2023 – A Year of Risk and Volatility

Following almost two years locking down world activity in response to a pandemic that has taken an estimated 15 million lives, 2022 delivered even further disruption. As if the economic, political, and social anguish were not enough, Russia invaded Ukraine after assuring the world it had no such intention as it gathered its forces in what it called military exercises on the border. Progress in the post-covid recovery was quickly shattered as was the progress on the global sustainability agenda.

The cumulative impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, disrupted global commodity market (particularly food and energy), spiralling inflation and a global cost of living crisis, as well as persistent global supply chain issues exacerbated by the war and economic disruptions in China resulting from its zero-COVID policy led to global GDP growth decelerating from nearly 6% in 2021 to less than 3% for the year just past. What is more, these shocks have significantly disrupted global trade, security and political institutions and structures, signalling the end of the global peace dividend in a wave of national rearmament, shifting national priorities from the energy transition to energy security, and reordering global trade flows as countries seek to create resilient supply chains for nationally critical industries.

Against this backdrop, 2023 promises to be a year of increased uncertainty and risk, potentially marred by further food and energy insecurity, deglobalisation, disrupted supply chains and ongoing security tensions between the West and Russia and potentially China too, risks that threaten to further derail the world from the sustainable development agenda necessary to ensure continued global peace, prosperity and freedom. Against these risks, global priorities like the UN Sustainable Development Goals and Human Security, which have already suffered significant setbacks during the pandemic, and the climate targets of the Paris Agreement, risk slipping even further out of reach, with the world fast approaching a point of no return beyond which failure in these critical areas becomes the expected outcome. The coming year therefore is a pivotal one for the world, with its future trajectory dependent on a number of key events and variables that will play out over the course of 2023 (and beyond in some cases).

This month’s Sign of the Times looks at the ten key questions that will shape not just the year but potentially the remainder of the current decade, examining their significance for the world and laying out the goal posts of potential outcomes over the next 12 months.


Ten Questions that Will Shape 2023

  • The Global Economy - Hard or Soft Landing?
  • Inflation and Debt - Persistent or Tapering Off?
  • Energy Security – A Stable Order or Continued Volatility?
  • War in Ukraine – Continued Stalemate or Offramp?
  • China - Reset and Reintegration or Decoupling?
  • Technology Cold War – Escalated or Averted?
  • COP28 - Breakthrough or Roll-Over to COP29?
  • ESG - In Turmoil or In Continued Improvement?
  • India G20 Presidency – Geo-Strategic or Showmanship?
  • EU - Centre Holds or Divisions Widen?

There are of course many other factors that will impact the world over the coming year and beyond: a potential escalation in China-Taiwan relations, the rise of further protests in Iran, [or xxx], the potential list goes on and on. While some of these factors are a source of a potential upside of the world, most increase global uncertainty further and point to a world of elevated risk and volatility.


1.The Global Economy – Hard or Soft Landing?

0.5-0.9% expected GDP growth expected in advanced economies in 2023, the third worst growth in the last 25 years1

Growth in advanced economies is expected to slow to 0.5% in 2023, from 2.5% in 2022 , with almost all developed economies expected to slip into recession. However, recent US news suggest a growing hope of a soft landing. Though emerging market growth forecasts have also been lowered, they are expected to be more resilient than developed economies, with China and India projected to grow at 4% and 6% respectively in 2023. These divergences point to a potential decoupling of America from the rest of the West and a decoupling between advanced and emerging markets. The implications are potentially significant for the re-alignment of the drivers of global growth and value creation, driving shifts in global capital flows toward the hotspots. The US economy historically lifts the rest, however in a world with quite different dynamics, the strength and timing of this is uncertain. Clearly, such fragmentation would have negative effects on global unity on major issues if prolonged.

Positive Outcome: Soft Landing. Interest rate increases in developed markets results in decelerating growth, but moderating inflation the US avoids recession, aided by a strengthening job market and stable consumer demand, alongside relatively strong performance across emerging markets and a reopened China.

Mixed Outcome: Decoupling. Large developed economies including the US and large developed markets slide into a recession, while emerging markets, supported by a re-opened China and fast-growing India, remain relatively resilient and continue to deliver strong growth. In addition, a scenario to consider is where the US has a soft landing while other developed markets slide into recession.

