The New Math of Geopolitics: Does It All Add Up to G-Zero?

A conversation between Ian Bremmer and David Rothkopf.

David Ramos/Getty Images
David Ramos/Getty Images
David Ramos/Getty Images

Ian Bremmer is a force of nature. He has built a successful global consulting business called the Eurasia Group. He is a respected writer and commentator. He blogs. He tweets. He globe-trots. And his latest book, Every Nation for Itself: Winners and Losers in a G-Zero World, is already deservedly making a major impact. He is an intense guy with a probing mind and an easy laugh. I like him. And part of the reason I like him is that one can disagree with him and still be his friend. He is an enthusiastic debater. In fact, he thrives on the give-and-take, and he welcomes having his theories tested and finding ways to nuance them. This is the sign of the best, most secure minds. It is also essential if your business is forecasting global developments, because the business of anticipating outcomes in international affairs is a great deal more like impressionism than it is physics. There are facts, to be sure, but there are so many and they recombine into so many possibilities that the end product produced by even the sharpest observers is often more about perspective and context than immutable laws and pure patterns of facts.

Ian Bremmer is a force of nature. He has built a successful global consulting business called the Eurasia Group. He is a respected writer and commentator. He blogs. He tweets. He globe-trots. And his latest book, Every Nation for Itself: Winners and Losers in a G-Zero World, is already deservedly making a major impact. He is an intense guy with a probing mind and an easy laugh. I like him. And part of the reason I like him is that one can disagree with him and still be his friend. He is an enthusiastic debater. In fact, he thrives on the give-and-take, and he welcomes having his theories tested and finding ways to nuance them. This is the sign of the best, most secure minds. It is also essential if your business is forecasting global developments, because the business of anticipating outcomes in international affairs is a great deal more like impressionism than it is physics. There are facts, to be sure, but there are so many and they recombine into so many possibilities that the end product produced by even the sharpest observers is often more about perspective and context than immutable laws and pure patterns of facts.

His new book is well-written, pithy, and full of great insights. I also agree with his central thesis that we are at a moment of ineffective global institutions, inward-looking major powers, and weakened international leadership. But his conclusion that this implies a "G-Zero" outcome is, in my mind, a step too far. My view is more that the current turbulence will result in a return to the kind of balance of power world we have seen for most of history. And I think the United States will continue to frequently lead the prevailing international coalition. However, we will also increasingly see a coalition of emerging powers play an important role in shaping key outcomes (as it already has on global trade, climate change, and important regional issues.) We also differ on the United States and China: Ian thinks the two are more likely to be rivals than allies. I think the relationship is more likely to be more complex, interdependent, and difficult to characterize in traditional terms. Then again, these are the kind of differences that make a conversation like the one I had with Ian about his book so interesting and fun. Excerpts follow.

FOREIGN POLICY: Let’s start with the thesis. You talk about Every Nation for Itself: Winners and Losers in a G-Zero World. What do you really mean by a G-Zero world? At first glance the term "G-Zero" means no leadership. Is that what you mean?

IAN BREMMER: No. What I mean is that for the time being, we have no global leadership. After World War II was over, we had a fairly long period of globalization that was clearly U.S.-led — driven by American vision, priorities, capital, and institutions. That was certainly the case when we talked about the G-7, the World Bank, the IMF, and the Security Council.

I believe we are now experiencing a period of creative destruction in the geopolitical environment and that going forward there will be no more U.S.-led global institutions. We will have either U.S.-led institutions that aren’t global, or global institutions that aren’t U.S.-led. Or conceivably we’ll have neither if actors continue to keep their focus overwhelmingly on domestic affairs much more than is normal, as they have been since the 2008 financial crisis.

We put the G-20 together, which is a legitimately important concept, but it remains almost entirely aspirational. It hasn’t produced significant movement on global agreements on trade, financial regulation, currency, or any of the other issues that the world needs. We are in the G-Zero.

FP: Let’s break this down into a couple components of the thesis. One of them is no more U.S.-led institutions. Why not? What has changed for the United States?

