‘Don’t be surprised at anything’

Petr Akopov

Forecasts for the coming year range from “don’t be surprised at anything” to “everything will change.” But it makes no sense to wait for the end of the world or hope for a miracle – 2023 will become a logical continuation of 2022, and to a much greater extent than the past year, continued the trends of the previous one. It is practically guaranteed that the main event of the new year will remain the hostilities in Ukraine and everything connected with them. And almost everything is connected – from the prices of raw materials to the process of dismantling the Atlantic world order. But this does not mean that everything depends only on the Ukrainian front and the rest does not matter. On the contrary, as in any extreme situation, everything is intertwined and goes to the overall standings.
Although Europe, which has suddenly become the hottest spot in the world because it decided to expand eastward at the expense of Russian land and considers what is happening in Ukraine to be its own, not Russian business, and will be in an excited state throughout 2023, there are no guarantees that traditionally the most dangerous region of the world, the Middle East, will not regain the attention of the world community. Not instead of Europe, but together with it.
Of course, the most dangerous development of events will not happen – the attack on Iran, which some Israeli politicians (including Netanyahu, who returned to power) and part of the American elites, crave, will not happen. But the very fact that the Americans finally buried the nuclear deal will have a negative impact on the situation in the region, giving provocateurs a reason to hope that they will be able to pit the Arabs and Persians. The recent unrest in Iran gave them additional hope for destabilizing the situation in the Islamic Republic, but one should not count on serious unrest in the ancient state. Despite all the internal problems, Iran is in the forefront of countries working to change the world order that is beneficial to the West, and Tehran’s role will only grow.
Including thanks to rapprochement with Russia, last year was a truly breakthrough year in Russian-Iranian relations, removing the obstacles that had previously held back their development. First of all, by removing the Russian side, forcing both our business, cut off from Europe, and our state corporations and officials, often also Euro-pean-oriented, to take as se-riously as possible the plans for strategic cooperation w-ith a neighboring state that have long existed: the Nor-th-South transport corridor, trade and infrastructure pr-ojects, not to mention military-technical cooperation. At the same time, Russia maintains close relations with Iran’s neighbors, both Arabs and Turks. Moreo-ver, interaction with Arab countries (primarily Saudi Arabiaand the Emirates) is intensifying, and with Turkey it completely acquires the character of a strategically important one.
And this despite the fact that the growth of Turkish influence in the post-Soviet space cannot but disturb M-oscow – Turkey’s excessive strengthening in the Trans-caucasus and its persistent attempts to expand its presence in Central Asia do not meet Russian interests. However, Putin manages to find a balance of interests with Erdogan, so the upcoming presidential elections in Turkey in June will be extremely important.
Erdogan will almost certainly be re-elected – which is beneficial for Russia and disadvantageous for the West. But even in the event of his defeat, one should not expect a change in the Turkish foreign policy strategy: over the two Erdogan decades, the country has become more than a serious player on a supra-regional scale (even if we mean the Greater Middle East by its region) and is not going to abandon offensive foreign policy. And offensiveness is inextricably linked with independence – careful distancing from the West and maintaining close and diverse ties with Russia that are beneficial to Turkey.
There are enough press-ure points in the Greater M-iddle East that can explode. In addition to the main one, the Palestinian one, there is also a sluggish war in Ye-men, and Libya, which is teetering on the verge of resuming a civil war, and a Kurdish problem for at least three states. And long-suffering Syria, which, ho-wever, may soon return to the League of Arab States, which will mean a rejection of the demands for the departure of Assad, who will meet with Erdogan in the new year, it is important for both of them not only to bury the hatchet, but also to try to agree on what to do with the rebellious Kurds on the Turkish-Syrian border. The American military presence in Syria is prev-enting this problem from b-eing solved – and the States are not going to leave yet.
