Astana Club: World Faces Economic Slowdown, Spiralling Conflicts in 2019

ASTANA, Kazakhstan, November 16, 2018 /PRNewswire/ --

The world faces major crises in 2019 with escalation of military-political confrontation and trade wars, humanitarian tragedies and environmental disasters, according to a study by 30 top global experts. The study, "Global Risks for Eurasia in 2019", was presented as part of the fourth annual meeting of the Astana Club, an international discussion forum, held over November 12 and 13 in Astana, Kazakhstan.  The plenary session was addressed by the President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev.

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The study was prepared by the team of experts of Institute of World Economics and Politics headed by its director Yerzhan Saltybayev. Study was based on the opinions provided by more than 30 global experts and politicians, including several former heads of states and Nobel laureates. Additionally, more than 1,000 experts from 60 countries also provided input through questionnaires. 

Among the notable authors of the study are geopolitical and strategic forecasting gurus and Nobel laureates - Robert Kaplan, senior advisor at Eurasia group, Dan Smith, director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Mathew Burrows, director of the Atlantic Council's Strategic Foresight Initiative, Matthew Rojansky, director of the Kennan Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center, Rajendra Pachauri, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and president of the World Forum on Sustainable Development and Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (1997-2009), Nobel peace prize winner in 2005.

The study pinpoints the top 10 global risks for Eurasia in 2019 as being: Escalation of the confrontation between China and the US; full-scale expansion of trade wars; the Great War in the Middle East; further degradation of relations between Russia and the West; "defrosting" of hotspots in Eurasia; growth of separatism and ethno-confessional conflicts; intensification of environmental and water challenges; strengthening and evolution of cyber threats; the beginning of a new arms race; and risk of major nuclear and technological disasters.       

The majority of the experts who participated in the project warn of the world's increasing vulnerability to global risks. The two most serious risks are associated with two areas of confrontation between the US and China. The first is in the military-political environment - involving mutual distrust and growing competition for dominance in Asia. The US will strengthen its policy of containing China, strengthening the anti-Chinese consensus in the Asia-Pacific region. This will provoke a response from China, which will seek to counteract the pressure.

The second area relates to the trade war between the two giants which started in mid-2018. Tariff restrictions are sure to be extended, resulting in a slowdown in both countries' economies. The effect of protective measures "overflowing" to other markets may be seen as a result also. A slowdown in global trade and investment will be caused by trade restrictions around the world. 

The consequences of the US withdrawal from a nuclear deal with Iran could trigger a large-scale war in the Middle East.

In 2019, relations between Russia and the West will continue to deteriorate. Pressure on Moscow may be intensified by sanctions: the next targets may be the largest Russian banks, whose dollar assets may be frozen. 

The defrosting of Eurasia's hotspots - the conflicts in eastern Ukraine and Nagorno-Karabakh and Afghanistan - could exacerbate relations between the great and regional powers. 

There is a high risk of a fresh round of violence between Sunni and Shiite groups in the Middle East, and in the near future many thousands of refugees, especially Rohingya Muslims, are at risk of a humanitarian crisis.

Geopolitical confrontation will grow into cyberwar, with power plants and grids, military-industrial complexes, and electronic networks coming under attack. Losses from the actions of cybercriminals are growing dynamically and nearing 1% of world GDP.

A return to the arms race is another risk created by the critical decline in confidence among the great powers.

President Nazarbayev proposed a number of measures to mitigate these risks, such as the establishment of a dialogue platform between the leading world powers (the US, China, Russia, and the European Union). He suggested using the Astana platform to conduct such negotiations.

He also considers it necessary to update the Helsinki Final Act of 1975, to continue the dialogue on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, and to work out solutions to eliminate trade wars which lead to an imbalance in world trade. President Nazarbayev also spoke in favour of forming a collective security organization in Asia on the lines of the existing CICA (Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia). In the future, this organization together with the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) could work out a security zone throughout the Eurasian subcontinent, he said.

"It is expedient to hold a conference in Astana devoted to security in Eurasia. And this can be done on the basis of our Astana Club," the President suggested.

The Club is organized by the Foundation of the First President of Kazakhstan and the Institute of World Economy and Politics under the Foundation. More than 50 leading international experts, politicians and diplomats from 33 countries of the world participate in the Astana Club, including Austria, Afghanistan, Belgium, Egypt,  Italy, Great Britain, India, Indonesia, Iran, Spain, China, Norway,  Russia,  Croatia,  USA, Sweden and Japan.

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