IB: We can certainly have U.S.-led institutions. I think it’s going to be very interesting to see to what extent the United States decides that it wants to move towards true U.S.-led institutions that aren’t global. On trade you can make the argument that the United States has already given up on U.S. global leadership. The beginnings of the TPP — the Trans-Pacific Partnership — show a recognition that while we’re not going to be able to get a lot of countries on board that really don’t agree with us about some fundamental economic and political values, we can bring a smaller group of like-minded countries and players.

We haven’t done that yet with the World Bank. On the World Bank we’re still basically saying, "We want the organization to run more or less the way it used to." We want global participation in principle, but we’re clearly dragging our feet on giving other countries much more influence. We certainly want the Americans to still run it. That’s a recipe for ineffectiveness. So the question will be: Do we want to actually have a truly global bank that the U.S. will play a lesser role in, or do we want to kick countries out and have a U.S. bank with some allies that won’t in any way represent the world? We haven’t decided that yet.

I don’t think this is about decline. I personally don’t believe the United States is a "declining power." But I also think it’s an irrelevant question. Whether or not you think the U.S. is in decline, the U.S. is not going to bail out Europe. Whether or not the U.S. is in decline, the U.S. is not going to forcibly remove Assad from power in Syria right now. Or take the lead on a global climate deal. Or, in my view, bomb Iran. This has less to do with America’s ability to project power than it does with the prioritization of what’s happening domestically in the United States coupled with what’s changing around the rest of the world. American decline is a convenient, narcissistic formulation — that it must all be about us. But in reality the G-Zero is much more complicated than that.

FP: Let’s test the theory against the recent past. You could argue that NATO is working differently, but it’s evolving into an institution that’s able to tackle new issues, whether it’s out-of-theater deployment in Afghanistan or getting involved in Libya and coming up with a new way to tackle problems. You could argue that while the IMF was less relevant five years ago, it’s centrally relevant now, and that while its mission has changed from the restructuring of developing countries to doing some restructuring in the developed world, the group that’s at the center of it and driving the discussions looks a lot like the group before. You could also argue that other multilaterals are still operating with the old rules, whether it’s the World Bank or the WTO. So what’s changed? Where should we be looking for the clearest signs of this G-Zeroness?

IB: I wouldn’t say there’s a sudden wholesale break in any of these institutions, but I would argue that each of them is playing a much less significant role. Specifically in the case of NATO, it was never playing a global role. NATO was always a more limited organization than that. And in that sense, NATO was the kind of organization that is much more capable of being right-sized, and we saw this in terms of Libya — in many ways the exception that proves the rule. You had [Muammar al-] Qaddafi, who was despised by literally everyone, including the Iranians and the Saudis, which is actually pretty hard to pull off in a Middle East context. And it was only after the Arab League and the GCC were calling on someone to do something, and after the sanctions, and after the BRICS, that the United States finally did say, "OK, we’ll support some level of intervention." But not a single U.S. troop was killed. Limited capital was expended. And of course, as soon as Qaddafi was removed, there was very little on-ground involvement. So the ability to create a new Libyan state that has any sort of viability and sustainability is much more of a challenge as a consequence. And NATO clearly is not playing and not prepared to play anywhere near that kind of a role in a country that’s more contentious, as we’re seeing in Syria right now, or as you might see in a place like Bahrain or Yemen. Unfortunately, that list is getting longer and longer. I suspect it will continue to.

On the IMF/World Bank, it’s very interesting to see the BRICS talking about their desire to create their own development bank, something that many folks including [outgoing World Bank chief] Bob Zoellick are very skeptical of. I would argue that [U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy] Geithner’s recent comments about Europe, basically saying, "Sorry, Europeans, you’re basically on your own. You guys are more than capable of handling whatever needs to be done to get out of this crisis," is very different from the way that the United States historically responded to the Asian financial crises, the peso crisis, the ruble crisis, and other economic crises. It’s not remotely credible to think that the United States would do more of that. That’s only in small part because we’re in an election period. It’s more because the U.S. needs to focus on getting its own house in order, particularly in the eyes of its own population. An increasingly large percentage of the American population believes that they don’t benefit from globalization as they did historically, or they feel like the U.S. should not be the global policeman.

