Self Help

Disunited Nations - Peter Zeihan

Author Photo

Matheus Puppe

· 70 min read

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Here is a summary of the dedication section:

This book is dedicated to four mentors who advised the author that while it’s important to be bold, the smartest thing is to find the smartest person in the room and listen to them.

The four mentors named are: Candice Young, Robert Pringle, Susan Eisenhower, and Matthew Baker. Matthew Baker in particular seems to have been an influential mentor and former boss of the author at Stratfor, where they had many debates and discussions about geopolitics that helped shape the ideas explored in this book.

So in summary, the dedication is giving thanks to mentors, especially Baker, who taught the value of listening to those who are most knowledgeable rather than always being the bold and brash one, and how those lessons and discussions helped form the basis for this book.

  • Throughout history, most countries have been small, fragile and short-lived. Only a handful have had geography that allowed them to defy time through continuity and large size/scale.

  • Continuity refers to reliable access to necessities like food, shelter, infrastructure etc. without outside threats disrupting these. Large size/scale (economies of scale) refers to the advantages that come with a large population specialized in different tasks.

  • The balance of border areas that are difficult to cross with interior areas that allow for easy movement of people/goods is rare geographically. This mix enables protection and connectivity.

  • Long periods of continuity and large size have allowed some countries to dominate human history through powerful empires. However, most places lacked the conditions for strong, long-lasting countries and history remained fragmented.

  • The book argues the current era defined by U.S. power and globalization is ending, returning the world to a more “normal” state of multiple rising and falling regional powers, as defined by historical patterns.

The passage discusses how specialization and division of labor can improve efficiency and productivity. It gives the example of a worker learning to focus on just one task, like etching silicon wafers, rather than many different tasks. This allows them to get very good at that one thing over time, while others specialize in other tasks. Together the team can produce far more as individuals take advantage of their niche skills.

It then discusses how empires formed historically by expanding geographically to achieve both continuity over a large area as well as economies of scale. While some countries can achieve this, most either lack good borders for continuity or sufficient scale. However, some were able to absorb other lands, growing larger and anchoring territories more securely. This allowed them to become dominant powers for millennia through expansion and dominance over smaller neighbors and territories.

Empires interacted through conflict as new technologies increased proximity and mobility for war. This culminated in World War 2 which destroyed the imperial system. After, only the US and USSR remained, with the USSR operating like previous empires. However, the US was fundamentally different - starting as colonies, dominating natives to expand freely, then reconstructing as a unified post-Civil War nation. This blending of populations and stability of borders made the US uniquely powerful without being imperial. But its isolation was eroding as empires clashed in new industrialized wars, pulling the reluctant US into global conflicts.

  • At the end of WWII, America found itself responsible for defending vast new territories across Europe, Asia, and the Pacific that it had little familiarity with. This included areas with deep historical divides and power vacuums.

  • America needed allies to help shoulder this defense burden, but integrating far-flung allies meant even greater commitments across complex geographies.

  • To build a strong global alliance against the Soviet Union, America offered allies extensive security, economic, and strategic benefits through a new international order centered on open trade and American naval power.

  • This order provided stability, protecting allies’ access to global markets and resources. It transformed former enemies into allies and gave other nations independence while tying them to America.

  • The order created unprecedented economic growth and development worldwide. It helped America build NATO and contain the Soviet Union, whose influence was limited despite also gaining stability and development.

  • In just a few decades, this new postwar global order secured American hegemony through vast integrated economic and security networks enabled by American military and naval dominance.

The Soviet Union saw the handwriting on the wall in the mid-1980s and began negotiations for a managed defeat. By 1992, the Cold War and Soviet Union had collapsed. The strategic rationale for the American-led global order dissolved with the Soviet defeat. However, the order’s free trade and economic integration continued without apparent purpose or clear direction from U.S. leadership. Three key events in 2001 highlighted growing tensions and lack of strategic vision: a collision between U.S. and Chinese aircraft raised tensions between the former allies; and the 9/11 terrorist attacks embroiled the U.S. exclusively in the Middle East, further obscuring American goals for the post-Cold War global order.

  • After 9/11, the US called on allies to help in the War on Terror, but most demurred or resisted, frustrating Washington as the US still provided strategic support through the post-WWII order.

  • The creation of the euro further strained European-American relations by creating an alternative to the dollar and US economic dominance. Allies increasingly pursued their own agendas rather than supporting the US.

  • China asserted itself militarily and economically in Asia while still relying on US naval protection. Saudi Arabia exported radical Islam while resisting US influence.

  • Many other allied countries, like Argentina, Australia, Brazil, India, also became more assertive in opposing US policies while still benefiting from the global order.

  • NATO allies underfunded their militaries, making the US effectively responsible for their defense. Espionage by allies against US firms further eroded trust.

  • The global order’s stability relied on containing the USSR, but fell apart without a shared threat. Regions producing oil, food, and raw materials will face instability without the US-led security framework.

  • While Trump accelerated its decline, dissatisfaction with the costs and responsibilities of the order had been growing in the US for decades, and the order’s benefits are no longer widely recognized by a new generation. Its unraveling seems inevitable.

  • The global order provides stability that benefits many nations and populations. It allows London, Hong Kong, and Singapore to be major financial centers by facilitating global trade. This order also benefits suppliers like South Africa, Thailand, and Ecuador by providing global markets.

  • As a result of this order, key development metrics have significantly improved globally. Extreme poverty has declined dramatically, child mortality has fallen hugely, illiteracy rates have dropped, and more children are being immunized. People also have greater connectivity, economic opportunities, security, health, and education. Life expectancy has increased by decades in many places.

  • All of these gains rely on the stability and continuity provided by the global order. Without the order maintaining security, health infrastructure would deteriorate. Economies would suffer without access to foreign finance, technology and markets. Progress would stall without stable conditions enabling long-term planning and development.

  • If the order breaks down, countries will feel compelled to take aggressive actions like military expansion to secure resources and markets, fueling conflict. Several scenarios of regional disorder and conflict are possible if American oversight of the global order ends. Maintaining the order is important to preserving the substantial human development gains of recent decades.

  • China has a long history and cultural longevity, but this has also created many enmities with its neighbors over time. Its relations with countries like Korea, Taiwan, Japan, India, and Vietnam are strained due to historical conflicts and territorial disputes.

