The Consequences of Local Conflicts on Global Stability

The current wars in Europe and the Middle East have drawn in America, divided the world and placed everybody one step closer to an unmanageable catastrophe for the world. With a war underway in the Middle East between Israel and Hamas following last month’s terrorist attack, and the Russia-Ukraine war now in its 21st month in Europe, there are now armed conflicts underway on two continents. The ongoing standoff between China and Taiwan in Asia represents a potential third major flashpoint for the world. Every day that passes by, particularly in the latest round of the Israel-Palestine conflict appears to be heightening the risk of isolating America and decreasing its influence in the world.

While these conflicts' origins are local in nature, they have drawn in the rest of the world, and their potential impact is global, particularly given that they touch upon the strategic interests of the world’s great powers. Importantly, these conflicts are occurring in the context of the geopolitical shift currently underway from a unipolar to a multipolar world order, consisting of four leading geo-economic/geo-political power blocs - the US, China, the EU and over time, India - and a second tier of powers including Russia, which has re-emerged following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and Saudi Arabia which is emerging as a powerful regional power.

Economic, demographic, and technological factors are impacting the balance of power between the blocs and actors as part of this shift. The nexus of global economic growth has shifted from the West to Asia. China’s economy is already bigger than the EU’s and is expected to overtake the US before 2040. India’s demographic dividend is projected to see it overtake Europe economically by c.2050 and in the long view, overtake both the US and China by the end of this century.

As these power blocs position and reposition in response to these shifts, so do their global strategic interests, including in what are currently geographically contained conflicts between third parties. The three flashpoints, while local in origin, therefore have the potential to become regional or global in scope, given the unique set of strategic interests at stake for the power blocs.

While the potential escalation path for each flashpoint is different, each one has serious implications for global security and development, not just on their own terms, but also drawing both resources and attention away from major systemic challenges facing the world, including climate change, AI-driven technological disruption, poverty, among many others, creating a polarised geopolitical paradigm precisely when global coordination is needed the most.

This month’s Sign looks at these three potential flashpoints in the context of geopolitics and the emerging multipolar order, including their implications for the systemic challenges that the world is facing.

 

Step Back First – World in a Shift to a Multipolar World with Four Global Power Blocs: Cooperation, Competition and Rivalry

The liberal international order that has defined the world for over 70 years is clearly in transition, with the alliances, institutions and values that have underwritten the world’s peace, prosperity and freedom struggling to address the biggest challenges the world now faces, including climate change, sharp and bitter political divisions, poverty and income inequality, technological disruption to economies and societies, and public health challenges. These challenges are linked to ten major economic, geopolitical, social, and technological disruptions and transitions that the world is going through simultaneously: 1

  1. The End of Fossil Fuels. Fossil fuels’ two centuries long position as the world’s primary energy source is coming to an end, a period during which the global population has grown eight-fold, its economy nearly one hundred-fold (and its CO2 emissions nearly one thousand- fold).

  2. The End of Western Dominance. Similarly, the West’s 200-year period of global economic and political domination is waning, and the world’s economic centre of gravity is shifting eastward to Asia, with different styles of capitalism, politics and societal orders emerging.

  3. The End of American Unipolar Leadership. The unipolar world inherited by America following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990 is ceding way to a geopolitical order that is multi-polar with an increasing number of power blocs.

  4. The End of Physical World Primacy. Digital technology is becoming increasingly integrated across industries, governments, institutions, and societies, transforming each in turn and spurred by AI is set to blur the lines between the physical, digital, and biological worlds.

  5. The End of the Value of Labour. The basis of global economic value creation continues to shift from value from the production of goods, which generated hundreds of trillions of dollars since the Industrial Revolution, to the predominant unit of value creation being intellectual property, creativity, and services, propelled by AI as a destroyer and creator of value.

  6. End of Contained Populations. The global population is set to increase by c.40% to 10 billion between 2000 and 2050 and is set to age on average by 11 years, with 70% of the global population projected to live in cities, with up to 1.2 billion migrants by 20502.

  7. End of Key Resources. Having mined deeper and deeper and closer and closer to home, with greater consequences, with mines now covering an estimated to 100,000 km2 of the earth’s surface (an area the size of South Korea) at some point the harvesting of the planet’s natural resources will need to be replaced by alternative renewable resources 3.