So it’s not that the IMF or NATO or the World Bank are irrelevant organizations. Rather, over the course of the period of U.S.-led globalization, these organizations all had a much more explicit role in leading and defining global architecture than they do now. The tipping point was the 2008 financial crisis, in part making America and its allies much more domestically focused, in part emboldening emerging markets that came out of that financial crisis much stronger, but also in terms of putting to question the values that stood behind those U.S.-led institutions. Those values were, in some ways, shown to be not as upstanding and more prone to breaking — and certainly less worthy of evangelizing in the more narrow views of a country like China or Russia — than otherwise had been believed.

FP: OK. So let’s then look at it from a slightly different perspective, because those institutions continue to exist and what you’ve described in the wake of 2008 suggests a variety of different kinds of alliances developing at varying speeds. But isn’t it then possible to draw the conclusion that we’re not really in a G-Zero world but that, as we have been through most of history, we’re in a balance-of-power world, in which it’s going to be G-something on one issue and G-something else on another issue, regional groupings on regional issues, different international groupings depending on the interested major players on different global issues?

You talk about the rise of the emerging powers like the BRICS, and while they’re not a cohesive group on everything, when a couple of them pull together — as they’ve done on trade, climate change, Iran, and Syria — it influences things, just as when the developed powers pull together they still carry a lot of clout. So maybe it’s not that the G-20 is functional, but that components within the G-20 do end up having a decisive role to play.

IB: It’s possible that that’s a world we are evolving toward, but we’re not there now. What we’re experiencing right now, and have been experiencing since 2008, is really the breaking of the old order. And the new order, whatever it might be — and it might well be a flexible, regional order that you described — hasn’t manifested itself yet.

Right now the focus of key economies is overwhelmingly domestic. That is certainly true in Europe because of the profound and historic nature of the crisis they’re presently experiencing. It has been true to a great degree for Japan, where they’ve had 17 prime ministers in 22 years. And it’s clearly more true with the United States now than it has been at any point in the past several decades. It’s also true for China. China wants to have veto power. They want to be able to say, "No, we don’t like these rules or institutions or norms or policies that are being brought down by the Americans." But they also absolutely reject taking some of that responsibility and accountability themselves. That’s why they’re so opposed to the idea of a G-2. I agree that the Russians and Chinese and others can have influence on places like Iran, but at this point that influence is negative. It’s not a proactive and a constructive influence. You really have to struggle to find constructive and proactive policies or institutions that are actually being built from the ground up by emerging-market states along with developed states.

I agree with you that G-Zero is not really sustainable. I don’t believe that this is a lasting world order; something will replace it. So the question is, what is that something? I think that is still open for debate. There are two questions you need to answer to understand what the eventual world order will evolve into. One is, what’s the relationship between the world’s two most important economies, the U.S. and China? Is it relatively harmonious, or is it much more zero-sum and confrontational? And the second question is, how much do other countries matter? Will Europe be a meaningful player on the world stage, or will it absolutely not? And will India? Will other major players matter in the world?

As of right now, there’s still a lot of uncertainty in those two fundamental questions, which means that geopolitics has become unmoored. There are a lot of countries in play. And it’s not clear whether we’ll end up with a bunch of different groupings for different sorts of issues or whether we’ll move into an environment that’s more of a G-2, where the United States and China will dominate agendas globally, with certain areas where they agree that will be the ones that we actually see movement and progress [on], and others where you’ll just get absolutely nothing. Those are two very different sorts of environments.

FP: Well, let’s take those for a moment. You talked about the U.S.-China relationship, and you say it’s unclear whether it’s going to be zero-sum and more of a rivalry or adversarial, or whether the interdependence between the two countries is going to have them moving in line. Isn’t it possible that you can have both?