  • Its relationship with Russia is also complex due to Russia’s expansion into Chinese territory in the past. Other neighbors like Kazakhstan prefer aligning with Russia rather than being integrated with China.

  • China lacks the naval capabilities to replace the US as a global security guarantor or ensure maritime security for all. The US currently has unprecedented naval dominance through decades of entrenching naval bases worldwide.

  • China’s navy is still far behind, with limited numbers of major surface combatants that can operate over 1,000 miles from shore. It is also highly dependent on the ports of others due to the small number of long-range ships.

  • China’s diplomacy through initiatives like One Belt One Road have soured relations with port countries it was hoping could support its navy, like Malaysia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Kenya. So it cannot rely on these “pearls” in the event of a military crisis either.

  • China’s only foreign military base is in Djibouti, over 5,000 miles from China. This was the only country poor and lack preconceived notions about China to host a full Chinese base.

  • For China to establish a new “order” and attract willing cooperation, it would need to offer open access to its markets like the US did. But this is impossible for China due to its political economy system.

  • Unlike in the US where companies prioritize profits, the Chinese government intervenes in the economy to support state companies and goals. It uses cheap credit to allow companies to ignore costs and expand rapidly, keeping the Communist Party in power.

  • This credit-fueled growth model led to huge debt levels in China that may result in an economic crisis worse than past bubbles in Japan, Greece/Italy, or the US. Rebalancing will be difficult due to political and economic consequences.

  • China’s credit is deeply entangled across sectors like agriculture, making its debt problem unique and difficult to untangle or reform without triggering economic pain.

  • China’s rural modernization through capital investment in food production was extremely expensive. If China’s financial system cracks, its modern farm system could collapse, forcing the return of industrial workers to subsistence farming.

  • Chinese women often pool savings to jointly invest in housing, tapping loans if needed. This creates artificial demand in construction rather than owner-occupied homes. By 2018, most homes sold were investments rather than primary residences. If values decline, it risks a wide financial crisis as debts can’t be covered by selling properties.

  • China’s overproduction, driven by subsidies, eventually exceeded domestic and later global demand. Excess was directed to infrastructure projects, some needed but many wasteful. “Ghost cities” were built empty. Dumping of oversupply globally undercut other producers.

  • Cheap financing aimed to maximize jobs and maintain economic growth and stability, but risks social unrest without this model. Removing US consumption would end global trade system based on it. China cannot offer its market and cannot replace the US dollar as a stable global reserve currency due to capital controls and currency manipulation.

  • If the US role ends, a period of unstable mercantilism among nation self-interested in exports and import restrictions would likely follow, hurting global prosperity.

Here is a summary of the key points made in the passage:

  • There is significant debate around any country having the ability to lead and stabilize the global order in the same way the US has through both soft power and economic incentives. The scale required is now beyond any one nation.

  • The British model of global dominance historically relied less on establishing rules and alliances, and more on direct conquest and force projection through naval and military power.

  • Strategically, Britain was well-positioned as an island separated from mainland Europe by the English Channel, providing both insulation from invasion but also the ability to intervene elsewhere. Most invasion attempts failed due to naval and weather conditions.

  • Britain invested heavily in developing a powerful, versatile navy that learned seamanship in treacherous seas. Naval dominance allowed projection of power globally with fewer constraints than continental powers faced.

  • While the Chinese economy is large, China is constrained geographically by major neighboring powers like Russia, India, and others on all sides. Strategic insulation and power projection capabilities are not comparable to historical British advantages.

So in summary, the passage argues China cannot replicate the US-led global order model, and is also not strategically positioned like Britain was to pursue a similar route of direct global conquest and dominance through naval might.

  • This section discusses how Britain developed a massive technological advantage through the Industrial Revolution. They combined technologies like coal, oil, assembly line, interchangeable parts, steel, and electricity to develop new production systems that vastly increased manufacturing output.

  • Britain’s industrialized economy allowed it to mass produce cheap, high-quality goods that could outcompete pre-industrial craftsmen. They had direct access to 1/4 of the world’s population through the British Empire.

  • Exporting these goods caused economic and political instability in other countries. It weakened the US North/South divide, contributed to German internal wars, nudged France and Russia toward revolt, and collapsed Spain’s industry.

  • British industrialization also boosted their already powerful navy. Combining new products and military tech gave Britain an overwhelming military advantage over non-European countries.

  • In contrast, while China has made significant economic progress, it does not have a comparable technological edge. Its global trade position relies more on subsidized production and access to resources, not unique technological abilities.

  • Viable home territories with usable lands, defensible borders, and access to internal water transport are critical for a successful country. Water transport significantly reduces transportation costs and helps unify a population.

  • Plains are advantageous as they allow for easy movement, communication, and economic activity while lowering development costs. However, they can also make it easier for undesirable forces like troops to move across a territory.

  • Temperate climate zones generally provide better conditions for broad-based civilizations than deserts or tropics. Seasonal variation can push cultural and technological developments.

  • Reliable food supply, sustainable population structures, and access to stable energy inputs are also essential country success factors. Failing in these areas can doom a country.

Overall, geography and natural resources play a huge role in determining a country’s chances of establishing continuity and achieving success or failure over the long run. The modern international order changed some traditional rules by stabilizing conditions globally.

  • Cultures in temperate zones with rivers, plains, and accessible coastlines are more likely to develop strong states and advanced technologies, as they face food pressures in spring that encourage logistical and mathematical advancements. Less temperate environments don’t face the same pressures.

  • Coastlines that are flat with access to inland areas and navigable rivers lead to explosive economic opportunities for trade. Greater distances between trading partners increases goods variety and value.

  • Internally, countries benefit from large, flat, fertile inland areas like the US Midwest, which enables scale and cultural unification. Externally, protection is best with oceans, deserts, mountains rather than open borders.

  • The US has ideal geography with vast inland agriculture zones crisscrossed by the largest navigable river system, plus protective external borders. This geography drove US economic, military and cultural dominance.

  • Other regions like Europe, Africa, SE Asia lack the same scale, connectivity and environmental advantages for developing strong, unified states with advanced economies.

  • China’s core lacks US Midwest’s advantages and is prone to political fragmentation. The Yangtze zone is more unified but separate from the North, complicating national governance.

  • Shanghai has historically been an economically important trading hub within China, connecting the northern, southern and western regions as well as foreign powers. However, its wealth and foreign connections also made it politically suspect to northern dynasties seeking to unify China.