  8. End of (the Idea of) Income Equality. While income inequality between countries has generally been declining since the end of the Cold War, inequality within most countries is continuing to rise, with the within-country inequality now representing 68% of total income inequality, up from 52% in 20204.

  9. End of the Western Security Order, Replaced by Perpetual War. Perpetual war is increasingly seen as a feature of our world. Global peacefulness has decreased for the ninth consecutive year, with a sharp increase in external conflicts, driven by political, economic, or social factors, a state that populations are having to accept and adapt to, until a new paradigm that can underwrite global peace can emerge5.

  10. End of the Current Way of Life, Climate Disaster. Humankind’s cumulative ecological footprint risks pushing ecosystems around the world to a breaking point, driving rising temperatures, sea level rises, threatening biodiversity, increasing flood, drought, and wildfire risk, and driving water scarcity, with over 10,000 heat and rainfall records set globally in 2023 year to date6.

The cumulative impact of these challenges is driving increased global instability and undermine the core tenets of the current world order including international cooperation through multi-lateral institutions, free trade and globalization, and the existence of and adherence to rules that bind the power of state actors.

Recognising that power is ultimately a function of both economics and demographics, there are today four major blocs – the US, China, Europe, and India – whose economic, social, political, military, and technological capabilities will allow them to play an outsized role in shaping the institutions and rules of engagement of the coming world order7.

Combined, these four blocs represent c.80% of global defence spending, three-quarters of its equity market capitalisation, two-thirds of the global economy, c.60% of the world’s energy consumption and carbon emissions, and half of the world’s population. India, though currently significantly smaller than the other three blocs economically (having less than a quarter of the GDP of the next largest bloc, China) is included in this group as the world’s most populous and fastest growing country of scale, underpinned by what appears to be a major demographic advantage. Having surpassed China’s 1.4 billion strong population earlier this year, India’s population is expected to grow further to 1.7 billion people by 2050. Moreover, it has a much younger population than any of the other three blocs, who will see their working age populations shrink over the next few decades, while India’s is expected to continue to grow until it exceeds that of the US and China combined (reaching c.1.1 billion by 2050, falling to c.900 million by the end of the century).

 

The Four Major Global Power Blocs: Key Metrics8

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The world’s economic centre of gravity is rapidly shifting eastwards. Assuming that every country’s GDP is its ‘weight’, the world’s centre of gravity for most of the post-war era has been in the North Atlantic, reflecting the economic dominance of the US and Europe. Despite the US having largely managed to maintain its share of global GDP in the past decades, the global centre of economic gravity has shifted eastward first into Northern Russia and now to the Russia-Kazakhstan border as Europe’s share of the global has declined, and China’s has grown. This eastward trajectory is unlikely to change as the nexus of global growth continues to favour Asia9 , as India’s economic power grows and compounds into the second half of the century.

Thanks to its demographic dynamics and development focus, India's economy is projected to scale to $30-50 trillion by 2050, enabling India to punch far above its current weight geopolitically, being wooed as an ally by the US and EU as the only power that can balance China over the medium to longer-term. While China’s economy, is projected to continue to grow (and overtake the US’ around 203510 ), it faces significant longer-term demographic challenges, with its working age population expected to shrink by c.22% between 2022 and 2050. The US in turn is losing ground relative to both rising powers, and domestic political division is impacting its will to be the arbiter of global affairs. Any path to continued leadership for America likely runs through the country’s capacity to innovate and dominate new technologies, as well as through the reshaping of its liberal alliances and partnerships, as well as its ability to give coherent policies across presidencies in a divided national polity. Finally, while the EU’s relative power position is guaranteed to decline further, it remains the world’s largest single market and its largest trading bloc, leaving it well positioned to be a leading setter of standards, rules, and treaties for the world.

The graphic below charts the relative rise and decline of the four power blocs over the past two centuries and highlights clearly the Western powers rise in the 19th and dominance in the 20th century, as well as the Eastern blocs’ rise and eventual domination in the 21st century.

