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'G-Zero' Seen As Greatest Global Risk

Is a world without a superpower the greatest risk the world faces?
G-Zero -- a world without a clearly defined superpower -- tops the geopolitical risk scale for 2011.

That's according to a forecast released by Eurasia Group, a New York-based political consultancy firm. According to the report, this new political reality will intensify all other top risks for 2011, including the potential for an uncontained economic crisis in Europe, an unwillingness by China to respond to growing international pressure, and provocations from North Korea.

Ian Bremmer, Eurasia's Group president, spoke about the report's findings with RFE/RL's New York correspondent, Nikola Krastev.

RFE/RL: The report identifies what you term "G-Zero" -- a world without a defined superpower -- as the No. 1 global political risk. Can you describe this new reality?

Ian Bremmer:
Now, we look at where the world is, and we realize it is in indeed a new world order in a dramatic way, in a way that when the Soviet Union collapsed it wasn't a new world order. The Soviet Union's [collapse] led to the G7+1, which was a speeding-up of globalization. There were some new countries to invest in, it was Europe getting stronger, but it was globalization that had been occurring -- and it became faster.

Ian Bremmer
With the G-Zero, geopolitics now challenges globalization in the absence of effective international leadership. And that is a new world order, and that's why gold is so high, and that is why corporations are keeping so much money on the sidelines because they are very uncertain of where this new world order is actually heading.

RFE/RL: None of the post-Soviet regions is listed among the top global geopolitical risks. Is this good news?

I've been asked frequently: Do I believe that with upcoming [presidential] elections [Vladimir] Putin is going to come back as president? Is [Dmitry] Medvedev going to stay on? And my response is: Why do you care?

Because what we have in Russia at least for the foreseeable future is a very stable, coordinated leadership at the very top. And that's functioning quite well between Putin and Medvedev, irrespective of what the actual constellation is publicly. And that's going to continue to happen.

But it's interesting, it's not just that Russia isn't one of the risks, none of the BRICs [Brazil, Russia, India, and China], none of the major emerging markets is a risk. In fact it's not Brazil with a new president [Dilma Rousseff], not India, and not even China. China's only a risk because it is growing so fast, because its stability, given its size, is starting to create significant structural risks vis-a-vis the rest of the world.

RFE/RL: What is the significance of surging oil prices for Russia's political stability?

A lot of Russia's geopolitical stability has occurred because it has become more secure. And some of that is economic security, you're right, but some of it is political and geopolitical stability.

I mean, the relative decline in capacity of the United States and Europe has meant that Russia's Eurasia space is clearly much more dominated by Moscow, whether you're talking about Georgia, or the Kyrgyz Republic, or Ukraine, or Belarus.

I mean, the Russians have very little to worry about. They don't have to worry about NATO enlargement anymore, they don't have to worry as much about missile defense, the Americans are going to spend less with the austerity on their military, and the last thing the Europeans are trying to do is infringe on Russia right now. They have their own problems to worry about right now. So, I think Russia has reasons to feel more secure geopolitically that have nothing to do with Russia's own economic strength.

'Pakistan Risks'

RFE/RL: Pakistan, the No. 8 global geopolitical risk on your list, is described in the report as experiencing "a near perfect storm" of risks. What's at stake?

The United States has made some progress in Afghanistan and that progress has been made in large part because of the significant resources -- the soldiers and the rest -- that they put on the ground but none of those gains is sustainable unless you get broad support from Pakistan.
If anything is going to happen in Pakistan, it's going to become less governable, it's going to become more unstable.

And what we know is not going to happen, is a sea-change in Pakistani governance. If anything is going to happen in Pakistan, it's going to become less governable, it's going to become more unstable, and those are first and foremost Pakistan risks. They're Pakistan risks in terms of its own economy, they're Pakistan risks in terms of stability of its borders, they're Pakistan risks in terms of the growth of militancy within Pakistan itself.

We even said specifically a failure of security and governance in [the provinces] of Punjab and in Sindh. We were concerned that instability would spread to those provinces. We said that explicitly and then the governor of Punjab [Salman Taseer] is assassinated literally the day [January 4] that we put the piece out.

RFE/RL: It comes as a bit of surprise that Iran is not being viewed as a geopolitical risk in 2011 but as a red herring, a misleading clue. How did you come to such a conclusion?

Iran is a red herring this year. We think that clearly the Iranians are going to continue with diplomacy [over their nuclear standoff with the West], we don't expect a diplomatic breakthrough and it will take at least, I think the first half of 2011, maybe longer.

And while that's happening the Americans are continuing to put efforts on sanctions that are gaining support from lots of other countries. Just last week the Indians joined on board.

So, there's lots of things that need to work through before we start to think about strikes on Iran. The Israelis came out and they said: "Well, we only have a couple more years to stop the Iranians" [from developing a nuclear bomb], which again...takes the urgency out of it. The Stuxnet [cyber]attacks on Iran mean that there are other options that don't involve blowing up Iranian nuclear facilities. And the Iranian regime is long-term unstable, but it's not falling apart any time soon again with high energy prices right now.

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