  • Sichuan province is also very wealthy thanks to fertile land and natural resources. But it has long had an independent streak due to its distinct culture, large population and remote location far from Beijing. It has often been a base for rebels against imperial rule.

  • Southern Chinese cities like Hong Kong have relied on maritime trade for food and wealth due to the rugged inland terrain. This made them more likely to collaborate with or secede from different powers that controlled local sea lanes.

  • Territories west and southwest of China’s core regions contain many non-Han ethnic groups that can either aid or obstruct Beijing’s control, depending on whether the Han dynasty is strong or weak. Managing these areas is an ongoing challenge.

  • The concept of a unified Chinese state is relatively recent, as periods of fragmentation and warlordism have been more common than sustained central rule in Chinese history. Food production and distribution have been major factors in states’ stability or collapse.

  • Without the American global order that stabilized supply chains and trade, the world’s population expansion and food production since WW2 will go into reverse. Shorter supply chains mean less demand for raw materials, exports, and ability to import food.

  • Breaking down the global fuel and fertilizer supply chains seriously impacts agricultural output. Many countries will not be able to efficiently feed their populations without outside assistance, leading to potential famines where over a billion could starve.

  • China faces a particularly difficult situation. It has less farmland per person and pushed agriculture onto marginal land, making it very dependent on imports and industrial inputs. A financial crisis or constraints on fuel/fertilizer imports could trigger famine despite China’s domestic production.

  • Roughly 80% of global agricultural output depends on traded petroleum-derived inputs. Removing trade stability jeopardizes food security for many countries that may fail to feed their populations.

  • Demographic shifts towards aging populations in countries like South Korea, Russia, Germany, Italy and Japan occurred due to urbanization and lower birth rates. This creates issues of fewer young workers and consumers versus more retired populations dependent on pensions.

  • China’s one-child policy exacerbated its aging crisis, leaving it with a demographic imbalance that threatens its economic and social stability if it loses access to global trade and inputs. Many countries face potential economic collapse if left to consume more than they produce without trade.

  • China introduced a One-Child policy in the late 1970s to curb population growth, after Mao’s failed Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution policies resulted in famine.

  • Economic reforms in the 1970s under Deng Xiaoping led to industrialization and China joining the global economy. This caused mass urbanization as people moved from farms to cities for work.

  • Urbanization and the One-Child policy rapidly reduced China’s birth rate from one of the highest to one of the lowest in the world. This created a demographic bulge as those born under One-Child reached their peak consumption years in the 2010s.

  • However, the One-Child policy also led to gender imbalance and fewer children overall. By the 2030s, China will have far more elderly dependents than working-age taxpayers to support them. Immigration is not a viable solution given the scale of China’s demographic challenges.

  • China now faces a huge aging population, gender imbalance with many unmarried men, and not enough young people being born to sustain economic growth or support the elderly in the future. This “perfect demographic storm” threatens China’s economic and social stability.

Here are the key points about where wind and solar power can be generated:

  • Ideal locations are in sunny, windy areas that are far from population centers, like deserts and plains. This allows for large utility-scale facilities.

  • The US, Argentina, Australia, South Africa, Mexico, UK, and Denmark have reasonably good conditions for wind or solar.

  • Most of Asia has less ideal conditions due to terrain, humidity, elevation, etc. This is a major challenge for places like China.

  • Connecting remote generation sites to population centers requires long-distance power transmission over thousands of miles, which introduces reliability issues.

  • Overall, only a small fraction of the Earth’s land area has conditions that make large-scale renewable generation practical and connected to demand centers. Geography remains a major limiting factor.

  • The passage discusses Japan’s geography, which features over 7,000 rugged and volcanic islands with scarce arable land. This fractured geography politically but also protected Japan strategically from invasion due to isolation.

  • Historically, Japan was ruled by local warlords (daimyos) who engaged in constant infighting. The Emperor held little real power, which rested with the military commander (shogun), who was essentially the most powerful warlord.

  • Japan’s isolation and fractured political landscape meant the European empires largely ignored it as a colonial target compared to places like India and China, which were larger, flatter, richer and more accessible. The distance from Europe also deterred colonial ambitions.

  • So in pre-industrial times, Japan experienced constant internal warring between local lords but was spared substantial foreign invasion or colonization due to its rugged, isolated geography and militant culture that resisted outside influence. This allowed Japan to develop relatively independently.

  • For centuries, Japan maintained a strict isolationist policy, only allowing limited contact with Europeans through the Dutch East India Company in Nagasaki. They viewed outsiders as strange and inferior.

  • This isolation allowed Japan to focus on political unification over time at their own pace. By 1800, all of coastal Japan was under the Tokugawa Shogunate.

  • In 1853, Commodore Perry forcibly opened Japan to American influence and trade. This disrupted Japanese society and kickstarted rapid modernization and industrialization.

  • Japan had natural advantages for developing a naval power due to its geography and fragmented past. When industrializing, it already had a large pool of skilled sailors and incentivized rapid technological development due to lack of space.

  • Within a few decades, Japan developed a powerful modern navy and military and defeated major powers like China and Russia in wars. This contributed greatly to Japanese nationalistic cultural beliefs in their superiority.

  • Overall, Japan’s isolation enabled slow political unification, while geographic constraints drove rapid naval and industrial development once contact with the West began, leading to Japan becoming a major imperial power.

Here is a summary of the key points about a treadmill:

  • A treadmill is a machine used for walking or running indoors that allows continuous motion without changing location.

  • It consists of a continuous belt driven by an electric motor that moves in a circular motion when in use. The user walks or runs on the belt to exercise.

  • The speed and incline of the belt can be adjusted using controls to vary the intensity and difficulty of the workout. Higher speeds and steeper inclines make it more challenging.

  • Treadmills are popular for cardiovascular exercise as they allow sustained activity without needing to go outside or travel long distances. Users can walk/run while watching TV, reading, etc.

  • Advanced models have built-in programs, monitors to track metrics like speed, distance, calories burned, and heart rate. Some also connect to apps and fitness trackers.

  • Regular use of a treadmill can help improve cardiovascular fitness, burn calories, strengthen muscles, and reduce stress through aerobic exercise indoors.

  • Japan faces major demographic and resource challenges as its population rapidly ages and it lacks natural resources. This threatens its economic and industrial strength.