This is not a relationship in the zero-sum sense that the U.S.-Soviet relationship was, where one loses and the other gains, because of the huge economic interdependence between the two of them. China doesn’t have a big global agenda that is yet at odds with the United States’ agenda, and in fact China has no history of international adventurism. Isn’t it possible that you can have two giants joined at the hip by economic interests and occasionally disagreeing over important geopolitical interests?

IB: The answer is of course, yes, it’s possible, and the question is how possible. It is easier to have that kind of a relationship when the global economy is growing at a healthy clip. When folks are fighting over commodities that are increasingly scarce in an environment where climate change is hitting and an environment where economic growth is more problematic — in particular where the Chinese no longer believe that being able to export toward the United States is viable for them in the long term because they don’t believe as much in the sustainability of the American economic model — then that potential erodes.

Before the 2008 financial crisis, the U.S.-China relationship had some zero-sum elements, but was largely win-win. The financial crisis changed that. It’s more zero-sum now, certainly in the eyes of the Chinese leadership, than it is actually win-win. And I think it’s moving farther in that direction.

FP: What’s the evidence of that?

IB: There are a few areas. The first is the nature of the relationship between Chinese state-owned enterprises and state-influenced organizations, and multinational corporations based in the United States. The U.S. corporations increasingly are having problems with market access. They’re competing with increasingly strong Chinese state-owned and influenced corporations that desperately need improved technology to get up the value chain, but can’t develop it themselves. As a consequence, they’re using their state leverage to grab it. In my view, the most important lobby in the United States that has supported a very strong relationship between the U.S. and China has been the industrial lobby. It was overwhelmingly pro-China before 2008, but that’s changed dramatically in the last four years. I wouldn’t say it’s overwhelmingly negative now; I would say it’s mixed. But it is trending negative.

A second element is the hard security relationship. And here I’m talking less about the Middle East — where the Chinese are being somewhat obstructive but largely don’t have a dog in the fight — than I’m talking about the East China Sea or South China Sea. To the extent that the Obama administration has developed a doctrine over its first three-plus years, I focus on two issues. The first is economic statecraft, particularly in that big speech by Hillary Clinton in October, which focuses mostly on China’s rise and state capitalism and what the U.S. does to respond to it. The second is the U.S. pivot towards Asia. And that pivot is, "We welcome China’s peaceful rise, as long as they behave the way we want them to." If they don’t behave the way we want them to, then our pivot is a hedge. What does a hedge mean? Well, a hedge looks an awful lot like Chinese containment. That’s certainly the Chinese understanding. It’s the view of many of America’s allies in Asia as well. And this is creating a more zero-sum relationship, as well as tensions over countries like the Philippines, Vietnam, Japan, South Korea, and even Myanmar.

The final point is cybersecurity. Despite all of our concerns about needing to engage in austerity and cutting back in American military spending, that’s certainly not the case in cyber. And in terms of industrial espionage and attacks directly against American government institutions and private-sector institutions, this is an area where there’s effectively a war going on between the U.S. and China.

There are certainly aspects of the U.S.-China relationship that are and will continue to be very much defined by mutuality. If the American economy were to implode, that would be horrible for China; the converse is almost equally true. At the broadest level, there is a mutually assured economic destruction between the two countries. But then I would make a pretty strong argument that the U.S.-China relationship is deteriorating. And as a consequence, I’d make a fairly strong bet that the relationship is going in a negative direction. But I don’t think it’s definitive.

FP: Another of the points that you made was whether or not Europe is going to be a player or not. Clearly Europe is in the midst of problems right now. Of the scenarios that seem to be there for Europe, one is Europe ends up strengthening itself at the end of the crisis because it realizes it’s all in it together, and you actually end up with a more centralized system, monetary plus fiscal union. Another one is that Europe spins off some of its weaker economies, but a core Europe — Germany, France, the Northern Europeans — remain tightly integrated and stronger as a consequence of it. But you don’t hear a lot of scenarios in which Europe as a whole becomes a nonfactor. In your equation there, though, that’s critical. What’s your outlook?

