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Strategic Estimate 2021

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The year 2020 will forever be known as the year when an infectious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2), aka. COVID-19 infected over 100 million people that led to the deaths of over a 2 million worldwide. The impact of the virus and the response to it will have wide scale repercussions and even with the beginning of 2021 its full impact is still not completely clear. The COVID-19 pandemic has dominated the economic and political landscape in 2020 and its impact will be assessed in Strategic Estimate 2021.

2020 was election year for the global superpower. President Trump’s first term has been everything but stable. The US remained deeply involved in global issues despite the rhetoric about disengagement from global issues. Trump made many promises in his presidential campaign and his effect on America’s global position will be assessed in Strategic Estimate 2021. The debate continues to rage if Trump has weakened or strengthened America’s global position especially as the US was marred in global conflicts and with the rise of China the US continues to be dogged by imperial overstretch. The battle for global supremacy continues with China especially the trade war where Trump promised punitive measures but stopped short of this at the end of 2019. In Strategic Estimate 2021 we assess the state of play between the two nations. The US carried out the assassination of Qasim Soleimani, one of the IRGCs senior commanders in January 2020, this once again brought to light the US agenda for the Middle East. Strategic Estimate 2021 assesses America’s interests and the strategy in the region.

Vladimir Putin passed his two-decade anniversary as ruler of Russia in 2020 with his approval rating the lowest it has ever been. But a package of constitutional changes which were approved in a national referendum has begun the post-Putin era and for the first time for many Russians a future without Putin is now on the horizon. Russia faced significant challenges in her buffer regions in 2020 with Moscow backed leaders in Belarus and Kyrgyzstan caught up in elections results that the people refused to accept and with Caucuses escalating into full scale warfare between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Strategic Estimate 2021 assesses the impact of this on Russian power. 2020 has seen Russia’s arctic strategy take shape. With the ice melting and as technological development grows this is creating more opportunities for Russia and places it in a key position to benefit from the northern passage and the energy resources present in the arctic. Strategic Estimate 2021 assesses the opportunities and challenges Russia faces on her northern border. Russia has long relied upon her oil wealth to keep her global position and economy operational and whilst it’s easily accessible oil reserves have long been the cornerstone of her economy, the era of Russia’s easily accessible and cheap energy is coming to an end which represents significant challenges for the world’s largest nation. How Russia navigates this will determine her future and Strategic Estimate 2021 assesses the country’s options.

China took centre stage in 2020 as the COVID-19 virus reportedly originated from the country. China’s economic model meant the virus posed a significant challenge to her and drastic action was needed to ensure the country’s economy did not come to a complete halt. Strategic Estimate 2021 assesses the impact of the virus on China’s economy. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) forged ahead with national unity with the acceleration of the reintegration of Hong Kong which effectively brings to an end the two systems, one nation policy. The impact of this on China’s unity and power will be assessed. With the trade war in full swing China attempted to de-dollarise in 2020 in order to circumvent US sanctions and restrictions. Despite lots of rhetoric against the US dollar, progress has been slow, Strategic Estimate 2021 assesses where China stands with her move away from the dollar and whether she can succeed. The US Pentagon released its annual review of China’s military in September 2020, it made a number of headline grabbing conclusions and Strategic Estimate 2021 assesses China’s military ascent.

Europe faced several strategic challenges in 2020. The future of Europe in terms of her unity and her role in the world remained a debate as the UK exited the union. Strategic Estimate 2021 assesses the challenges Europe faces as her global position adjusts to the rise of other regions and nations.

The Eastern Mediterranean has become a key battle ground between France and Greece on one side and Turkey on the other as they battle for the region’s energy resources. Just across from the European coast on the Mediterranean the battle for Libya has become even more complicated as Turkey entered the fray. In 2020, Mali also witnessed a re-run of the coup that took place eight years ago in 2020, but on this occasion it succeeded. North Africa has for long been the last remaining region where Europe maintained influence and it has strategic implications if it lost by them. Strategic Estimate 2021 assesses the implications of the political events that took place in 2020.

The global economy took massive hit in 2020 as lockdowns across the world took national economies off-line for months. The impact was broad and deep, it affected manufacturing, GDP and employment. The global economy was due a recession in 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic turned the recession into something that is looking worse than the Great Depression of the 1930s. Strategic Estimate 2021 assesses the economic impact of COVID-19 on the global economy.

Many factors can affect geopolitics and for Strategic Estimate 2021 we assess the role a nation’s military capability plays in global power projection. Long considered a key characteristic for any global power, we look at the basic building blocks of a nation’s military capability in the modern day as well the current trends. We also assess the unique position of the US military and the status of China as a rising military power.

What follows inshaAllah is the author’s opinion and assessment of 2020 and the trends for 2021 and beyond. Like any assessment, they are estimates and forecasts.

Adnan Khan

16 Jumada Al-Awwal 1442 AH – 31 December 2020 CE