  • However, Japan has strengths it can leverage. As a wealthy, high-tech society, it is well-positioned to develop technologies and services for an aging population.

  • Japan diversifies its energy sources across cities so blackouts are rare. It is bringing nuclear power back online despite Fukushima concerns.

  • Facing high labor costs and long supply lines, Japan is shifting production overseas (“desourcing”) to be closer to key markets. This offsets declining domestic production and workforce.

  • Desourcing also creates allies invested in protecting Japan’s industrial and energy supply chains. Profits come back to Japan to offset tax losses from population decline.

  • In summary, Japan faces serious challenges but is again adapting its industrial model and leveraging technology to strengthen its economy despite disadvantages in resources and demographics.

  • Japan should strengthen relationships with countries in Southeast Asia and South America that can provide raw materials and do initial processing of goods.

  • Southeast Asia and South America offer young populations, resources, and proximity/access for Japan without competitors between them.

  • End markets would focus on Southeast Asia, the Americas, and especially the US.

  • China faces numerous internal economic and political crises that could cause its system to collapse from within, without Japan needing to intervene.

  • If China tried to use military force to secure resources or markets, it would fail because of Japan’s superior naval capabilities and positioning near critical sea lanes.

  • Japan has a powerful, blue-water navy, including aircraft carriers, and could cut off Chinese access to oil and materials shipped through vulnerable chokepoints like the Strait of Malacca.

  • A war with Japan would be disastrous for China as it would lose access to the resources it needs to function but gain nothing strategically in return, quickly leading to economic and social collapse.

  • Japan’s air bases would enable it to engage in offense or defense against China from outside the range of most Chinese anti-ship defenses.

  • In a war scenario, Japan’s air force could strike targets across China, including ports, shipyards, energy pipelines, and other strategic military and economic sites. This would severely degrade China’s naval and economic capabilities.

  • Much like Japan’s position against the US in WWII, China would struggle to sink Japan’s modern blue-water navy, which is rarely docked in port. Attacking Japan would not remove its naval threat and would provoke retaliation against Chinese shipping worldwide.

  • Other Asian nations most concerned by Chinese power, like India, Southeast Asian countries, Taiwan, and potentially parts of Korea, would be well positioned to align with Japan against China, further weakening China’s military and economic position.

  • However, there are concerns that a new Japanese regional dominance could recreate the dynamic that led to WWII in the Pacific if not carefully managed to avoid local resentment and conflict with the US. Overall regional stability would depend on inclusive economic cooperation replacing direct imposition of control.

  • Russia has many geographical challenges that have historically made it difficult to develop, including poor river systems that are prone to flooding, harsh winters, short growing seasons, and large distances separating population centers.

  • Pre-industrial Russia had a very low population density due to the difficulty of farming and lack of fertile land. However, large families provided labor during intensive growing periods.

  • Japan now has more influence in the Persian Gulf than any other country due to its naval capabilities. It has good relationships with Gulf states and will need to ensure stable oil/gas supplies for itself and its allies as Chinese influence declines. The politics of the Gulf will become an important issue for Japan to manage.

  • Russia is a shadow of its former Soviet self. Its infrastructure is crumbling, demographic challenges mounting as the population ages and declines. Within a few generations, the government and ethnicity of Russians may be vastly changed. Both Russia and Germany face existential demographic challenges that could reshape Europe.

  • Joseph Stalin forcibly industrialized the Soviet Union by concentrating urban populations in small, substandard apartments near factories. This approach lowered birth rates in cities as people moved off farms into cramped living spaces.

  • Stalin also collectivized Soviet farms, forcing peasants into industrial collectives with new equipment. This similarly lowered rural birth rates as living conditions changed. It also led to famines that killed 6-13 million people in the 1930s.

  • World War I and II also took a huge demographic toll on the Soviet Union, with over 26 million deaths, mostly young men.

  • After the Soviet collapse in 1991, government services broke down. This led to health crises like drug addiction, tuberculosis, and HIV outbreaks that reduced birth rates and increased death rates.

  • Poor central planning under Stalin and other Soviet leaders wasted resources and caused failures in areas like housing, industry and agriculture that continued depressing the Russian population. Leadership failures compounded the demographic problems inherited from forced industrialization and collectivization.

  • Russia’s birth rate dropped sharply in the 1990s after the fall of the Soviet Union. The current generation having children experienced this demographic crisis and populations are continuing to decline. Life expectancy has only increased in major urban areas, not rural areas which still face high death rates.

  • Russia’s stability under Putin relied on high oil prices in the 2000s and his consolidation of power over oligarchs. However, improvements only brought Russia up from very low levels - death rates for young Russian men remain far higher than in other countries during times of war or crisis.

  • Attempts to restart and modernize Russian industry failed. The educational system collapsed in the 1990s and many skilled professionals emigrated. Even at its peak, Russian industry was inefficient. Low birth rates and population loss mean Russia lacks the workforce to develop new industries. Western sanctions further limit technology transfers.

  • Russia faces major strategic challenges due to the loss of satellite states and border areas after the Soviet collapse. Its borders are more vulnerable and it has lost a significant amount of population, territory and military assets. Technology shortfalls mean Russia can no longer rely on mass numbers to defend itself, as it did against Nazi Germany.

  • Unless invasion trends are reversed, Russia faces inevitable demographic collapse and will be unable to defend its long borders. Its future prospects are very limited without drastic changes.

  • Much of Russia’s post-Soviet foreign policy aims to tie down the US in peripheral concerns and challenge the international order it established after World War 2.

  • The international order constrained Russia’s traditional rivals and allowed the Soviet Union continuity and stability to industrialize, despite being an unwieldy multi-ethnic empire. Without the order, foreign powers would have exacerbated rebellions.

  • Now that the US is abandoning the order, this is catastrophic for Russia. Russia is dependent on exports that transit through others, and faces renewed competition from neighboring powers freed from the order’s constraints.

  • Demographic changes also threaten Russia, as traditionally non-Russian regions in the south have higher birthrates. Combined with unrest and foreign involvement, this could destabilize Russia from within.

  • Securing defensible borders is now a top priority for Russia’s security, as its army shrinks and minorities grow. But most borders are difficult to defend against neighbors like China and Central Asian states. The Caucasus region also poses challenges from restive Northern provinces.