Negative Outcome: Hard Landing. Stubborn inflation and high interest (or a new external shock) forces developed economies into recession and/or stagflation. China remains ‘closed’ and global supply chains remain disrupted. Declining global capital flows spreads the contagion to emerging markets, with the global economy as a whole slipping into a deep and prolonged recession.


2.Inflation and Debt – Persistent or Tapering Off?

9% annualised consumer price inflation globally as of the end of 2022 and US$235 trillion of total world debt, including c.US$100 trillion of emerging market debt

Inflation across advanced economies increased to over 7% and to over 10% in emerging markets, leading to central banks across the world tightening monetary policy and increasing interest rates. While wage inflation has also increased, wages are not keeping pace with prices, particularly in developed markets, leading to a growing cost of living crisis which is pushing more and more people into effective poverty in these countries. At a country level, rising interest rates and high levels of public debt have created the risk of a sovereign debt crisis in many emerging markets. 2023 is likely the year where rescheduling emerging market debt comes to the fore. This is likely to test China in particular, given it represents approximately one-third of Low Income Country’ (LIC) debt and this is the first time it will need to face the reality that the West and others have already lived through in the restructuring of heavily indebted countries in 1996’s Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative for 37 countries, 31 of them in Africa and the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI) in 20054 .

Positive Outcome: Inflation Tapers, Debt Crisis Avoided. Inflation moderates globally due to high interest rates, easing supply chain constraints (aided by China’s re-integration with the world economy), and energy prices ease due to geopolitical stability and slowing output growth.

Negative Outcome: Stubborn Inflation, Household Debt Crisis. A combination of ongoing supply constraints, geopolitical or energy shocks keep inflation high, despite high interest rates globally triggering a global household debt crisis and with price growth outstripping wage growth and leading to an escalating cost of living crisis in developed countries.

Negative Outcome: Persistent Inflation, Sovereign Debt Crisis. A sharp economic slowdown, challenging fiscal dynamics, and inflation put pressure on highly indebted sovereign borrowers, triggering a sovereign debt crisis in Africa, where 22 countries are already in or at high risk of debt distress


3.Energy Security – A Stable Energy Order or Continued Volatility?

14% - Russian Pre-War Share of Global Natural Gas Production5

Given the ongoing disruptions to global energy supplies caused by the Russia-Ukraine war, national energy security remains a top policy priority for the world’s major economies, with governments simultaneously pursuing mutually incompatible goals like securing supply, ensuring affordable prices, and supporting environmental sustainability. Further if not addressed, energy security risks crowding out other critical issues like addressing climate change, managing the impact of the digital revolution on national economies, or the transition of the geopolitical order.

Positive Outcome: A Stable Energy Order Emerges. Helped by falling demands from the macro-economic slowdown and mild winter in Europe, major countries manage to execute diversified energy security strategies that balance various trade-offs, forging strategic supply agreements with ‘friendly’ countries, investing further in low carbon domestic production, and providing financial support to ensure domestic energy affordability, allowing governments to refocus their attention on delivering economic stability and growth.

Negative Outcome: Lack of Alignment Drives Continued Volatility, Risks. The diverging priorities of and lack of coordination between major economies creates further complexity and disruptions in global energy markets, driving further volatility in energy prices, and creating further supply side disruptions and energy shortages that fuel further global inflation and stymie economic growth in an increasingly unaligned world.

Negative Outcome: Divided World on Two Energy Paths. The world starts to divide between countries (likely rich and industrialised) that transition to alternatives and those that remain dependent on fossil fuels (likely poorer countries), impacting the global order by automatically aligning developing countries with Russia and other fossil fuel exporters, with America’s own position complicated by its powerful oil and gas industry and lobbying.


4.War in Ukraine – Continued Stalemate or Offramp?

US$2.8 trillion cost to the global economy, in terms of lost output, from Russia's invasion of Ukraine6

As Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine enters its second year, the conflict risks becoming a war of attrition with Russian President Vladimir Putin unwilling to withdraw without significant concessions that Ukraine is unwilling to give, creating a significant global security and macro-economic overhang for the world.