 

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Over and above these four key power blocs, there are other regional powers that are vying for superpower status and the opportunity to shape the coming world order. Russia and Saudi Arabia are among the most prominent members of this group, which also includes the United Kingdom and Iran, among others. Russia, through its annexation of Crimea in 2014, its support of the Assad regime in Syria from 2015, and its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, appears to be looking to return to its pre-1990 position as a global superpower based on military capabilities, alliances, and ability to effectively intervene in world affairs. In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia is repositioning itself as a global power by building its economy and leveraging its position as a major energy exporter to the four big power blocs, while looking to play a pivotal role in regional conflicts like the civil war in Yemen and the Israel-Hamas conflict. However, both countries appear to be insignificant across the key economic and demographic metrics that define the leading four power blocs.

 

Aspiring Global Power Blocs: Key Metrics2

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These aspirants’ power is therefore unlikely to rise to that of four leaders, whose cooperation, competition, and rivalry will shape the world order. However, this does not preclude countries like Russia and Saudi Arabia from playing critical geopolitical roles, both as powers proactively shaping their respective regions, and given their ability to significantly impact great powers’ interests there, if they so choose, to be potential disrupters on a global level.

 

Local Conflicts Going Global: Risks for the World

Today’s conflicts in Europe and the Middle East are essentially local in origin, involve global powers, are already regional in terms of impact, and potential to go global, given the shifting strategic interests of the four power blocs and the actions of regional aspirants. The first is Russia’s war against Ukraine, now in its 21st month, the second is Israel’s massive air and ground campaign in Gaza, following last month’s terrorist attack by Hamas.

In addition to these active conflicts, there are several additional flashpoints, which have the potential to escalate from local origins into global conflicts, the most notable of which is the China-Taiwan stand-off. Each of these conflicts touches upon the strategic interest of one or more of the world’s power blocs, the intervention of any of which would likely trigger responses and countermoves by the other power blocs, thereby escalating local predominantly territorial conflicts between two nations into major conflagrations impacting the global balance of power.

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While each of these conflicts share several similarities, their (likely) escalation paths are distinct, and their implications for the power blocs and the world both interrelated and cumulative, as outlined below.

Territorial Conflicts with Local Origins. All the conflicts above are territorial disputes between neighbouring groups with deeply intertwined histories, notwithstanding the fact that each conflict also has a mix of nationalist, religious, ethnic and/or ideological components to it.

Russia’s war with Ukraine, often framed in the context of ongoing NATO expansion and other geopolitical factors, is rooted in an over 300-year history of Russo-Ukrainian relations, including centuries of Russian imperial rule over Ukraine, during which the latter was seen as an integral part of the former. With Russian President Vladimir Putin having declared the ““Ukraine is not even a state”13 and that Russians and Ukrainians “are one people”14 , despite the fact that it is a sovereign state and an independent member of the U.N. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is widely interpreted as a move to regain lost territory and re-establish Russian authority there 15 , if only to create a buffer state to NATO in its perceived sphere of influence.

The current Israel-Hamas war is part of the century-long broader Israel-Palestine conflict, ultimately based on two nations claiming ownership of the same land. The fact that the conflict also has “The Arab in Eretz Yisrael [Israel]…cannot want the Jews to become the majority. That is the source of the true confrontation between us the Arabs. We and they both want to be the majority.” David Ben Gurion, Primary Founder of the State of Israelsignificant religious, ethnic, nationalist, and interstate dimensions to it, and a long history of tragic violence does not detract from the fact that it is ultimately based on the contested ownership of c.30,000 sq. km of land16.

China’s conflict with Taiwan is the last remnant of its civil war during the mid-20th century, with both the PRC’s and Taiwan’s rulers claiming to be the single legitimate government of China for much of the intervening period. While Taiwan’s currently ruling Democratic Progressive Party sees itself as an independent and sovereign country, China’s ruling CPC believes Taiwan to be an inalienable part of China, and reunification to be a national priority for which it ‘reserve[s] the option of taking all measures necessary’, setting the stage for a potential military conflict over the island.

 

… with Potential Geopolitical Implications. Despite their local nature, each of these directly or indirectly impacts the strategic interests of one or more of the four power blocs, whether due to the actors involved, the geography of the conflict, or reasons of energy, resources of economic security.