  • The pacification of Chechnya in the 2000s under Putin is often cited as one of his greatest achievements. However, Putin primarily achieved this by recruiting one faction of Chechens led by Akhmad Kadyrov to side with Russia against other Chechen rebels.

  • Today, Chechnya is not really part of Russia but a personal fiefdom of Ramzan Kadyrov, Akhmad Kadyrov’s son. Kadyrov has a lot of influence over other Chechens in Russia, including in Moscow.

  • While Russia has established a dubious status quo with Kadyrov in Chechnya for now, the Kremlin recognizes that Kadyrov’s forces could potentially eject Russian power from the entire Northern Caucasus region if Russian forces became distracted by other issues.

  • Unlike problems in the east, resolving Russia’s western borders is relatively straightforward - occupying/absorbing countries immediately to the west like the Baltic states, Belarus, Ukraine would secure more defensible borders for Russia along the Baltic Sea, Carpathian Mountains and Black Sea. However, this approach would reintroduce familiar security challenges for Russia.

  • Germany unified in 1871 after years of negotiations and wars between various German states. This industrialization and unification shaped Europe in the following decades.

  • Germany experienced rapid urbanization and industrialization, causing birth rates to fall. High population density made it difficult for families to have many children.

  • Germany now has an aging population and low birth rates that threaten its social stability and economic model, which relies on a large workforce. The German “baby boom” generation is retiring, shrinking the workforce.

  • Germany needs export markets to absorb its large industrial output, but Europe’s demographic issues and past recessions have reduced its capacity as an export market. Germany is overly reliant on automobile exports.

  • Austerity policies in struggling European countries have hurt growth and import capacity. Germany’s monetary union with weaker economies like Greece created economic dislocations.

  • Germany’s strength and large economy can destabilize Europe without external security guarantees. NATO was established to integrate European militaries, keep the US and Russia out, and limit Germany’s power for stability. It enhanced European and German security and exports.

  • Since the end of the Cold War, Germany demilitarized as NATO expanded to include former Soviet states, providing security. Germany focused on its economy within the EU.

  • The EU has struggled with questions of its identity and power, often mired in lengthy debates. However, America’s global leadership role ensured stability through NATO.

  • Germany benefited greatly from this stable environment and economic cooperation within the EU. Its export-focused economy relied on open trade links ensured by American power.

  • With America’s decline, Europe now faces multiple crises simultaneously related to security, energy, borders, the economy, and more. Coordinating a pan-European response will be difficult.

  • Germany has few options to address its needs for energy, labor, exports and customers on its own. It will likely look east to nations like Poland for manufacturing and energy from Russia.

  • However, expanding German influence into Eastern Europe could bring it into direct competition with Russia, reviving old tensions. Drawing new boundaries risks new conflicts, as seen in their history. Germany and Russia are on a collision course without American leadership providing stability.

The cooperation between Germany and Russia is unlikely to last long due to several factors driving them towards confrontation.

  1. Advancing military technologies will compress timelines for conflict as weapons systems get faster, farther-reaching, and more lethal.

  2. Both countries face political, economic, and social upheaval from global changes that could spawn revolutionary governments as in the past.

  3. Germany and Russia have severe demographic problems that shorten their time horizons, and any failed transformation could destroy what little future they have.

  4. Competition over influence and resources will intensify pressures and raise stakes.

Other powers will also act to counter a united Germany and Russia:

  • The US may intervene if their actions adversely impact American interests.

  • The UK has strategic and historical motivations to prevent any single power from dominating Europe.

  • Scandinavian countries will rally together for security against Russia.

  • Poland in particular will perceive them as an existential threat and fight back despite being weaker, knowing others will help prevent total defeat.

In sum, a number of militating factors argue the cooperation between Germany and Russia can only be brief before sliding towards confrontation.

  • The passage discusses how France seeks dominance in a post-Order world without American global leadership and constraints.

  • It outlines the strategic advantages France has due to its geographical position, navigable rivers connecting key agricultural and population centers, and ability to project influence across Northern and Southern Europe.

  • In particular, it highlights how the Beauce region’s fertile soils connect to Paris via the Yonne and Seine river systems, making France a Northern European power.

  • It also notes how the Rhone river connects France to the Mediterranean, giving it influence in Southern Europe.

  • The Loire river further enhances France’s internal connections and access to the Bay of Biscay.

  • These geographical assets have historically supported French power and wealth.

  • In a decentralized post-Order world where Germany loses strategic advantages, France sees an opportunity to reshape Europe in its image without external constraints.

The overall summary is that France assessments it is well-positioned strategically and economically to seek greater dominance over Europe as American power declines and the constraints of the global order disappear. Its internal rivers have historically bolstered its wealth and influence.

  • France has several navigable rivers that have historically helped spread French culture and influence both internally and externally. Rivers like the Loire, Rhone, Garonne and others enable trade and connect France to other parts of Europe.

  • The layout and proximity of rivers like the Seine and Loire help “smother” and assimilate more remote regions of northwest France into the French core territory. Likewise, the Rhone connects the Alps and Riviera.

  • France benefits from its location in Europe - its coastlines give it access to sea trade routes, and its borders along mountain ranges provide some natural barriers from neighbors. However, its position also leaves it open to invasion through corridors like the Belgian Gap.

  • Over centuries, French identity and culture spread out from the core along these river valleys and trade routes, assimilating neighboring peoples. This has given France a long tradition as a cohesive nation.

  • However, new forces like nationalism and industrialization later empowered France’s neighbors and challenged France’s dominance. While nationalism initially strengthened France, it also fueled wars of expansion that overextended French power. Industrialization then helped unify and strengthen fragmented states like Germany.

So in summary, France’s geographic endowments historically aided its influence and cohesion but were later challenged by new political and economic developments in neighboring states. Both geography and these social/economic forces have shaped France’s rising and declining power over time.

  • New technologies like roads, railways and the spread of nationalism helped overcome barriers separating the German states in the 19th century. This allowed Prussia to expand its power over neighboring German territories.

  • Prussia’s power grew rapidly through rhetoric, infrastructure expansion and wars against other German states and countries like Denmark and Austria.

  • When Prussia went to war against France in 1870, the French were unprepared for industrialized warfare. Technologies like medicine, agriculture, railways and telegraphs gave Prussia significant advantages in mobilizing and supplying its forces.

