Now that the atmosphere of the holiday season has faded and we return to our routines, it is high time to approach the coming calendar year head on. The following are our picks for the trends and events we think will be important in 2019:
Ukrainian Presidential Election & Donbass
On March 31st of this year the Ukraine will elect its next President. Spring 2019 also marks the 5th anniversary of the start of the conflict in the Donbass in Eastern Ukraine. Although it is not often reported on, and certainly has not made headline news the conflict in Donetsk and Lugansk smolders. The conflict has cost somewhere shy of 11’000 lives with many more wounded and displaced. Although it is unlikely that the conflict will come to an end in 2019, it currently seems equally unlikely that it in increase in intensity.
That being said, a new president in the Ukraine could very well change that. The detention of 3 Ukrainian warships in the Black Sea in November 2018 caused a deterioration in an already very tense relationship with the Russian Federation.
African relations with Chinese Expansion
Throughout 2018 we saw numerous articles commenting on China’s ever growing presence in Africa. From Angola to Djibouti, this year we predict more expansionism from China, especially with it’s ongoing “new silk road.” China’s, One Belt One Road (OBOR) policy is taking Chinese relations across the globe, with a main focus on the Middle East and Africa. Currently around 64 countries signed up already with China’s expansion.
South East Asia Elections
Last year we saw the strength of millennial input in relations in Malaysia, and with Thailand’s and Indonesia’s elections coming up this year, the millennial presence is making itself known. Both Thailand and Indonesia are large countries in landmass, population and presence when it comes to South east Asian relations. Thailand has lifted it’s campaign ban and set an election date, the first since the 2014 election coup.
The election outcomes will affect both countries relations with both Asian giants, India and China.
The European Union and the European Economic Area Relations
2019 has finally arrived and the biggest question in the EU currently is revolving round UK’s EU status. Brexit has an end date and it is approaching, with no clear sign of a deal being made. Whether the deal goes forward or not, the effect it has on relations of other countries looking to take a step back from the EU, will be something to look out for.
US Navy in the South China Sea
In recent months the United States Navy has increased its presence and publicity in the South China Sea. The region is a hotly disputed territory that sees approximately 30% of global trade pass through on a yearly basis. China has been very clear in its expansionary intentions and has repeatedly stated it would be willing to use lethal force to achieve its goals. A further element worth noting is the latent concern that Chinese firms will buy the former US Naval base at Subic Bay in the Philippines. The increase in local activity could lead to a set of events that spark a conflict. There is no telling how such a conflict might spiral our of control. In any case the region will be worth keeping a close eye on in the coming months as the United States and China continue their economic rivalry.