A Russian attack on Ukraine has brought conflict to the immediate borders of several NATO and European Union member states, with Ukraine (now) being a candidate member for both organizations. With any attack on a NATO state triggering collective defence obligations for its 30 members, any expansion of the current conflict risks triggering a war involving four nuclear powers. Russia’s invasion has also triggered a security commitment to Ukraine by the US, made in 1994 when a newly independent Ukraine surrendered its nuclear arsenal. As a result, the US and Europe have provided c.US$170 billion of military and other aid to Ukraine since the start of the current conflict17, allowing Ukraine to resist the Russian invasion thus far. China, on the other hand, has cultivated Russian “friendship without limits”18 to counter Western power and influence in the world, and is also increasingly dependent on Russian energy to power its economy. Prior to the current conflict, China imported c.16% of its oil from Russia, and this has increased to c.20% in the first half of 2023, with Russia’s discounts helping to reduce China’s energy bill19. India on the other hand has maintained neutral position on the conflict, calling for dialogue and diplomacy without condemning Russia, while also using the Western sanctions regime as an opportunity to buy discounted oil from it.

In case of the Israel-Hamas conflict, the US has been a strategic supporter of Israel since the state’s inception in 1948, being the first country to recognise Israel at the time. Successive US administrations have seen Israel as a critical ally to maintaining America’s position as the key power broker in a region with strategic waterways and energy reserves20. Meanwhile, China has become increasingly dependent on energy imports from the Middle East, with half of its oil imports coming from the Persian Gulf, filling in the gap left by declining US demand for Middle East oil, including tripling its imports from Iran following the imposition of US sanctions21. The strategic interests of these powers, plus Russia’s antithetical positioning in the region, risks exacerbating the tensions between the region’s major states including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Turkey.

The reunification of Taiwan with the PRC, on the other hand, is clearly a national strategic priority for mainland China, but it also has major implications for US security, economic and strategic interests. The island’s de-facto independence is critical to the US security architecture in the Asia-Pacific region, which relies on direct naval presences in South Korea and Japan and the support of partners and their maritime capabilities in Southeast Asia and the greater Pacific, among others. Any failure by the US to protect Taiwan’s independence not only creates a gap in this architecture but also reduces American credibility as a security guarantor for its regional allies. Taiwan is also critical to US economic security, with the country producing over 60% of all and over 90% of advanced semiconductors globally, Chinese control of the island and its semiconductor manufacturing would represent a major threat to the US and nearly every other major industrialised economy.

These varied geopolitical interests by major powers in local conflicts make the flashpoints potential catalysts for major global entanglement.

 

Potential Paths to Global Escalation...and its Consequences.

There are of course many ways in which each of these conflicts could be escalated or de-escalated for that matter. However, given each of these complex local issues are connected to global players means that they carry the potential to conflagrate the world.

The following three scenarios illustrate the ways in which local conflicts can surge into global ones with severe political, economic, and security implications, respectively.

Scenario 1 – The Israel-Hamas Conflict Weakens US World Leadership. Global support for Israel, nearly one month into its ground offensive, and with it being nowhere near its stated goal of eradicating Hamas, has significantly waned, including, critically among the power blocs.

While the EU has struggled to speak with one voice on the issue,22 France’s Emmanuel Macron has called on Israel to agree a ceasefire in Gaza, saying that there was “no justification” for bombing civilians in the embattled territory, China has called for an immediate ceasefire, India has sent humanitarian aid to Palestine, and its Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said he “strongly condemns civilian causalities”. And within the region, Saudi Arabia is urging the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel for war crimes. The global shift in sentiment leaves US increasingly isolated as Israel’s sole supporter, albeit one facing increasing internal division on the matter, with a recent poll suggesting that 68% of Americans want a ceasefire23.

An agreed 4-day pause and hostage-swaps negotiated by the U.S. and Qatar has provided some relief. However, Israel has declared that it intends to continue its campaign in Gaza and will not stop until Hamas is eradicated, an objective its own military believes could take a year or longer, and some doubt is possible at all24. A further increase in civilian casualties and a worsening of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza therefore would be all but inevitable.

If this is the case, America’s continued unconditional support for Israel risks undermining its relationships with its Arab allies and hold the potential to inflict long-term damage to its standing not just in the region, but across the entire Global South, with the perception that the US tolerates civilian deaths of Palestinians, while deploring those in Ukraine. In both cases America’s loss is China’s and Russia’s gain, as Middle Eastern countries diversify their foreign policies away from the US, and the Global South increasingly looks to China as a neutral and ‘honest broker’ for their own conflicts.