  • Prussia’s early victories allowed it to besiege and defeat Paris quickly. French losses were much higher than Prussian losses.

  • The interconnected geography of Europe meant Germany posed the greatest threat to France. Germany had economic, geographic and demographic advantages over France.

  • After WWII, the U.S.-led international order neutralized Germany as a military threat and allowed France to gain influence over Germany politically and economically through institutions like the ECC. However, this order also limited France’s global power and influence.

  • After reunification, Germany surpassed France economically and demographically as the Soviet Union collapsed. France was alarmed by Germany’s growing power and independence in foreign policy.

  • France pursued a three-pronged strategy to contain Germany: building an alliance against Germany by admitting new EU members, courting Germany as a co-leader of the EU to exert joint control, and using the euro currency to constrain Germany economically.

  • However, this backfired as the new EU members weren’t subservient to France and Germany asserted its own foreign policy stances. The euro also allowed poorer countries to borrow cheaply, causing debt crisis that Germany took control of negotiations over.

  • As a result, Germany gained political and economic dominance over not just France but all of Europe through the institutions France had created to constrain it. France lost control over both Germany and the EU it built.

  • The EU now faces internal challenges that threaten its existence, but France is well-positioned to withstand the end of the EU order due to its economic independence and military capabilities important to Germany’s security interests.

  • For energy-poor Germany, French middlemanning of energy could be critical to avoiding catastrophe during this disorder period. Germany’s demographic decline may make the solving of the “German question” more permanent.

  • This frees up French resources to focus beyond continental Europe, namely on fending off Britain and addressing issues of national identity.

  • Historically France has always seen Britain as troublesome due to Britain’s naval power and ability to constrain France geopolitically. In the current disorder period, Britain’s naval capabilities are temporarily weakened, giving France a window of opportunity.

  • On identity, France faces demographic challenges but is in better shape than other European countries. However, there are underlying tensions regarding non-French peoples and descendants of former colonial subjects who have citizenship but are not fully accepted as part of the French national identity. This is a challenge for contemporary France.

  • France faces issues of disunity and social stratification between those of Caucasian background and those with ancestry from former French colonies. This weakens French appeal abroad and provides opportunities for outside exploitation.

  • France banned collecting ethnic data, so the scale of second-class citizens is unknown but estimated at 6 million or 10% of the population. How France defines national identity going forward will be critical.

  • Options are full multiculturalism or a narrower ethno-nationalist definition, but both come with challenges. Currently France practices a form of segregation by relegating many non-Caucasians to disadvantaged banlieue communities.

  • This combustible situation poses security risks like providing fertile ground for terrorist recruitment and attacks.

  • In a time of disorder, Southern Europe will be less busy than Northern Europe which will see German-Russian struggles. France already dominates the Western Mediterranean militarily.

  • Energy security will be a key challenge as Europe relies heavily on imports. France must ensure supplies from North Africa and West Africa to wield influence over neighbors Spain and Italy.

  • This will require political involvement and potential intervention in unstable countries to maintain stability and oil/gas flows, taking on a neo-imperial role in Africa.

  • Controlling the Suez Canal would further cement French influence by providing Asian oil access and transit revenues. France’s longterm goal is total control.

Here is a summary of the key points about Suez from the passage:

  • The Suez Canal is a crucial waterway that connects the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea, providing an important trade route between Europe and Asia.

  • Control of the Suez Canal would be strategically important for France. Seizing the canal and a buffer zone on both sides would allow French forces to ensure smooth operation of the canal.

  • The passage suggests France should seize control of the Suez Canal, though notes that no plan to invade the Middle East has ever gone well.

  • The area around the Suez Canal, including Egypt, has historically been unstable. Control of the canal would give France influence in the geopolitically important region around the Mediterranean and Red Seas.

So in summary, the passage discusses the strategic importance of the Suez Canal for trade and military purposes, and suggests France should seek to gain control of it to project influence in the Eastern Mediterranean region.

The passage describes how Persia/Iran’s geography and position made it successful for much of history by promoting unity and interaction among its varied mountain valleys and ethnic groups. However, the Industrial Revolution transformed the global economy in a way that hindered Persia. Its mountainous terrain and lack of navigable rivers or flatlands made capitalizing on industry difficult. Persia became dependent on imported goods and economically stagnated while other regions industrialized.

The discovery of oil in Iran brought wealth but also made it a target. Foreign powers like Britain exerted heavy influence over Iran’s politics and oil sector. When Iran tried to assert more control, Britain intervened to reinstate an absolutist monarchy. This damaged Iran’s sovereignty and continuity.

In modern times, Iran’s complex multi-ethnic society has complicated its relationship with foreign powers like the U.S. The U.S. saw Iran as important for maintaining stability in the oil-rich Persian Gulf region and containing Soviet influence. However, American interventions in Iranian politics, like the 1953 coup, ultimately backfired and fueled Iranian resentment. The 1979 revolution ousted the U.S.-backed shah and marked a period of confrontation between Iran and the U.S.

Since then, Iran has used its intelligence capabilities to disrupt the regional status quo and extent its influence in places like Iraq, seeing disruption of U.S.-led order as retaliation for past U.S. interferences in Iran.

Iran has achieved significant influence and success in the Middle East due to strategic moves it played starting in the late 1970s and 1980s. It supported and aided the creation of Hezbollah in Lebanon, giving it leverage against Israel. It allied with Syria’s Alawite-led government, providing military support that helped the Assads survive the civil war. In Iraq, Iran extended its influence among the Shia community after the 2003 US invasion, making Iraq responsive to Iranian interests. Elsewhere, Iran has encouraged instability in Yemen against its rival Saudi Arabia and maintains a foothold in Afghanistan. Through these political and military interventions, often exploiting US actions, Iran has come to dominate the region and exert power beyond its borders. However, continuing instability means its influence may be difficult to solidify long term.

  • The modern Saudi kingdom emerged in 1932 after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, when the Al Saud tribal family consolidated control over most of the Arabian Peninsula.

  • Before this, the Hashemite family held power in the Hejaz region, which was more economically and culturally significant due to cities like Mecca and Medina.

  • In the early 1900s, the Al Saud and Wahhabi religious leaders formed an alliance to challenge Ottoman and Hashemite rule. The British helped arm and support them against the Ottomans during World War I.

