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The dominant theme of 2009 was theglobal recession. A series of financialdevelopments in the United Statesdamaged the U.S. banking system andspread from there to the rest of the globaleconomy. Everyone — whether purchasersof high-tech goods or sellers of rawcommodities — was deeply affected. As theyear turns anew, that recession has ended. The recovery in place is unsteady, but appears to have putdown sufficient roots to hold.Two major evolutions will dominate 2010. The first is a continuation of a trend STRATFOR has beenfollowing for years: Russia’s resurgence as a major power. In the 1990s the United States becamevery comfortable with the idea of Russian weakness, and in the 2000s the wars in Afghanistan andIraq have utterly consumed U.S. military capacity. With the recent decision to send even more forcesinto Afghanistan, the U.S. preoccupation with the Islamic world will become all-consuming, allowingRussia to do as it pleases in its near abroad.For Russia, 2010 will be a year of consolidation — the culmination of years of careful efforts. In thecoming year, Russia will excise the bulk of what Western and Turkish influence remains from Ukraine,Kazakhstan, Belarus, Armenia and Azerbaijan, and try to lay the groundwork for the reformulation of apolitical union in much of the former Soviet space. That project will not be completed in 2010, but byyear’s end it will be obvious that the former Soviet Union is Russia’s sphere of influence and that anyeffort to change that must be monumental if it is to succeed.Contributing to the Russian consolidation is a sharpening crisis in the Middle East.Israel believes that Iran’s nuclear program has matured sufficiently to constitute a material threat tothe survival of the Jewish state. International diplomatic efforts to contain that program are not simplyintended to forestall a future nuclear threat from Iran, but also to prevent an Israeli strike on Iran — astrike that could quickly spiral into a general melee in the world’s premier energy artery, the PersianGulf.The mix of players and motives — Israel insisting on real controls and willing to act unilaterally, Iranevading real controls and retaining its ability to act decisively in Iraq and Afghanistan, Russia seekingto keep the conflict brewing in order to distract all from its efforts in the former Soviet Union, and theUnited States simply wanting everyone to calm down so it can focus on its wars — all but guaranteesthat a crisis will erupt in 2010. The only questions are whether that crisis will be limited to “simply” thePersian Gulf, and whether it will be military in nature.Elsewhere in the world, there will be many developments that will not rise to the omnipresence theseissues will have in 2010, but are nonetheless critical on the regional level.
The global recession is over and a building, albeit tentative, recovery is putting down roots inmany places. Its permanence or robustness is hardly a foregone conclusion, but the carnage of early 2009 is certainly a thing of the past. What has taken the place of the global economiccrisis are a series of aftereffects that are regional in character: China’s struggles with itsexport-led economy when export demand is tepid, and Europe’s growing banking crisis.
The increase of U.S. forces into Afghanistan is an attempt to change the rules of the war. Thereal heat from the conflict in 2010 will not be in Afghanistan, but in Pakistan, where the conflictis expanding beyond the border region.