Positive Outcome: Geopolitical Pressure Pushes Russia to The Offramp. Continuing strong Western support for Ukraine and the increasing withdrawal of China’s support for Russia pressures Putin into accepting a conflict “offramp” acceptable to Ukraine, made palatable in the face of Russia failing to secure further advances despite increasing waves of military mobilisation given Western financial and arms support for Ukraine.

Negative Outcome: Escalation Hardens Stalemate into A Frozen Conflict. Having painted the war as existential for the future of Russia, Putin continues to escalate with increasingly damaging attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure without achieving a decisive victory, creating an on-going conflict in Europe that threatens regional security and cooperation for years to come, providing food for thought, positive and negative, for other conflicts.


5.China - Reset and Reintegration or Decoupling?

2% of GDP – or US$680 billion – the annual opportunity cost of China’s zero-COVID policy7

The massive ‘exit wave’ of infections underway in China as it scraps its zero-COVID policy represents a potential reset for the country following several years of effective global decoupling. However, it is unclear whether China, the largest trading partner of 100 countries, will seek to renew and strengthen its links to the world or focus on nationalist economic self-sufficiency, Taiwan, and technology independence, with all of these having been alluded to by a new re-elected Xi Jinping at the recently concluded 20th National Party Congress.

Positive Outcome: Positive Outreach and Reintegration. China overcomes it exit wave of infections during the first quarter and accelerates manufacturing output and exports, relinking disrupted global supply chains, with Chinese GDP growth rebounding back above the 5% target level, following a dismal 3.2% growth in 2022, with a resulting growth uplift for key trading partners too, leaving Taiwan in its current status quo.

Negative Outcome: Difficult Transition Drives National Inward Focus. China struggles to manage its exit waves, due to a lack of a cohesive strategy, leading to over 1.5 million deaths,8 the potential for further lockdowns and rising social unrest following years of clampdowns on protest, causing its leaders to focus on domestic control and further nationalism at the expense of economic growth and reintegration, raising the spectre of a conflict over Taiwan as a national rallying cause.


6.Technology Cold War – Escalated or Averted?

18.1% of (US$124.6 billion total) U.S. exports to China are currently subject to some form of export control9

In 2023, technology, particularly digital technology, is increasingly an area of strategic geopolitical competition, as countries seek to ensure their own access and limit that of competitors to critical innovations through increased domestic investment, and foreign trade and investment controls. These trends risk the creation of tech cold war between distinct and increasingly fragmented technology blocs.

Positive Outcome: Private Sector Innovation Overcomes National Barriers. While US-China tensions continue based on the historic appropriation of intellectual property by China of US technology and current technology transfer, it remains tactical. Chinese retaliation to US export restrictions remains moderate, while international tech companies manage to overcome trade restrictions by selling through foreign subsidiaries or designing out U.S.-origin components from their technologies, enabling continued cross border technology exchanges and development to foster global innovation.

Negative Outcome: Hardened Technology Blocs Create Risk of New Cold War Arms Race. Following US tech export restrictions to China in 2022, China and the EU implement export control laws and cross-border technology investment regulations. At the same time diverging legislation on issues like data privacy and technology standards creates increasing barriers to global tech interoperability, hardening technology borders, disrupting global supply chains, and negatively impacting global collaboration and innovation in key emerging technologies.


7.COP28 - Breakthrough or Roll-Over to COP29?

Only 23 of the nearly 200 countries which signed the Glasgow agreement submitted updated 2030 climate plans for COP27 in 202210

With the past eight years being the hottest ever on record, the runway for the world to meet the 1.5C warming target set out in the Paris Agreement is quickly running out. This past year’s COP27 conference failed to see major emitting countries deliver increased CO2 reduction commitments required to limit global warming, with new country pledges pushed out another year to the upcoming COP28 conference in Dubai.

Positive Outcome: Renewed Global Compact. The G20 under India’s leadership agree an updated global compact on emissions reductions, accounting for loss and damage funding, renewed climate finance commitments and equitable emission reduction targets for industrialised and developing nations, maintaining the world’s potential to meet a 1.5-2.0c global temperature increase.

Negative Outcome: Continued Climate Inaction. Energy security and near-term economic growth continue to trump climate action as government priorities over the next 12 months, further depleting the world’s carbon buffer to meeting the Paris Goals and underfunding developing countries’ climate mitigation efforts, narrowing the path for a just climate transition for the world.


