The World Is About To Change Forever

We’re about to reach a turning point for the world, one of those rare moments in history when every single thing changes and all the that we relied on before is replaced by something new.

The combination of Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine and the pandemic will unleash disruption on a massive scale in many different areas at the same time. I’ve just worked my way through several reports which show how these crises are going to interlock and force huge changes.

  • Africa is facing an imminent famine and food disruption. Ukraine provides much of its wheat and fertiliser that the war will devastate.
  • An energy crisis looms with shortages and rising prices everywhere, again due to the war.
  • The cost of living is going to go through the roof everywhere because the pandemic, particularly in China, is going to disrupt supply chains for a long time.
  • The old world order is gone. The US, EU and UK will cleave together, but multiple poles of power will arise elsewhere- China, India and in Africa with countries choosing alliances which best suit them.

It all sounds catastrophic but crisis drives change for the better.

The West will be forced to start caring more for countries suffering in East Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

The global economic system will have to be rethought with new trade arrangements that provide security for all and are less damaging to the planet.

There will be overwhelming investment in renewable energy systems that will tackle the climate emergency far better than anything we planned before.

We’re a weird species. We only make changes for the better when crisis forces it upon us. But history shows us that times like this always result in something significantly better.

Bottom line: the months ahead are going to be a turbulent time that we’re all going to have to get through.

Everything is going to be smashed down (metaphorically). But in times of crisis the best of people emerges and we’re going to start building a world that’s radically different and incredibly better.

Because there’s going to be no alternative.

Back In The USA

The world has changed completely in three weeks. None of the old rules apply, none of that twentieth century thinking counts for a thing any more.

What is the new world going to look like?

I’d been working on a new book that set out to answer that question. Now it has a different context and an added, perhaps desperate impetus. We need to start thinking through that question fast because the pace of change, if anything, is accelerating.

I used to work as a national media journalist in the UK – print and TV. That has left me with a lot of excellent contacts in foreign affairs, defence and intelligence. I’ve been putting them to good use on my personal Facebook page where I’ve written extensively about the Russia-Ukraine conflict. If you’re interested you should be able to find it easily.

And we thought we were getting a break after the pandemic, right? This world comes at you hard.

But at least it’s a little easier to travel now. I’m heading back to the US shortly for a two-year delayed trip. Triple vaxxed with booming T cells thanks to a ‘rona infection just when I thought I’d dodged the bullet, I’ll still be wearing a mask for travelling.

There’s going to be a whole lot of new stories to tell. New thinking to be done. New answers to be found. Let’s all do what we can.

The Third World War Is Beginning In The Background

vladimir_putin_and_barack_obama_2015-09-29_01

Away from the clown show that is Trump’s presidential bid, the ludicrousness of post-Brexit debate and the self-immolation of the Labour Party, an important event slipped by.

It wasn’t flashy – that’s the key for traction in modern media – but the US’ public accusation that Russia was trying to interfere in the coming election was unprecedented.  In years past, the intelligence services would never have openly flagged up Russian involvement in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee servers to sow chaos and try to get a win for Trump, an ‘admirer’ of Putin.  That they now feel forced to do so shows how much things have escalated.

The key to understanding Russia under Putin is not to see it as a country in the democratic tradition with which we’re all familiar.  Imagine it more as that part of New Jersey ruled over by Tony Soprano and the mob.  Thanks to Wikileaks, we know the US has long considered Russia a Mafia state, where the rule of law does not apply to people at the top.  If you fail, or offend, or break the code, you’re more likely to get rubbed out Soprano-style than sacked.

This is the calculation Vladimir Putin continually has to make.  He can’t be seen to fail.  Nor can he be seen to back down.  Both paths will result in defenestration with extreme prejudice.  His invasion of Crimea and eastern Ukraine was designed to draw attention away from major economic failings.  It only made things worse.  Western sanctions hobbled the economy further.  But he can’t pull out his backing for the Ukraine resistance to put things right.  That would be failure.

The only way forward is something bigger, to distract attention from the economy *and* Ukraine.  And so: Syria.  Russia jumping with both feet into the barrel of dynamite that is the Syrian civil war was supposed to be a mark of prestige.  They can still ‘get things done’, unlike the US.  They’re not a failing power that can’t make anything the world needs – they have a sphere of influence.  They talk, very loudly, people listen.

Russia came in on the side of the beleaguered President Assad, a long time ally, and took a stance in direct opposition to the West’s strategic aims.  By saying one thing and doing another, it has disrupted the plans of the US and its allies.  It’s behind the bombing of aid convoys, most western intelligence services believe, and now it’s about to move in a battery of S300 air defence missiles, which could cause carnage when the skies are thick with US planes.

There is no plan, only the illusion of a plan for the consumption of his domestic critics.  Look over here!  No, look over there!  Ukraine!  Syria!  The US elections!  Misdirection as a strategy is not sustainable.  The only way Putin can maintain his position – and perhaps even his life – is escalation, each newer, bigger outrage wiping out memories of the last failure.

But like the noise made by a mouthy drunk in a bar, there’s a point where everyone decides they’re not going to sit back and take it any more.  NATO has to step up or lose the potency it needs to keep Russia contained.  What will trigger a confrontation?  A Russian attack on Estonia and the Baltic States?  A ‘skirmish’ on the Polish border?

US-Russia relations are worse than at any time since the Cold War, and some analysts believe that this is absolutely the start of Cold War mk II.  But that concept of a frozen conflict only works if both sides make rational, strategic calculations. If it’s personal, if one of the players only wants to keep his job/head on his neck, than no other outcome matters, even if it’s destruction on a grand scale.

Now: who do you want in the White House?