IB: Many of those scenarios where Europe becomes a nonfactor come from Britain. There’s always a level of hand-wringing of, "Oh, is Europe relevant on the global stage?" It’s not growing anymore; there’s no competitiveness; even in Germany some of the numbers are making its economy look a little softer. But I think the likelihood of significant spinoffs from Europe is very, very low. If you ask me to bet, I would say in three to five years it’s still much the same Europe. I don’t think a single country is actually going to leave. But I also think that while there is going to be agreement on a fiscal compact, it’s unlikely that we will see fiscal union. Certainly in terms of the core European states, they will not be giving up major sovereignty and won’t allow a fiscal compact with real teeth that ensures a level of fiscal harmonization to go along with their single currency. That means that while governance is improving in Europe and while European institutions are getting larger and are getting more well-funded despite all the austerity, that ultimate governance in Europe will still be lacking. Still, I would argue that Europe is going to be a relevant player on the global stage. There are a number of emerging markets out there — particularly India over the medium term, given its demographics and the nature of its economy — that are going to become much more important, especially because China is going to face so many serious internal challenges.

FP: Let’s look at this world for a second. China’s a key player. The U.S. is a key player. Europe is still a key player. Japan’s a very large economy, and it ends up being a key player. Russia has got a lot of nuclear weapons, so it can’t help but be a key player. India’s got a billion people and a fast-growing economy; certainly at least regionally it’s a key player. Brazil is the key player in South America. When you do the math on this, you might have four or five countries from the original G-7, and you’ll have the four BRICs. And so you’re going to have, as the most important votes at almost every issue, eight or nine countries closer to Bob Zoellick’s idea of a G-14. There will be a handful of countries that are going to be at the center in every case. Is what you’re really talking about a lack of cohesiveness and a lack of clear leadership in this group?

And then as the second part of that question: Your book title talks about winners and losers in a G-Zero world. When we talk about this being a transition period, I’m wondering if what you’re really saying here is that the losers are the people who are currently running these countries rather than which countries are going to play the central role.

IB: First of all, in the environment you describe, the United States and China will absolutely be by far the most important single countries. And even if Europe is relatively strong, Europe is not a country, and therefore its ability to act in a meaningful way on a global stage is limited, unless you were to believe that we’re really going to get unified European governance. That’s a very low-likelihood outcome over the next five to 10 years. If the U.S.-China relationship continues to move in a more negative direction, then you’re right. You have a significant group of relatively important players, but nothing gets done at the global level. And nothing gets done because it’s a large group of countries with the two most important players actually agreeing on relatively little. And so global institutions — call it the G-20, call it the G-14, call it what you want — is not going to be where the action is. And the action then will evolve regionally where India will play a significant role, Russia will play a significant role, China will play an overwhelmingly significant role, all in their own regions.

What is interesting about that kind of a world is that regions will come together. This is not just going from globalization writ large to globalization writ small. Regions will cohere for very different reasons. Europe is much more formalized. It’s more voluntary. It’s about common economic and political values at its core. In Eurasia, it’s not. It’s somewhat more coercive. It’s more informal. It’s driven by Russia. And it’s much more on the basis of energy relations and security. In the Middle East, it’s actually driven by a bunch of countries. It’s Saudi Arabia; it’s Iran; it’s Turkey; maybe over time it will be Egypt again. And these countries have very different preferred outcomes. The mode of integration is actually fragmentation in the Middle East because what really drives each of these countries is much more sectarian than it is common economic or political values.

And then if you go to Asia, you have an environment where China’s doing most of the integrating on economic issues, especially as it gets much larger. It’s becoming a superpower much more economically than in any way militarily. And yet the United States, from a political and security perspective, has much more of a draw on most of the countries in the region. And so it’s a very different environment geopolitically. It’s a more inefficient environment in some parts of the world going through a lot more conflict. And therefore when I think about winners and losers in that environment, it will be countries that are able to avoid getting captured by just one of those models, because, frankly, optionality becomes very important — the ability to hedge. I call these pivot states.