8.ESG - In Turmoil or In Continued Improvement?

US$13.2billion in net outflows suffered by global ESG funds in 2022, the first decline in over a decade11

The global ESG trend is facing a number of headwinds that pose the threat of stalling further growth there in 2023. ESG adoption is facing a number of challenges, including a legislative backlash in the US with a Republican controlled House of Representatives, the underperformance of some ESG investing strategies in 2022 (which were often overweight in tech stocks as ‘clean’ assets), and a lack of standards and regulation across key regions, as the EU continues to establish a taxonomy, industrial norms and regulation to become the most advanced zone for sustainable finance and industry.

Positive Outcome: Emerging ESG Standards Drive Sustainable Investing Growth. Stakeholder demand for increasingly environmental and social accountability overcomes financial institutions’ legal and regulatory concerns or leads to new regulations that reconcile differences, and drives investors’ ESG policies, spurring common ESG standards that are increasingly integrated into investing institutions core strategies.

Negative Outcome: Two Track Progress in the West. ESG progresses on two different tracks, separating the US and EU, due to divided politics and populism in US hamstringing US financiers that are leaders in risk and opportunities that leverage ESG, leaving the EU to create the world’s leading sustainability zone that US companies will need to conform to in order to access the single market.

Negative Outcome: ESG Turmoil Leaves Sustainable Development Unfunded. Ongoing geopolitical and energy security concerns crowd out investors’ and regulators’ ESG priorities, leaving concerns around greenwashing unaddressed as sustainable investing strategies continue to underperform commodities and carbon based assets, leading to the continuing underfunding of the energy transition and sustainable development globally.


9.India G20 Presidency – Geo-Strategic or Showmanship?

11% share of global GDP growth for India in 2023 (equal to the US)12

India presidency of the G20 comes at a time of global economic and political peril. Domestically, this is being positioned as India’s ‘coming out’ on the global stage as a leading superpower that is assertively driving the global agenda, while internationally, India has put forward a full agenda of issues which it would seek to leading in addressing ranging from creating inclusive for the Global South, sustainable growth, climate change, food security, developmental cooperation and multilateral reforms, amongst other items.

Positive Outcome: India Helps Drive North-South Alignment on Key Issues. India succeeds in driving much stronger alignment on key issues between developed countries and developing regions, and between rival superpowers (such as US-Russia or US-Iran) to create a new era of global security and prosperity while reaching major advances on the dialogue, frameworks or solutions to concerns such as funding the Global South, Russia and sustainability.

Negative Outcome: Much Ado About Nothing. G20 presidency also has the potential to be little more than a domestic marketing exercise, with too broad and intractable an agenda for the world to make any meaningful progress, which will attract much critique and expose India as ineffective international leader or at most a symbolic leader only, while still leaving major issues to be dealt with.


10.EU - Centre Holds or Divisions Widen?

25 of the EU’s 27 countries have seen populist parties increase their vote share over the past decade13

Ruling parties across several key EU and European countries are fighting for re-election in 2023, with several centrist parties facing increasingly fierce competition from anti-establishment and populist competitors in Spain, Greece, Estonia, and other countries. With right-wing populists already in power in Italy and Hungary and gaining ground in France, the rise of further populist governments across key countries in the region risk undermining EU decision-making, raising the perennial question of whether the EU will remain intact.

Positive Outcome: The Centre Holds. Major elections in Europe follow the examples of Austria and Germany, where more extreme populist parties have suffered large electoral losses in the most recent elections as voters prioritise stability and provide incumbent governments with mandates to continue to support European integration and key EU policy priorities, rejecting more extreme populists and anti-EU parties, taking the salutary lesson of the UK’s Brexit.

Negative Outcome. Populism Destabilises the Union. Incumbents’ inability to address voter concerns on issues like immigration and failing welfare systems leads to populists sweeping to victory across key states, with populists and in some countries Eurosceptic governments, undermining EU decision making and questioning EU unity on key issues such as support for Ukraine, trade, and climate change

Geostrategic Reshuffling Driving Risk and Volatility

2023 is set to be a challenging year with uncertainty and risks to livelihoods of peoples across then world, incumbent governments, unity between nations and the overhang of a war. 2023 is set to be a challenging year with uncertainty and risks to livelihoods of peoples across then world, incumbent governments, unity between nations and the overhang of a war.. The institutions and agreements that seemed reliable have been thrown up in the air with Russia’s war in Ukraine in particular, causing disruption to the economies of the EU, dividing the world, and de-railing the focus on progress that seemed very possible coming out of a pandemic that had severely tested the world system. Instead of building a post-pandemic world that is more secure, sustainable, and equitable, the world has had to deal a set of dominoes from the war and unfinished revival of economies the world over, including sanctions on Russia, managing fraught national economies and for China being stuck between saving and losing lives through opening and closing down.