 

Scenario 2 – The Russia-Ukraine Conflict Inflicts Multi-Dimensional Destabilisation on Europe and the US- European Security Alliance. Since the beginning of the invasion in February 2022, the spectre of further escalation has loomed large over the war.

One escalation scenario could involve the opening of new theatres for Russian expansionism, (or for the creation of a “cordon sanitiere” against NATO, if one prefers this interpretation of Russia’s actions) Russia today shares a land border with six NATO and/or EU members (and Ukraine with another three). While Russia will clearly seek to avoid a direct attack on any member to avoid triggering a collective response under Article 5, it has other means with which to exert power on key neighbouring states and weaken the EU and NATO in the process. Given that c.25% of Latvia’s and Estonia’s population are ethnic Russians (a higher percentage than in Ukraine), Russia’s potential if it were so minded, to foster unrest in these countries is much like it has in the Donbas region, providing a step ladder to justifying direct intervention to protect ethnic Russians from being harmed by hostile governments, as it has done in Georgia25 and Ukraine26 with tactics Russia has deployed in other theatres including using disguised troops (‘little green men’), and short term forays by forces across the border cloaked as (humanitarian) relief operations.

Under this scenario, Russia would not only significantly destabilise European security, but also split NATO in terms of responses (for fear of nuclear escalation), exposing divisions within the bloc and hollowing out the collective defence commitment at the organization’s core, weakening the US- European alliance, and European cohesion, economies, and markets.

 

Scenario 3 – The China-Taiwan Conflict Drives Deglobalization and Economic Turmoil. The likelihood of a Chinese take-over of Taiwan is unsurprisingly a hot topic of debate of in foreign policy circles, as is the possible US response to one.

While US President Joe Biden has publicly said that U.S forces would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion, such a move is unlikely, given that any such conflict both lacks domestic support and carries nuclear risk. The international reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine provides a more likely template for any US and allied responses to a Chinese annexation of Taiwan, focused on an intensive internationally coordinated sanction regime against China. Any such regime would likely cripple China’s economy and key strategic sectors, but would incur a staggering cost for the sanctioning countries and the world as well, given the global dependence on Chinese exports. The Russian sanction regime created significant global dislocations given the country’s 14% share in global oil production, disrupting energy prices, energy shortages, spiralling inflation, and driving a reengineering of global energy supply chains. China on the other hand represents nearly 20% of the global economy and is the largest trading partner for over 120 countries27. Applying an equivalent sanction regime against China would likely create a global recession, and drive long-term deglobalization, as well as crippling the US tech sector and Western economic decarbonization efforts, given their dependence on Taiwanese semiconductors and Chinese wind, solar and batter technology, the flow of which would heavily disrupted in almost any sanctions regime.

Such a scenario would not only have significant geo-economic consequences, but also geopolitical ones, in particular by undermining US leadership in the world, dividing it from the Global South (most of the countries of which are unlikely to participate in any sanctions against China, as evidenced by their participation or lack thereof in the Russia sanctions), damaging its own economy, and at the same time strengthening the China-Russia partnership in the face of shared Western adversity.

Conflict without Boundaries.

While each of the three scenarios above is of course possible, there are of course many other permutations of each conflict. What is clear though is that virtually any escalation presents a significant risk to the world given the increasing likelihood of drawing major power blocs into the conflict. These risks should provide a strong incentive for each of the blocs to deescalate or even solve local and regional flashpoints wherever and whenever they might occur. This requires accepting several key realities of our times:

  1. There are no discrete conflicts. In an increasingly integrated world, there are no truly discrete conflicts that do not impinge on regional or global power interests.

  2. Conflict impact is multi-dimensional and compounds.While a conflict’s origins may be fairly straightforward, its impact is multi-dimensional with economic, political and security implications, thereby compounding its impact.

  3. Downside risks work against global order. While all conflicts have potentially significant downside risks, major flashpoints only de-stabilise the world order, with little opportunity to strengthen it.

  4. Direct power bloc confrontation creates global disorder and collateral damage. Most direct confrontations between power blocs destabilise the bilateral relationship and also divide the world with implications beyond the conflict, hampering cooperation on bigger issues.

  5. American power declines in almost all major conflict scenarios. The US, as the incumbent world leader and significant beneficiary of the current order, has both the broadest global strategic interests and the most to lose from global conflicts.