I wouldn’t consider the existing class of leaders writ large to be losers in this environment. Certainly in the United States, in a G-Zero environment where the volatility is much greater, a lot more folks will be turning to the United States. That will be true geopolitically in the same way that you’ve recently seen America’s Asian allies turning to the U.S. on security issues.

And I’ve got to argue that in Europe we’ve had a period of time where we’ve seen quite effective leadership — look what happened to the Italian government. That’s turned around in a short period of time, precisely because the crisis was so great that it was forced upon them. That is the kind of leadership that we haven’t seen in Europe in a long time. I suspect we won’t see much more of it because the crisis is ebbing away; it’s not as urgent as it was six months ago.

In the United States, we saw that both President Bush and President Obama were very, very capable of displaying really serious leadership in a short period of time, when it looked like the U.S. economy was truly in danger. But as soon as that passed, we went back to very ineffective governance. I suspect if we had another crisis of the same magnitude, both Obama and Romney would be up to the task. But barring that, our expectations are going to be low.

The United States is actually a comparative winner in a G-Zero world, in the sense that it’s big, it can grow, and it’s resilient. In an environment where people are scared about outcomes and there’s a lot of volatility, more people turn to the U.S. The danger is that takes away any sense of urgency around this environment, and it means the U.S. just won’t be investing in its future.

Not just in terms of dealing with the deficit, but also in terms of helping to structure and create what will be the central world order, because clearly if the period of geopolitical creative destruction began in 2008, from the U.S. perspective, that’s actually an advantage. If we had waited another 10 years for the financial crisis, the comparative U.S. power position would have been more problematic. It would have been harder for the United States in 2020 to really play a fundamental role in helping to shape what the next global architecture or regional architecture would look like. Right now we still have a lot of capacity to do that, but there’s very little incentive politically within the U.S. There’s very little sense of urgency, and I think that’s a challenge for us.

FP: Why 2008? Why not 2001, when the United States decided it was going to place a $2 to $3 trillion bet investing in wars that it couldn’t win? Or the end of the Cold War, or earlier with the material rise of China and some of these other emerging powers? Isn’t this a longer-term thing and harder to pinpoint to one particular turning point?

IB: You’re absolutely right that you can point back over 30 years’ time. We had U.S.-led global architecture coming out of World War II — Bretton Woods, U.N., IMF, World Bank, all of that. But starting in 1978, when China really starts to expand, for me that’s the point where we begin to see the underlying shift in the global balance of power from the U.S. toward China, from developed toward developing world, from debtor states toward creditor states. And at any point over that 30 years you could say, "Wow, you’ve got an architecture that reflects one sort of order, but your underlying balance of power increasingly doesn’t reflect that, so shouldn’t we do something about it?" But of course the response is, no one was going to do anything unless there was a shock to the system that was sufficiently great that compelled action.

And there were shocks. There was of course the collapse of the Soviet Union in ’91. There was 9/11 a decade later. But those shocks were not great enough to have anyone fundamentally question the international architecture, particularly given that the United States from an economic perspective was still doing quite well through all of that. The 2008 shock was the first one that was big enough to really bring it all down and necessitate adaptation.

FP: How is this different from the past? We’ve had different G-groupings over time. But when you look at when the G-5 was dominant, or you look at the height of the Cold War when there was division between two power blocs, or you look at the period when the G-7 was dominant, it all looks pretty similar. We didn’t have a cohesive world. Everybody didn’t agree on everything. There were periodic conflicts; there were periodic financial crises. There were periodic outbursts of trade conflict. Powers ebbed and flowed even within these periods and acted in their self-interests in a way that was not entirely predictable. So how [is the] transitional period of the last 10 years going to look different from the preceding 10 years?