Stepping back, there is a common thread that appears to run through the ten questions above, which points to the continuing changing world order and model of globalisation. Some of the elements of this are:

  • National and Bloc Resilience to the Fore. These challenges are driving countries, and blocs, to reorganize the supply chains of critical sectors and industries in the name of resilience, self-reliance and national security, as evidenced by European countries scrambling to build new energy trade linkages (e.g., with Qatar) or by the US wooing the world’s largest semiconductor manufacturer, Taiwan’s TSMC, to build a US$40 billion manufacturing site in Arizona, one of the single largest US foreign investments ever.14

  • Mutual Allied Dependencies Growing. There is of course a geopolitical component to this de- and relinking. Importantly, countries are reorganising their economic networks around not just physical proximity (‘near-shoring’) but also around geopolitical friends and alliances (‘friend-shoring’), creating mutual dependencies. In some cases of course, geopolitical considerations are the only driver of the reorganizations: there is no economic rationale for Russia’s decoupling from the global economy, and some US technology export restrictions to China are about keeping critical tech out of Chinese hands, (often at the expense of US companies who stand to lose significant business).

  • Superpower Realignment. There is a growing recognition of who matters in the alignment of nations, and it is clearer that the power group consists of the US, EU, China, and India. How these four decide to align with each other and against each other matters. Within that group of four, relations among the world’s major powers, the US, EU and China, and increasingly India, have evolved from a complex network of overlapping collaboration and competition into a more bipolar configuration in which the US, EU and India are disengaging from China, both politically and economically. However, this does not yet mean the three are aligned, that project has begun but is not yet determined.

  • China. Xi Jinping’s recent address at the 20th Party Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) placed China’s security above all else, making economic security a component of security in direct contrast to Deng Xiaoping’s view that “to get rich is glorious” (popular simplified version). Xi also explicitly stressed the need for greater economic self-sufficiency during this key speech during which he was awarded an unprecedented third term as China’s supreme leaders. And both the US and the EU are likely to launch further policies that effectively limit trade and investment with China in key sectors. The result is likely to be a steady erosion of economic connectivity across a group of countries that together represent nearly 60% of the global economy. In the meantime, private enterprise from the US, Japan and EU have continued to invest in China, with FDI growing in the first 10 months of 2022 by 14.4%.1

  • The Periphery. The impact of these changes are to create an active periphery of countries. While some countries such as the UK, Japan and Australia are likely to remain firm allies with the US and EU and remain closely tied to them, many other major nations like Brazil and Saudi Arabia are global ‘swing states’ that will likely sit somewhere in between the two poles. And some others such as Russia and Iran are aligned with China. Some others remain neutral trading hubs, such as Singapore, Switzerland and the UAE, are naturally inclined to support open trade interests such as the US, but may switch depending on the issue at hand and may sometimes act as a bridge. The periphery is relevant and will be courted by both sides depending on their strengths.

The emerging landscape of globalisation and the world order it implies is no doubt a transitory one, adding significant complexity to global trade linkages and supply chains.

The global process of change that is creating a new the world order, new form of globalisation and determining The global process of change that is creating a new the world order, new form of globalisation and determining the new allied relationships will likely play out well beyond 2023 and will be disruptive, sometimes destrctive, as 2022 has shownthe new allied relationships will likely play out well beyond 2023 and will be disruptive, sometimes destrctive, as 2022 has shown. Over the near term it will continue to drive supply chains disruptions and constraints, negatively impacting both growth and inflation. Over the long term the world it creates will lead to higher prices as supply chains are optimized for national security rather than cost, and less cooperation across blocs resulting in less innovation for the world. There are also potentially significant political costs to the transition underway, with economic hardship providing an opening to national populists across the world, whether in the form of insurrectionists in the US or Brazil or through populists growing parliamentary importance in key European countries. The division and conflict that these movements sow hinders political parties’ abilities to work with each other, and countries’ abilities to implement critical policies and work with the world.