  • After the war, the Al Saud declared the new kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Oil was discovered in 1938, transforming the country.

  • Saudi Arabia is an absolutist monarchy ruled by the Al Saud family. Political dissent is brutally punished. The ruling family maintains control through importing foreign workers and keeping Saudis uneducated.

  • The military is not truly national, relying heavily on foreign mercenaries. The national guard is focused on protecting the royal family rather than the country. Overall, the regime prioritizes oppressing political threats over developing national institutions.

  • Most members of the Saudi Arabian National Guard are from rival tribes that the Saudi royal family has elevated in an attempt to secure their support for the Saudi state. This keeps enemies closer while directing tribal violence towards defending the state.

  • Social management involves using services like food and housing to keep people quiet, while violently punishing anyone who disobeys the royal family. The population has no economic value and is seen as expendable.

  • Some Saudi men enjoy violence and are drawn to the security services where they can violently enforce rules. Especially violent individuals may be equipped and funded to export militancy on behalf of the royal family, relieving domestic pressures and causing problems for rivals.

  • Saudi Arabia has immense oil wealth which gives it power and influence in the world. However, it relies completely on continued US support and protection to maintain its independence and strategic positioning.

  • The US alliance is/was based on ensuring global oil supplies, but events like 9/11 and the Khashoggi murder have damaged this relationship. The royal family may now seek a new powerful partner to ensure its survival as US support declines. But replacing the US will be extremely difficult.

The passage discusses Saudi Arabia’s options for finding military protection after the U.S. decides to pull back support. Building an indigenous defense capability has challenges as the royal family fears a coup from within the military. Seeking help from regional powers like Turkey, China or Japan is also problematic due to geographical or political constraints.

An alliance with Israel provides intelligence and weapons support but is limited and can’t replace American protection. The best option is for Saudi Arabia to “burn it down” by exacerbating sectarian divisions that Iran relies on to gain influence in places like Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan. The Saudis have historically been better than Iran at stoking sectarian conflicts due to demographic and historical factors that undermine Iran’s goals. By escalating tensions, Saudi Arabia hopes to build a buffer against Iranian power and ensure its own survival in an unstable regional environment following reduced U.S. involvement.

  • Iraqi Shia are closest to Iran religiously but resent Tehran’s influence the most due to their history of infighting over leadership. Without U.S. support, they fell back into conflicts allowing Sunnis and Kurds more power.

  • Saudi Arabia exports terrorists as a way to manage domestic unrest among radicalized young men. They have far more money from oil exports than Iran to influence others.

  • Iran micromanages its proxies like Hezbollah in Lebanon, limiting its appeal. Saudi Arabia stirs conflicts without taking direct control, content to weaken Iran even if they don’t control the region.

  • A collapsed region would harm Iran more through refugee flows and limited resources. Saudi Arabia sees this as weakening Iran and is less threatened due to wealth and geographic isolation.

  • Saudi Arabia can exploit ethnic/religious divisions within Iran like the Azeris, Kurds, and Arabs to stretch Iran’s resources and threaten its stability.

  • Iran now controls territory but lacks experience and appeal for nation-building, risking future rebellions against its imposed order. It is vulnerable after removing the U.S.-led status quo.

  • Saudi Arabia can use its financial resources and military equipment to take a more aggressive stance against Iran in the region. Saudi Arabia aims to burn down civilization anywhere Iranian power touches through proxies.

  • This will lead to widespread instability, famine, civil collapse and refugee crises in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen as they rely on imports for food.

  • Ultimately, Saudi Arabia will succeed in uprooting much of Iran’s influence across the Middle East, but at tremendous cost of broader civilizational collapse in the entire region as stability declines.

  • It will be a messy stalemate, with both Saudi Arabia and Iran distracted and weakened as the region burns around them. This creates a power vacuum for other external powers to step in and gain influence.

Here is a summary of the key points about technology in the passage:

  • In the 15th-16th centuries, European sailors developed new shipbuilding techniques that allowed construction of larger, stronger ships capable of ocean voyages. They also improved navigation tools like being able to determine location day/night.

  • These advances in maritime technology were disastrous for the Ottoman Empire, which was land-based and depended on controlling trade routes. The new ships could sail directly to Asia and Europe without relying on Ottoman territory.

  • Over centuries, the Ottoman Empire slowly declined as it lost its monopoly on trade and faced challenges from European naval powers using new ships. Its economy and strategic position weakened without its previous geographic advantages.

  • By the 20th century after World Wars I and II, the Ottoman/Turkish lands, trade routes, and markets had been drastically reduced. New global maritime trade systems no longer relied on or benefited Turkish territories.

So in summary, advances in 15th-16th century European shipbuilding and navigation undermined the Ottoman Empire’s strategic positioning by enabling global trade networks independent of Ottoman control over land routes. This long-term technological change was a major contributor to the decline of the once-powerful empire.

  • Turkey was once a major empire but collapsed after World War 1, losing most of its territory. It spent decades isolated and rebuilding.

  • There were competing visions for Turkey’s identity - secularists wanted a modern democratic state focused on Europe, while Islamists wanted to retain Ottoman cultural/religious traditions and links to the Arab world.

  • Events like the Cold War, Soviet collapse, 9/11 attacks, and US wars in Iraq caused Turkey to reengage with the world and reconsider its identity.

  • Secularists and Islamists found more common ground in Turkish nationalism under Erdogan. Turkey now combines elements of Ottoman grandeur, religious conservatism, and authoritarian ethnic nationalism.

  • This emerging identity is concerning as it echoes other countries like pre-WW1 Germany that pursued ethnically defined statehood aggressively, often with dangerous consequences. Turkey is asserting itself regionally but its identity crisis makes it potentially unstable.

  • Erdogan’s AKP party rose to power in 2002, allowing Turkey to look beyond its relationship with the US as American strategic priorities shifted. Now in 2020, the US is reducing global commitments as Turkey expands its influence.

  • Turkey sees potential in exploring its identity as a nation-state, just as global powers are returning to “empire mode.” Turkey’s geography positions it well to potentially become one of these new empires. However, this would likely cause conflict due to issues in its region.

  • Turkey has opportunities in every direction, including the Balkans, Ukraine, and the Caucasus region. Bulgaria and Romania in particular depend on Turkey for access to trade routes and could partner closely.

