Well, it’s that time of year again. In this post, I’m going to re-examine my predictions for 2021 and indulge in some equally ill-founded speculation for the year to come. We’ll see how well I do…
So here were my five predictions last time:
(1) Julian Assange to be extradited to the USA
Surprisingly this hasn’t happened (yet), partly due to the slowness of the legal machinery, although it looks like it’s getting closer. I’m going to give myself half a mark for this.
(2) Boris Johnson to leave office
Even more surprisingly, this also hasn’t happened yet, at least as I wrote these words, but his days are clearly numbered. It’s hard to see how he can survive the sheer number of scandals surrounding himself and his government, especially after the disaster of losing Shropshire North in a recent by-election. Another half-mark.
(3) The USA to suffer its Suez moment
One word: Afghanistan. Not just the fact of the US withdrawal, which as bound to happen at some point, but the ham-fisted way in which it was carried out. A full mark.
(4) Covid-19 to rise again after victory has been declared
I suppose victory hasn’t quite been declared, although a lot of people who had been making very self-satisfied noises have egg on their face now that the Omicron variant is running rampant. The vaccines have been shown not to be the silver bullet they were supposed to be, not that that has stopped governments everywhere administering them to anything that moves. I’m going to award myself a full mark for this one.
(5) Another major global financial crisis will hit
Nope! Not in 2021, although I still expect one to come along shortly. No marks.
So that’s three out of five, which isn’t too shabby. Now for my predictions for 2022. I won’t go for Julian Assange or Boris Johnson, as that would be shooting fish in a barrel. Instead…
(1) Russia to invade or annexe Ukraine but not start World War III
Well, Russia doesn’t start World War III in the average year, so this might seem an odd one, but a lot of people seem to be expecting it to happen and I don’t believe that it will. Vladimir Putin is many things but he is not an idiot, especially not by the standards of contemporary political leadership. If he can get what he wants without a shooting war, that’s the way he’ll go.
Given that much of Europe is heavily dependent on Russian natural gas, and that the USA is currently something of a paper tiger, I don’t see any real opposition. And when you remember that histories of Russia general start with the Principality of Kiev – currently the capital of Ukraine – from the Russian point of view it seems quite reasonable for them to want at least eastern Ukraine.
I’m not saying, incidentally, that Russia won’t invade Ukraine in 2022. I certainly expect borders to change in 2022, one way or another, but I am not expecting the nukes to fly.
(2) China not to invade Taiwan and not start World War III either
Continuing the theme of exciting geopolitical events that won’t happen in 2022, I don’t expect the Chinese to do anything drastic against Taiwan. I do expect them to be more assertive in the area of the South China Sea – again not perhaps completely unreasonably; there’s a clue in the name – but they’ll let the USA start any trouble. It’s possible that the USA will start trouble, of course, but they may have some difficulty building a coalition outside the region.
Again I am not expecting armageddon. There may be a regional-scale hot war, but in that event my money would be on China. My prediction is for tension to keep on ratcheting up but without any actual explosion, at least in 2022.
(3) Donald J. Trump to announce his candidature for the US Presidency
I will put my hands up: to some extent I just want this to happen for the entertainment value. I don’t think it would be a good thing for the USA, because it would mean the 2024 presidential election would be even more divisive and disputed than the last one, which is saying something. It might also encourage the current administration to do something stupid in foreign affairs, which is a common ploy when a government wants to distract attention from failures at home (Argentina’s decision to invade the Falkland Islands in 1982 being a classic example).
The idea might well appeal strongly to Mr Trump, who does not strike me as the world’s best loser. It might also appeal to many disaffected elements in American society, of which there are plenty. It’s also a really, really bad idea, but that has never stopped people from trying such things. In an extreme case, it might even lead to drastic changes in the current political arrangements in the US, whether that takes the form of constitutional changes, secessions by various states (attempted or successful), and/or military action of one sort or another.
In predicting this, I may be under-estimating Mr Trump’s patriotism and good sense. I’d like to be wrong, honestly, but I’m guessing he’ll give it another go. If he does, it will be… interesting.
(4) Scotland to demand another referendum on independence
I don’t claim to know exactly what form this will take, but now seems to be an excellent moment for the Scottish National Party to go for broke. They already have a very strong political base at home. The UK government is falling to pieces in front of their eyes. Scottish voters are currently split on the independence question, but this could change rapidly. If the EU were to make it clear that an independent Scotland could (re)join quickly, that might swing it for a lot of people.
If Westminster drags its feet, as I expect it will, the Scots might even hold one unilaterally, along the lines of Catalunya in 2017. The Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments have all come into prominence since Covid struck, with the unavoidable inference that they have handled it markedly better than England. What else might they do better, given the chance? Mr Johnson’s administration has not set the bar especially high, after all.
I don’t say the referendum will occur in 2022; it may not even occur at all. It is likely the courts will be involved. But my prediction is that there will be a serious official request to hold such a thing.
(5) Global supply-chains to deteriorate to the point of causing serious shortages
Arguably this is already happening. The UK has been remarkably short of Christmas cheer this year, and has been obliged to import turkeys for (as far as I know) the first time in modern history. Australia is struggling with shortages of urea. Examples could be multiplied.
But I am talking here about long-term shortages of daily requirements. I am talking about food riots in industrialised nations. I am talking about large-scale governmental interventions to subsidise or buy up and distribute necessities; perhaps even rationing.
I don’t know where this will happen, or what goods will be affected. I expect multiple instances across several nations, though. Thanks to Brexit, and the imminent imposition of further restrictions on the movement of goods between it and the EU, I would certainly expect the United Kingdom to feature prominently. But other places may suffer too, even the US.
Those are my five prognostications for 2022. I expect to be wrong on some of them, and frankly I would rather be wrong on numbers 3 and 5, but we shall see. As ever, your comments are very welcome.
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