Conclusion: The Year Ahead

That the world is re-engineering its geopolitical and trade linkages is perhaps unavoidable, given that they are subject to a complex array of ongoing political, social, technological, and economic forces. However, the current reshuffle underway risks failing to address a number of these forces, being based more on events and their near-term risks than on long-term secular trends. Three forces in particular are worth mentioning:

  • The Global Energy Transition. These global energy transition will impact far more than just energy markets. With c.40% of the world’s 2000 largest companies having committed to Net Zero or carbon neutrality, these companies will need to fundamentally re-engineer their global supply chains in line with these goals.15 This will require time, money, and in some cases innovation to decarbonise industrial and logistics processes, which may see many only recently formed trade linkages reformed once again.

  • Sustainability. Similarly, the rise of sustainability as a major issue and theme is changing the legal, regulatory, and ethical frameworks within which businesses operate. Stakeholders are increasingly holding businesses to a higher standard in terms of environmental and social considerations, which again will require companies making changes to their supply chains to meet achieve compliance. It is also clear that sustainability is a boundaryless requirement, beyond geography, industry and community, and needs to be determined in the context of c.10 billion people by 2050.

  • Digitisation and The Fourth Industrial Revolution. The long-term digitisation of economies and societies underway may have perhaps the greatest impact on global trade linkages, not just by making supply chains more efficient through digital technology, but through the fundamental impact that the world’s virtual-enablement will have on global supply and demand patterns, as more and more economic activities, goods, and services become digital.

The path through these challenges is not expected to be a smooth one. Traditionally, democracies have grown used to American leadership that took into account its own interests and that of its allies especially in matters of global importance. However, American global leadership and particularly its values and mode cannot be taken for granted as a more nationalist and exceptionalist model has emerged as a potent force there with the ‘America First’ ideology and its leadership deeply unpopular in the world at large, and as Republicans beholden to the leader of that approach have taken the house.16

Ideally, the way ahead requires global leaders to take a long- The challenge ahead for global leaders is to develop a model of globalisation that solves not just for resilience, but also for sustainability, inclusive economic growth, and the impact of technologies that will change the way the world’s soon to be ten billion people work, live, play and interact with one another.term view, developing a model of globalisation that solves not just for (much needed) resilience, but also for sustainability, inclusive economic growth for all of the world’s soon to be ten billion people, and the impact of technologies that will change the way we work, live, play and interact with one another.

While the transition to such a model of globalisation is likely to take years, 2023 looks to be a year in which either progress will be made that make the chances of meeting major goals around which all countries have aligned such as human security and the Sustainable Development Goals, or the setbacks will threaten the ability to meet the goals to the timing agreed.

Given the war in Europe, the potential for conflict with China over Taiwan, trade and technology, the rising nationalism and divisions within democracies, the continuing risk that breakthroughs are not reached on climate change, 2023 can be a highly significant year in the transition of the world. How countries solve their energy dilemmas, what trade agreements and relationships they prioritise and whether countries choose strategies of engagement or competition with their geopolitical rivals in the coming 12 months may well determine the shape of the path ahead for the world for far longer, and have an outsized influence on whether this decade is a turning point for peace, prosperity, and freedom for the world.


  1. Source: World Bank, IMF forecasts as of January 2023

  2. Source: World Bank forecast as of 10-Jan-2023

  3. Source: IMF World Economic Outlook

  4. Source: Center for Global Development, The ABCs of Sovereign Debt Relief

  5. Source: IEA

  6. Source: Wall Street Journal

  7. Based on IMF Forecasts

  8. Source: The Economist estimate Based on SEIR model

  9. Source: Congressional Research Service: “US Exports Controls and China” March 2022

  10. Source: Climate News, as of Oct 2022

  11. Source: Reuters, Refining Lipper

  12. Source: World Bank, IMF forecasts as of January 2023

  13. Source: Statista

  14. Source: Financial Times

  15. Source: Net Zero Tracker

  16. Source: https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2018/10/01/trumps-international-ratings-remain-low-especially-among-key-allies/