for March 8 – the themes of racism and inequality will be raised again in the run-up to the event.
The second round of Georgia’s Senate election begins in 202.1 This will be crucial to how aggressive Joe Biden can be in his legislative agenda. If Democrats win both seats, there will be a 50-50 tie in the Senate, with Vice President Kamala Harris getting the deciding vote on any bill
On January 5, Americans will vote for the Democratic Party candidates in the second round of the Senate election. Control of the upper house of the US Congress depends on this vote – by keeping it, Republicans will be able to boycott the policies of incoming Democratic President Joe Biden.
We have also written in detail about how Washington’s foreign policy will change under Biden.
In Europe, 2021 will be a year of difficult negotiations between the UK and the EU leadership. In December 2020 negotiations have repeatedly stalled. The main reasons for contradictions are questions about fisheries legislation (access to marine resources from other EU countries), border security with Ireland, tariff issues and other trade details.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s position is pragmatic: he is still pushing for a tougher Brexit scenario so that the country is as dependent as possible on European legislation. However, the position of the globalists represented by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel is extremely tough: Macron has openly stressed that he will not allow the interests of others to be infringed upon when Britain secedes.
The swing on Brexit is likely to give way to a more active push for Scottish independence. But pressure will inevitably mount until 2021, especially in light of the Scottish parliamentary elections in May, which are predicted to heavily favour the Scottish National Party.
– 2021 is also a year of confrontation within the EU – the main opponents remain Hungary and Poland, which increasingly resist adopting common rules, be it on family values, migrants or the functioning of Soros structures.
– Both the Dutch and German elections could be historic events: differing views on the fate of Europe could be decided. The issue of pandemic governance is likely to be high on the agenda along with other important topics. The growing influence of populist parties in both countries could make a difference. The more votes they get, the more problematic it will be to form new governments along the old lines.
In Germany, the problem of Merkel’s successor remains: at the moment there are no obvious successors to the party. It is even possible that Merkel will stay in office longer because of the difficult situation in the country, but this is a risky scenario for the CDU.
Society in Germany is divided because of the coronavirus measures (into those who are strictly for saving the economy and those who are more for saving lives). Given that new crown laws have been passed (a few weeks ago) which include many restrictions on civil rights (right to protest, privacy, etc.), this will be an additional cause for criticism. These measures are perceived by some citizens as dictatorship, others as a necessity.
There can be no doubt that the 2021 elections in Germany are extremely important. The CDU-social-democrats are not natural partners, rather they are opponents, and the current coalition is a forced measure that could easily fall apart. If they win and form a coalition again, nothing will change geopolitically for Germany – European integration, the climate agenda, increased cooperation within NATO, etc. will continue. The coalition has a multilateral approach – they do not act alone – one country against another country, but incite other countries to cooperate against, impose sanctions, restrictions, diplomatic pressure, etc. With a globalist consensus (in the spirit of Merkel-Macron), this happens more easily.
It is not impossible that in the future there will be a coalition between the CDU and the Greens, who are strengthening their positions. Ten years ago this would have been unimaginable. The FDP, meanwhile, is weakening in front of their eyes. The positions of the populists – some in the AFD, some in Die Linke – are likely to strengthen. What could badly affect their results is the disparate position on coronavirus measures within the parties themselves.
– The Portuguese presidential election is likely to be scheduled for January 24, 2021. There are 9 candidates in total, but the main opponents will be Democratic President Marcelo Rebelo de Souza and right-wing politician and Chega party chief Andre Ventura. If the second candidate wins, he will follow the trend of right-wing authorities sharing views in the vein of Jair Bolsonaro, Donald Trump, Geert Wilders, Marine Le Pen, Viktor Orban, AMLO and others.
Events in Africa will boil over in 2021. The coronavirus reinforces two trends: getting more and more money from the IMF and other people’s investments, resulting in increased neocolonial dependence of Africans on international bankers.
On the other hand, there is a silver lining: this has reinforced anti-French and anti-globalisation sentiments, while ideas of pan-Africanism and the development of a continent without parasitic transnational corporations are becoming increasingly popular.
The Sahel zone, which became the site of the most violent terrorist attacks in 2020, will continue to be radicalized as France is not about to give up and will do its best to maintain a so-called anti-terrorist presence by sucking resources from the countries.
In terms of regional stability, much depends on the situation in Mali.
Stability on the continent also depends heavily on Ethiopia, where war broke out in the Tigray region this year. Abiy sent troops into the region after accusing the ruling Tigrai party of attacking defence posts and stealing military equipment. The fighting continued for weeks, forcing many Ethiopians to flee their homes and world leaders called for a quick resolution to the conflict.
2021 promises to be a relatively quiet period for Asia, with the possible election of a weakening Malaysian government likely to be a highlight on the calendar.
House elections in Japan are unlikely to be very eventful. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is likely to remain in power.
`Black swans` are likely to get most of the attention, with Thailand’s growing unrest likely to cause some political backlash as protesters press for a change of government and reform of the monarchy.
But events in China, on the other hand, promise to be hot, especially on the international stage. The country itself will be growing economically and technologically, despite losses from the coronavirus pandemic.
Among the latest trends:
– The gradual implementation of 5G technology.
– The Chinese authorities are planning to build their own orbital station in space. Work on the project is expected to begin in 2021.
-The gradual introduction of the electronic yuan, which will make the country less dependent internally and externally on foreign currencies.
– The US will relinquish the leading position in oil refining to China as early as 2021 (according to International Energy Agency’s experts).
In economic terms, despite Covid-19, China further outperformed other major economies in November 2020 as industrial production and retail sales strengthened, reinforcing expectations of healthy growth in 2021.
Industrial production rose 7% year-on-year in November, while retail sales rose 5% over the period. Fixed-asset investment rose 2.6% in the first 11 months of the year compared with the same period in 2019, Bloomberg reported.
BusinessStandard believes that only a few areas will be hit hard by US sanctions – for example, the Chinese manufacturer will only take up 14% of the global smartphone market this year, while analysts give the company just 4% next year. Earlier, TrendForce researchers said that ongoing restrictions by the US government would be the main reason for such a significant drop in Huawei’s performance.
Hong Kong elections are due in 2021. Given how hot 2020 was and the fact that protest leaders, including Joshua Wang, have been punished, more anti-government demonstrations against the “Chinese regime” supported by foreign forces are possible in the future. Members of the new Biden administration have repeatedly spoken out about human rights abuses in the region, which is considered grounds for intervention. An additional lever of pressure is possible sanctions.
The Latin American political calendar will include general elections in Peru and Chile, as well as elections in Mexico.
Peru and Chile have already faced tremendous political turmoil over the past few years, and while elections tend to generate uncertainty, there is some hope that in these two cases elections may pave the way for a reduction in political friction.
In Peru, an April presidential election with a functioning legislative majority appears necessary to end years of political dysfunction that have resulted in a highly unstable presidential mandate, with three presidents in less than five years of a typical mandate. In Chile, social unrest is also leading to political instability, which may also calm down after a constitutional congress in April to rewrite the country’s constitution and general elections in November.
In Mexico, elections are scheduled for July. The congressional elections will help determine the ability of AMLO President Lopez Obrador to hold on to the overwhelming majority he currently enjoys. The president remains fairly popular, but the deep recession and Mexico’s questionable handling of the pandemic may reduce his ability to hold the high ground.