However, in general, American influence in the region is falling: the Arabs are increasingly diversifying their ties, moving closer to China and Russia. The common problem for the entire large region – Afghanistan – has so far been sort of forgotten. After the departure of the Americans, the Afghans are left to themselves – and in the most difficult economic situation, the Taliban leaders are trying to build some kind of state power, while not wanting to share it with yesterday’s collaborators, that is, those who worked for the Americans. None of its neighbors need impoverished and explosive Afghanistan, but so far neither China, nor Russia, nor Iran, nor the Arab countries have been able to establish serious trade and economic ties with Kabul. The fourth most important country for Afghanistan, Pakistan, is itself in a state of internal discord – removed (to the pleasure of the West) last spring from power, Imran Khan will do everything this year to return to the premier’s chair.
Although the shift of the geopolitical center of gravity from Europe and the Mediterranean to the Pacific region will continue, most of the most heated pain points remain in Asia and Europe (here, not only Kosovo, but also Bosnia may detonate in the new year ). The Taiwan issue, which was so heavily combed last year, will almost certainly subside this year – neither Washington, nor even Beijing needs to provoke a new round of the crisis, which will inevitably take place at a tougher level and worsen the already degrading US-China relations. Confrontation between China and the USA, of course, will continue, the verbal and sanctions confrontation will intensify, but the parties will not play with Taiwanese fire in 2023. The crisis here – as in many other regions of the world – may be next, 2024, when the island will hold presidential elections (during which the theme of declaring independence, that is, renouncing the status of the long-defunct “Republic of China”), will be played up.
But with regard to another Pacific crisis point, Korea, nothing can be guessed – although here again one should not expect Armageddon. It is very likely that Kim Jong-un will conduct the first nuclear tests since 2017 – which, however, will excite Japan more than the United States. Washington still does not know what to do with the DPRK: the demand to abandon nuclear weapons is frankly meaningless, and there is nothing more to put pressure on Pyongyang, all possible sanctions have long been introduced. Now, on the contrary, Moscow and Beijing would like to lift part of the international sanctions against Pyongyang, but this is impossible due to the American veto. It was not worth China and Russia at the time to agree to the UNwith American proposals for anti-Korean sanctions, but what can we now regret about what happened in a completely different era. Now the Russians and the Chinese are not only able, but simply obliged to bypass these sanctions in trade with the DPRK, which will be correct both from the point of view of bilateral relations and as an example of the destruction of the system of punishment of “rogue states” built by the West.
For the collective West, the new year will be a time of strength testing both for relations between the EU and the US, and for the EU itself. Europeans’ dissatisfaction with the Americans, on whom their dependence is growing, will grow, but the fear that is being pumped up in front of the “Russian threat” will overcome it. Contradictions within the EU will increase, but not so much as to lead to paralysis of the organization. France with Germanythey will not be able to agree on the essence of joint leadership, nor on the principles of strategic autonomy, nor will they be able to agree on plans for admitting the Western Balkans to the EU. The demand to start negotiations with Russia on new principles of strategic security on the continent will sound more and more insistent, but the elites as a whole will continue to keep the line, hoping that Europe will be able to keep Ukraine for itself.
The United States will “eat Trump” all year long – the globalist liberal establishment will try to do everything to prevent him from returning to the White House. And for this, first of all, it is necessary to disrupt his nomination from the Republicans – which, although it should take place in the summer of 2024, will take place following the results of the primaries starting in January of next year. That is, in 2023, the Democrats need to make sure that Trump’s rating in reality (and not in manipulated opinion polls) falls to the level of non-election. There will be attempts to judge him, and new revelations, and a large-scale discrediting campaign, but the 45th president has good fighting qualities and good chances to withstand this fire.
For three years now, the world has been living in an emergency situation – and the fourth year will definitely not be peaceful and calm. By the end of 2023, the world will not be much different from what it is now, because the most serious changes accumulated during the global transformation are not perceived by us from a close distance. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t happen. On the contrary, their scale is too great to immediately realize it. In the new year, we will understand a little better what happened in 2022, but we will appreciate the full significance of what happened in the early 2020s only years later.