IB: You answered some of that when you asked, "Hasn’t this been going on for a long time?" There’ve been trade issues before. There’ve been conflicts before. There’ve been times when the U.S. was challenged by Japan. But all of those were headline issues, while the present is much more tectonic. In the last world order, you can talk about the creation of the G-6 that quickly became the G-7; and then Russia was added, the G-8 — there are all of these different Gs. But throughout that entire period, we were still talking about the U.S.-led global architecture that came after World War II. That’s the last time we had a fundamental ordering of the world. And when the Soviet Union collapsed, that was a big deal to be sure, but it didn’t change U.S.-led globalization. All it did was it made U.S.-led globalization faster. The fall of the USSR created 15 new countries that you could suddenly invest more in. From that perspective, it was a hastening of a global process that was already well in place.

The tectonic shift is the one where a whole host of countries with very different political and economic priorities, a whole host of poor countries in many cases with very different values and different political and economic systems, were rising up and did not agree with the notion that they were going to support U.S.-led global architecture. That’s been coming for a long time, but only came to roost globally with the 2008 financial crisis. So I don’t think that new world orders are created on a headline basis. They come infrequently. Creative destruction happens in the global marketplace all the time. You’re an independent bookseller, and then Barnes & Noble comes along, so you adapt or you die. Or you’re Barnes & Noble; Amazon comes along; you adapt or you die. It happens all the time. It rarely happens in the geopolitical environment. I would argue that the last time it really happened was after World War II. I think it’s happening now. And that’s really where I see the shift.

FP: Based on that, let’s look at just the next 10 years. Tell me some of the headlines that we are likely to see in the next 10 years that are manifestations of this new world order.

IB: The manifestations of the G-Zero will be greater conflicts that major powers just don’t agree upon in any way. So we see more and growing breakdown around bigger security issues as they emerge in the Middle East. We’re seeing it right now in Syria, and I suspect we will see much more of that in the Middle East. I suspect we’ll see much more zero-sumness in confrontation between the U.S. and China over its allies in Asia.

We’ll also see the emergence of local powers playing a much more defined (though not always constructive) role in their own regions. That may be Russia reasserting a strong amount of direct power over its periphery. We will likely see stronger decision-making and regionalization in Latin America, although I’m interested to see how Brazil will emerge playing that role, given that Brazil is in so many ways not of Latin America the way Latin Americans think of themselves.

And then the other question in the headlines: Will we start to see the BRICS becoming more cohesive? I’m skeptical, but it’s a possibility. They’ve certainly been meeting an awful lot. They haven’t done very much, but if the United States becomes much more focused on smaller organizations that involve its key allies, there could be a response from the BRICS.

It would also be very interesting to see to what extent there will be a strengthening of the Gulf Cooperation Council in responding to crises in the Middle East. We could see the emergence of more political, economic, and military interventions coming from that organization, which historically has been ineffectual and divided.

FP: Is there something that we haven’t covered that you’d like to cover?

IB: Over the course of the last 30 years, we’ve spent so much time thinking about the rise of emerging markets. That’s where we’re putting all of our money. But in a G-Zero environment, which is fundamentally more volatile, that means your risk-adjusted returns for anything you want to do are slowing down. There will be the same level of global growth, but we’ll have more risk around it.

That means that we don’t look at growth in the same way. We think about growth and resilience together, so we shouldn’t be thinking about emerging markets as a group because some emerging markets are much less resilient than others. You want to think about that group of countries, some emerging and some developed, that actually have resilience. They have options. They have the ability to adapt in a very different and much more fluid geopolitical environment. And I think that’s important for countries, what I call the pivot states, and it’s important for companies too. So over time government leaders will be more interested in having the capacity to pivot, because they’ll see that strategically that’s what they need to do. Over the last 30 or 40 years, you didn’t need to pivot; you just needed to make sure that you were taking advantage of U.S.-led globalization and profiting from it as well as you possibly could.

David Rothkopf is visiting professor at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs and visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. His latest book is The Great Questions of Tomorrow. He has been a longtime contributor to Foreign Policy and was CEO and editor of the FP Group from 2012 to May 2017. Twitter: @djrothkopf

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