Home » Three 2022 lessons to prepare for 2023 – Pierre Haski

Three 2022 lessons to prepare for 2023 – Pierre Haski

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Three 2022 lessons to prepare for 2023 – Pierre Haski

December 29, 2022 3:13 pm

Geopolitical forecasts are similar to New Year’s resolutions: better not to check at the end of the year what we announced twelve months earlier… 2022 has certainly blown every prediction, in practically every area. As a result, trying to anticipate next year’s events would be futile, but perhaps it is worth trying to learn some lessons from the unforeseen events of 2022, to better prepare for 2023.

First lesson: autocrats are not infallible. In the past, faced with a China capable of combining economic growth and totalitarianism, a Russia that acted with impunity in Syria and Africa and Donald Trump (whom we gladly put in the category) apparently indestructible despite an endless series of blunders, we convinced ourselves otherwise . And instead 2022 was not a good year for the autocrats. Especially for Vladimir Putin, who attempted a “blitzkrieg” in Ukraine and ten months later finds himself at a standstill and with tens of thousands of dead; but also for Xi Jinping, who a month after dominating the 20th Communist Party congress was forced to cancel his zero covid policy due to population pressure, clearly departing from his usual modus operandi. The infallibility of autocrats, therefore, is a myth. This awareness doesn’t make them less dangerous, but at least it can push us to be more lucid and confident.

Second lesson: the revealing story of the war in Ukraine has given us the measure of how tired the countries of the south are of being treated as secondary players in international life. In the first place, these countries do not accept to receive moral lessons from the northern countries, among other things not exactly immaculate from this point of view.

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A global challenge
It is one of the great shocks of 2022: the neutrality (at least) of the global south – as what was once the third world is now called – in the face of membership unleashed by Russia. The West thought it could present an impeccable “case” of violated sovereignty by Moscow, but the countries of the South have responded by emphasizing that different weights and measures have been used in the past, and above all that the West cannot claim alignment automatic after having despised them for so long only because the war “has returned to Europe” (elsewhere it has never disappeared).

The Global South is right to refuse to automatically align, but the undeniable historical disparity of the West does not erase the fact that, in the case of Ukraine, there really is a challenge to the United Nations charter involving the whole world. In 2023 it will be necessary to be more convincing.

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Third lesson, the last one: covering one’s eyes on strategic issues is a choice that always ends up being counterproductive. Germany found out the hard way with its addiction to Russian gas. Diplomats still remember the battles with Berlin, until July 2021, over the construction of the Nord-Stream2 gas pipeline, which today lies useless on the Baltic seabed.

Another illusion was the idea, held for twenty years, that trade and investment should foster democracy and peace. China has brilliantly denied this theory which was fashionable in the 90s and 2000s, profiting enormously from it.

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Having learned the lessons of 2022, will we really be smarter in 2023? Experience invites us to be cautious, because despite the significant strategic revisions caused by the upheavals we are experiencing, states remain similar to tankers: they cannot turn around quickly. The problem is that great agility would be needed to deal with a complex situation like the current one. It will be the challenge of 2023.

(Translation by Andrea Sparacino)

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