  6. Disrupters can have disproportionate impacts. Regional actors and regional interventions by disrupters can have targeted magnified international disruptions that lead to division of and between power blocs.

Hence, given the two major ongoing active local conflicts in Europe and the Middle East, and potentially a third one in Asia, impact the interests of the four major power blocs (and other major powers in the respective regions), the world stands at a risky precipice. Even a single conflict that draws in one of the big power blocs directly risks massive global disorder. Two or more of the conflicts doing so at the same time increase this risk exponentially, including triggering a conflict that transcends boundaries and is waged on a global scale. This would likely have catastrophic human and economic consequences, destroying the liberal world and imperilling peace, prosperity, and freedom on a global scale. The result would likely be a state of boundaryless conflict between blocs and states, locked in zero sum struggles without rules or easy paths to de-escalation, much like China during the Warring States period (475 to 221 BC) and Europe during the World Wars, until some winner or group of winners with the ability to impose a renewed global order emerges.

Conclusion: Global Divisions Risk Leaving Existential Threats Unaddressed

Even without the worst-case scenario playing out, the costs of divided power blocs are significant. The two current conflicts illustrate not only the division between the blocs, but also that their alignment relative to each other differs by conflict, too. (e.g. the US and the EU, aligning on Russia-Ukraine but splitting on Israel-Hamas, or India and China doing the same, and the EU being divided against itself). Moreover, each power bloc influences the behaviours of a range of different countries, meaning that their divisions ultimately create fault lines that are global in scope.

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Considering that the world is facing a series of long-term systemic challenges for which there are no easy solutions, the lack of unity leads the world to march towards existential risks.

The challenges facing the world are global in nature and beyond the ability of any one nation or power bloc to solve in isolation, requiring a multi-lateral and likely global effort to address. The challenges that likely fall off the list of those addressed include:

 

  • The Climate Crisis. Based on current policies and commitments, CO2 emissions by 2030 will be twice the levels they need to be to keep the global rise in temperatures below 1.5 0 C, to avoid the worst effects of climate change29.
  • Global Migration Challenges As of 2020, there were 281 million migrants globally, including 35 million refugees and 63 million internally displaced persons, with recent wars exacerbating this significantly with migration out of Ukraine and Gaza30 , and the UN warning of one billion migrants by 2050.
  • Funding the Sustainability Transition. The UN Sustainable Development Goals face a US$13- 17 trillion annual funding gap and a total incremental funding requirement of up to US$137 trillion by 2030 to meet the goals, for which global solutions exist but require global cooperation31.
  • Threats to America’s Liberal Democracy. With the 2024 presidential election cycle about to kick off and currently looking like a re-match of the 2020 election, there is an existential issue with 69% of Republicans and Republican-leaners saying that Biden’s 2020 election win was not legitimate32.
  • Post-Truth Societies. Social media is the most used news source in America and globally, and is being used to spread disinformation, and is the least trusted by those that use it; for example, 36% of American believe that the risks of the COVID-19 vaccine outweigh its benefits34.
  • Artificial Intelligence Governance. AI’s potential to disrupt virtually every industry, society and government in fundamental ways makes the creation of a global governance framework for its development and use critical, and unlikely in an era of competition.

 

Recent history has shown how difficult it is to build global consensus on issues. The Paris Agreement in 2015 was the last international treaty with near universal participation, and subsequent efforts to update commitments have largely failed. The solution to many of the issues facing the world requires international collaboration on a similar scale and scope. Building the consensus necessary for such an effort requires the world’s leading powers not just to align with one another but to offer a compelling vision to the rest of the world to join with them.

 

As the world stands on the brink of multi-dimensional breakthroughs driven by the relentless pursuit of science in areas as wide as AI, space, energy, and cognition, it seems to fail to find the compassion and relentless will to find peace, without which none of the rest may matter.

