Friday, January 30, 2009

America, Japan, Poland, and Turkey as Great Powers in 21st Century

STRATFOR head George Friedman recently gave a fascinating talk on the next 100 years of geopolitics to the Public Affairs program at the Carnegie Council. You can watch it here. Some interesting points here:

The great powers in 50 to 100 years will include Japan, Poland, and Turkey. His analysis starts from his assumption that the United States will continue to be the dominant power in the international system for many reasons, including access to two large oceans, a powerful navy, enormous wealth, experience dealing with immigration, and a lack of rivals. Poland will benefit from the fact that it faces Russia. Like the U.S. relationship with South Korea, the United States will make sure that Poland succeeds, through technology transfer for example, so that it can balance Russia.

As for Japan, well, it has the second largest economy, a powerful navy, and an army larger than Britain's--all of this with a constitution that doesn't allow these things. Imagine what may happen when Japan modifies its constitution, Friedman says. (Friedman's analysis goes against recent bleak economic news in Japan.) As for China, Friedman "is not impressed." It is basically a poor country that is divided and lacks a social safety net. When people become unemployed in rich countries, they worry about welfare, when they lose their jobs in China, they worry about real poverty.

Meanwhile, Turkey will become ever more important in managing conflict in the Middle East. The key to Friedman's analyses is that it is important to throw away conventional wisdom, for example that Russia, India, and China will dominate the future.

On Joe Nye's concept of "soft power," Friedman has an interesting take: He says soft power is when you can exert power but choose not to. In his view, it is not "attraction" as Nye puts it. Friedman's version came to him from growing up in the Bronx where "you can get more with a smile and a gun than with a smile alone."


Warren Wilczewski said...


I found Friedman's "Geography" argument to be quite persuasive. Though I am not sure Poland is poised for the kind of growth South Korea experienced after the Korean War (this coming from a Pole), I can certainly see Turkey moving ahead. Just as the US straddles the Atlantic and Pacific, so Turkey straddles the crossroads between three continents. Yes, we have heard these arguments before. Now that trade in energy is supplanting trade in goods as Europe's number one economic concern, however, Turkey's position as the entrepĂ´t of Middle Eastern supplies into the EU will give it the leverage it needs to push its interests forward.

What surprised me about Friedman's talk was the absence of Brazil on his list of the up-and-coming powers. Geographically the largest of all Latin American countries, with huge strategic depth and a bounty of resources of every kind (including the possibility of over 30bil barrels of high-quality crude offshore), Brazil is bound to become increasingly important. The recent investment by Lula's administration into human resources, in the form of better health care for children and improved access to education, promises better economic performance today and tomorrow. Unlike China, or Japan, Brazil need not fear the demographic bomb of large numbers of baby boomers retiring all at once, and unlike India it does not suffer from run-away population growth and unsustainable environmental stresses. And, contrary to Friedman's assertion, Brazil does have access to both basins, thanks to recently improved relations with Peru and the construction of trans-Andean transportation corridors.

Otherwise, Friedman's talk was very thought-provoking, and I congratulate you on bringing to Carnegie Council such an unconventional thinker.

Anonymous said...

I am Polish living and studying in the UK.
My email
As I look at the tutorial by Friedman I have to say that I really see a bright future for my country.
If you look at GDP of Poland and its growth and accelleration over last few years you can really understand wht's going on in my country. You can even compare that to South Korea.Our geographical location just started paying off recently. Political situation over last few centuries was against us(Russia and Germany cooperation).
Now it looks really well and we go really right way. The only thing I am concerned about is the size of my country but if you look at South Korea we are better positioned.If the EU and the United States continue to support usour future looks bright (if our economic growth does not stop, please look at our GDP in few years). This is not sort China's or India's GDPS. Our GDP per parita develops equally dynamicaly like the real one. That's not china with 2000 per person.
I think that you are completely right about Brazil but it takes much longer for them to develop. I would not skip so much China or India as well but because of the size it takes them that a bit more time.To really inderstand these countries and their mentality you have to be there. Indian people they have good outsourcing but in my opinion it takes them longer to change because of a huge differentietion. I find Chinese more creative (if you only ask what do Chinese minorities in another countries (usually business-Malysia,Egypt or even my own)and how many of them are studying at foreign universities I do not need more words. One more thing. It takes them long to change but if somebody talks about their low wages in must first look at purchase PPP of money over there.There is still a lot of poors but not on the scale as we westerners think.On their way of development they do exactly what my country does. They started merging their companies with another ones to get new technologies... so on.
Thank you for comment.