Where are we headed in 2015? According to a new Associated Press-Times Square Alliance poll, 48% of Americans believe that 2015 will be a better year than 2014 was, while only 11% think it will be worse. Is this (vague) optimism realistic? Does it take into account the events unfolding around the world right now? Let’s take a look at our current trajectory.
The war in Ukraine isn't over. Relations between the U.S. and Russia are more tense than they've been since the Cuban missile crisis, and the stakes are getting higher in each round.
Kiev has put their so called "anti-terrorist" operations in eastern Ukraine mostly on hold for the winter (though shelling has continued), and they've engaged the separatists in peace talks, but many believe that this is just a ploy to give them time to regroup and rearm (with some help from Washington).
These aren't just empty suspicions. In December, the Ukrainian government announced their intention to double their military budget and conscript 40,000 new soldiers for an offensive against the East. Also the U.S. government is moving to supply the Ukrainian government with more weapons and training over the next year.
When such an offensive would kick off is uncertain, but we'll be watching events in the region closely as Spring approaches.
One of the most important signals heading into 2015 was the Ukrainian government’s decision to annul their nonaligned status with NATO in December of 2014. This doesn’t mean that NATO membership will be granted right away (France & Germany have voiced their oposition), but it is a sign that they intend to make a bid.
Why is this dangerous? Because the NATO agreement compels each of its members to defend all other members militarily if attacked. Now we saw Washington’s muppets in Kiev claiming that they were being invaded by Russia over and over throughout 2014. No evidence was provided, but the U.S. government and their lapdogs in the media repeatedly took their claims at face value and used them as talking points against Russia (which is after all the real target here). If Ukraine were a NATO member these claims could trigger military deployments. Considering the fact that this is a scenario that NATO is actively preparing for, this has to be taken seriously.
We can’t talk about the showdown with Russia without looking at the dramatic drop in oil prices that began in 2014. Obviously there are conflicting narratives on this topic, but according to Guardian and SALON (What really happened in Beijing: Putin, Obama, Xi — and the back story the media won’t tell you), in September of 2014 John Kerry instructed the Saudis to raise production and to cut its crude price.
Now the Saudis have indicated that they have no intention of slowing down oil production anytime soon, but the elephant in the room here is U.S. oil production from fracking, which has been dramatically ratcheted up as well.
This move might seem absurd since it is going to hurt U.S. oil producers as well, but it is clearly going to hurt Washington’s key opponents (namely Iran, Venezuela and Russia) far more since their economies are far less diversified.
The drop in oil prices has already had a massive impact on the value of the Rubble and combined with the sanctions there is a good chance the Russian economic situation could degrade even more in the coming year.
The drop in the Rubble has also interfered with Russia’s efforts to establish trade agreements which bypass the dollar. With the Rubble going through bouts of hyperinflation, even their closest allies are hesitant to accept payments in Rubbles.
You’ll hear people (like CFR member Ian Bremmer) describe Russia as a dangerous, wounded beast that may do something unpredictable. That’s like a teenager poking a bear with a sharp stick and then warning that the bear might bite. Yes it might bite, so stop poking it.
The conflict in Syria isn’t going away. In fact 2014 was the most deadly year on record, with some 76,000 killed.
U.S. airstrikes will continue in 2015, but they won’t destroy ISIS, or even weaken it significantly. Though ISIS established its position with the help of U.S. arms and funding, at this point they seem to have procured their own revenue streams through taxation and oil sales. In the long run this makes them a liability, but in the short term ISIS is doing most of Washington’s dirty work by weakening Assad.
The Syrian government will most likely continue to slowly weaken throughout 2015. We could however, see some surprises that completely alter the playing field. For example ISIS might make good on their threats to attack targets in the West.
Remember the group did get a hold of 88 pounds of uranium in Iraq this past summer. In December of 2014 ISIS announced that not only have they built dirty bombs with this material, but that they had already smuggled them into Europe.
Now, dirty bombs aren’t all that deadly, but people don’t need to be in real physical danger in order to panic. An event like this would put a full fledged invasion of Syria on the table, and would obviously be used to justify an even greater expansion of surveillance and police powers.
Watch “The Covert Origins of ISIS“ for more on this topic.
The Ebola story has obviously dropped off the mainstream radar, but it didn’t go away in the real world, and the chart is still moving in the same direction (up).
Sierra Leone has dramatically escalated their containment effort, but according to the Red Cross, the number of cases has in fact spiked in recent weeks, and the situation is far from being under control. Liberia has also seen a resurgence of cases in the past month, and 800 aid workers have been infected at this point with 500 of them dying.
The virus is mutating as fast (or faster than) the seasonal flu, so, every day that it remains active in west Africa, increases the chances of a game changing adaptation. Until this Ebola is completely eradicated, it remains a dangerous wildcard heading into 2015. Remember this entire outbreak began with one case.
Watch “Ebola - Fear, Lies & The Evidence” for more information on this topic.
Heading into 2015 race relations in the U.S. are a gas can waiting for a match. You can’t predict the kinds of events that act as sparks, but we’ve seen from 2014 that the threshold for outrage (and violence), is getting lower. This trend isn’t likely to reverse in the coming year.
The danger on this front heading into 2015 is not so much physical, but rather that it could deepen divisions and make it totally impossible to unify the people against their common enemy. Who benefits from that scenario?
In the realm of politics, as a lame duck president, Obama himself is a wildcard. Though his influence is declining and he may not be able to get much through Congress at this point, he has already made it very clear that he is willing to use executive orders, and he really has nothing to lose. 2015 presents a window of opportunity to push through unpopular policies before the media starts hyping the 2016 elections.
The fact that Obama has nothing to lose in 2015 is likely to factor in on issues like the TPP (which Obama says he intends to support in spite of resistance from the left), he also supports the TTIP which is slated for a renewed push in 2015 as well.
These agreements contain provisions which would hand even more power to multi-national corporations, and implement SOPA and CISPA through backdoor channels.
The only reason we know anything about these treaties is from leaked drafts. The negotiations are being conducted in secret, and the final versions could end up being much worse.
The future isn’t set in stone (at least until the concrete dries). Every choice we make, influences the world around us, sometimes in ways we couldn’t even begin to imagine. Let’s go into 2015 with our eyes open and make the best of what comes.