 

The Leader: Endnotes

  1. Source: Capital as a Force for Good Report 2023
  2. Sources: United Nations, World Population Prospects (2022), UN DESA, IEP
  3. Source: An Update on Global Mining Land Use (2022), Scientific Data (Springer Nature)
  4. Source: World Inequality Report
  5. 2023 Global Peace Index
  6. Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  7. Please see Sign of the Times leader from December 2020, The Quadrilateral Power Blocs Shaping the World: Will Democracy Prevail
  8. Sources: World Federation of Exchanges, Bloomberg, MSCI, IMF World Economic Outlook, WTO Stats (WITS), Worldometer, World Population Review, European Commission, Enerdata World Energy & Climate Statistics Yearbook 2023, Global Firepower (GFP) Index, 2023 rankings; Europe figures include UK
  9. Please see Sign of the Times leader from June 2023, The Asian Half Century, Challenging Great Powers
  10. Recent estimates indicate China’s economic slowdown may result in it taking longer (i.e. until mid 2040s) to overtake the US economy, and it is expected to slow down to approximately the same pace as US by 2050, resulting in the GDP share of both countries declining in tandem; all estimates however suggest that the US will grow slightly faster than China in the second half of the century (given its better demographics) as a result of which it may pass the Chinese economy again before the end of the century
  11. Source: GPC Research; Angus Maddison (GDP share until 1990) and Goldman Sachs Research (GDP share until 2075), 2100 GDP share extrapolated by applying same growth rate as 2070-2075 to 2075-2100
  12. Sources: Russia-Ukraine military casualties: US government and various other 3rd party estimates as of Aug-Sep 2023; Russia military expenditure: Reuters; Ukraine civilian casualties: Office of High Commissioner of Human Rights, Prosecutor General of Ukraine; Military aid to Ukraine: Council on Foreign Relations; Israeli casualties and hostages: Israel Prime Minister’s Office; Palestinian deaths: Gaza Health Ministry; Population: Worldometer; China trade statistics: General Administration of Customs of the PROC; US treasury holdings: US Department of Treasury; US troops in Japan and South Korea: Defense Manpower Data Center; US Pacific Fleet strength: US Navy website
  13. Source: http://www.kommersant.ru/doc/877224
  14. Source; http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/20603
  15. Source: Snyder Tim ‘The Making of Modern Ukraine’ Yale University lecture series; Applebaum, Anne “The Russian Empire Must Die”, The Atlantic, Nov 2022, Garton Ash, Timothy “Postimperial Empire’, Foreign Affairs April 2023
  16. Source of Quotation: Michael Bar Zohan, Ben Gurion p. 310
  17. Source: Statista, Council on Foreign Relations
  18. Source: Joint Statement of the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China on the International Relations Entering a New Era and the Global Sustainable Development, February 2022
  19. Source: Banque the France, China has reduced its energy bill thanks to Russian oil discounts
  20. Source: Vox, How the US became Israel’s closest ally
  21. Source: New York Times, China’s Economic Stake in the Middle East: Its Thirst for Oil
  22. Perhaps unsurprisingly given its history, successive chancellors of Germany, the largest state in the EU, have declared that “The security of Israel is Germany’s raison d’etat.”
  23. Source; Ipsos/Reuters Poll 15 November 2023
  24. Source: Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak: “Is an Israel-Palestine two-state solution possible?” GZero World Podcast with Ian Bremmer, released November 17, 2023
  25. Sources: https://www.crisisgroup.org/europe-central-asia/caucasus/russianorth-caucasus/russia-and-responsibility-protect
  26. Sources: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-60793319?utm_source=nextdraft&utm_medium=email
  27. Source: Wilson Center
  28. Sources: Russia-Ukraine military casualties: US government and various other 3rd party estimates as of Aug-Sep 2023; Russia military expenditure: Reuters; Ukraine civilian casualties: Office of High Commissioner of Human Rights, Prosecutor General of Ukraine; Military aid to Ukraine: Council on Foreign Relations; Israeli casualties and hostages: Israel Prime Minister’s Office; Palestinian deaths: Gaza Health Ministry; Population: Worldometer; China trade statistics: General Administration of Customs of the PROC; US treasury holdings: US Department of Treasury; US troops in Japan and South Korea: Defense Manpower Data Center; US Pacific Fleet strength: US Navy website
  29. Source: Climate Action Tracker
  30. Source: UN World Migration Report 2022
  31. Source: 2023 Capital as a Force for Good Report
  32. Source: CNN-SSRS Poll, 1-31 July 2023
  33. Source: Gallup-UNICEF, Pew Research Center
  34. Source: Estimates based on World Bank Poverty and Inequality Platform, Please see Sign leader from July 2023, The Fight Against Poverty Must be Rebooted for further details