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What to Look for in 2019: The Race for the Periphery

The wish for a world not dominated by a single power is still a hope and a dream.  On the global scale, the United States is unmatched compared to its geopolitical rivals (Russia and China).  This does not mean that the US influence is not invulnerable.  Geopolitical Futures released its annual geopolitical forecast predicting that 2019 will see powers battling for influence along the periphery.  I agree with their assessment, especially when the trends in Central Europe are studied. 

Geopolitical analysts are starting to see a recreation of an East-West divide in Europe.  Post-socialist economies are still developing immensely, but there is dissatisfaction over the progress that has been made.  A 2018 poll by GLOBSEC found that 21% of Slovaks, 38% of Czechs, 42% of Poles, and 45% of Hungarians identify that their countries are part of the West.  

A significant number of Central Europeans believe they belong in the middle of the east and west.  Respondents say they want their countries to preserve their sovereignty, be neutral on east-west affairs, and "have the best from both worlds." The authors cite negative past historical experiences as a possible cause for why pro-western support is not higher.  In addition, Prince Michael of Liechtenstein argues that Western European politics "ignore the economic and geopolitical importance of Central Europe for the continent, and also the region’s needs."  Trust in the west is low because of these factors and it has left Central Europe vulnerable to outside influence.

 Source: GLOBSEC

Amongst young people in Poland and Hungary pro-western support is much higher.

 Source: GLOBSEC

Political fragmentation is happening across the transatlantic community.  Thankfully the polls from Globsec does not show a rise in pro-Russian views.  It does, however, show that that idea of a pan-European state and the transatlantic community has overlooked and underestimated the interests of Central Europeans.  Disagreements over refugee policies, political integration, and economics have resulted in political fragmentation. This has left the European periphery vulnerable to Russian and Chinese influence. 

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