  • Challenging Russian influence in Ukraine and beyond could significantly benefit Turkey economically and strategically by removing a regional rival. It could also potentially allow Turkey to become the dominant power in the Caucasus again. However, this strategy also carries risks in confronting Russia.

  • Turkey sees opportunities to expand its influence in areas that were previously part of the Ottoman Empire, such as the Crimean Peninsula, Northern Iraq/Syria, and the Eastern Mediterranean region including Greece and Cyprus.

  • Expanding into Crimea could allow Turkey to control the Black Sea. However, this would likely provoke a strong Russian response given Crimea’s strategic importance to Russia.

  • Moving into Northern Iraq and Syria could help Turkey deal with its Kurdish separatist problem by bringing more of the Kurdish population under Turkish control. It could also give Turkey leverage over Iran and Saudi Arabia. However, stabilizing Syria would be extremely difficult.

  • Securing the Aegean Sea region including Greece and Cyprus would insulate Turkey’s Western flank and protect critical trade routes. However, this would face resistance from European powers.

  • Overall, Turkey sees expansion as a security issue but must weigh the high risks against the potential rewards in each case. Full control over areas like Northern Iraq/Syria may be the only way to really solve some of Turkey’s security problems in the long run.

  • Greece and Cyprus are economically dependent on the EU and import most of their food and energy. Without EU support, they will struggle greatly.

  • If the EU collapses and global maritime trade becomes more difficult, Greece and Cyprus will likely “decivilize” due to lack of imports.

  • The Turks may seize this opportunity to retake control of areas like Cyprus and the Greek islands they lost after WWI. This would be more manageable than occupying mainland Greece.

  • Controlling the Eastern Mediterranean would give Turkey leverage over oil tanker routes from the Middle East to Europe, allowing them to profit from escorting tankers through the region.

  • This could trigger a response from countries like France wanting to ensure access to oil. It may push Egypt further into an alliance with Turkey.

  • Expanding influence in the Caucasus raises tensions with Iran, which sees the region as strategically threatening given access routes and its Azeri minority population.

  • An invasion of northwestern Iran would be difficult for Turkey due to terrain and resistance, but expanding control over the Caucasus could worsen existing conflicts Turkey faces along multiple borders.

  • Crimea condemning dissolution of the Ottoman Empire would have condemned Turkey’s historical foe to dissolution.

  • Turkey has complex foreign policy options due to its complex geography bridging Europe, Asia, the Mediterranean and Middle East. This makes its foreign policy seem erratic as it picks different fights with neighbors.

  • Turkey wants to pursue multiple directions at once but does not have the power to do so. Its moves into neighboring regions would not be welcomed by other powers like Russia, Iran or European states.

  • Others have opportunities to shape Turkey’s decisions and could encourage it to commit troops to stabilizing Syria, pinning it down and absorbing its attention for years.

  • Turkey emerged from a century of isolation without experience in world affairs and has made mistakes in attempts to influence issues like Armenia, Palestine and Syria that soured relations.

  • Turkey will always be strategically important due to its location but relationships with outside powers will fluctuate as it navigates its interests among complex regional dynamics.

  • Brazil’s geography presents many challenges for agriculture, infrastructure, and economic development. The dense tropical rainforest, steep cliffs along the eastern coast, and lack of ports make transportation difficult and expensive.

  • The soil in many areas is low in nutrients due to farming practices and tropical weather. It requires heavy use of fertilizers, pesticides, and fungicides.

  • Animal agriculture also faces challenges from tropical diseases and conditions. Beef quality is generally lower.

  • Infrastructure like roads is much more expensive to build and maintain due to the terrain. Transportation costs are high.

  • Historically this led to an oligarchical system dominated by wealthy landowners. Access to land was restricted. Most people did not own land.

  • There was less opportunity for a middle class to develop like in countries with family farming. This contributed to inequality and corruption.

  • The economy remains fragmented along regional lines with less national integration.

  • Poverty and lack of opportunities fuel high crime rates in urban slums.

  • A key challenge is the shortage of skilled labor, which limits technological development and innovation to address agricultural and infrastructure problems. Youth often do not complete their education.

  • These geographic, economic, and social factors have made long-term development very challenging for Brazil compared to other countries. Compensating for the disadvantages is difficult.

  • Brazilian products sold to Europe in the colonial era, particularly sugar, generated large profits but required vast tracts of land and relied heavily on slavery for labor. This established hierarchical social and economic systems rooted in racial inequalities.

  • After independence, Brazil continued and even expanded the practice of slavery, becoming dependent on it. Slavery was not abolished until 1888, later than other countries in the Americas. This legacy of slavery contributes to racial disparities today.

  • In the 20th century, Brazil developed import substitution policies behind tariff walls to benefit domestic oligarchs. This balkanized the economy and exacerbated inequality through monopolies and high costs. Inflation also stunted growth.

  • In the 1980s, Brazil transitioned to democracy and made economic reforms to open up trade. Growth improved but remained uneven until favorable global conditions emerged after the Cold War ended. These conditions - stable world order, cheap financing, strong demand from industrialization/growth - supported sustained growth in Brazil for the first time.

  • However, Brazil remains vulnerable due to its heavy reliance on commodity exports and external financing/demand in a world that may see rising protectionism, tightening capital flows and declining Chinese demand going forward. This could undermine its development progress.

The passage prefers supplies from domestic producers and neighbors Canada and Mexico. It notes that Brazilian foodstuffs and exports will face major adjustments in a period of global economic collapse and reduced demand. Cash crops from Brazil will become luxuries out of reach for most. Investment capital for Brazilian production and infrastructure will dry up due to the aging global population. These factors are expected to lead to a lost decade or more for Brazil’s economy. Corruption has crippled Brazil’s political system, making economic and social reforms very difficult. The country may devolve into disconnected regions governed more like satrapies than a cohesive nation-state. Different regions will face varying challenges based on their economic reliance and geographic positioning. Military rule may provide a centripetal force to counteract the likely centrifugal pulls on Brazil given its economic and governance problems. The future forecast for Brazil is mixed and uncertain.

  • Brazil had made progress in political representation, economic opportunity, and growth in the 1990s-2000s, but this progress is now unraveling. Many hoped Brazil would become a leader and model in South America.

  • As Brazil declines, it will negatively impact the region and world. Historically, countries relied on stable food production; Brazil’s decline threatens global food security.

  • The post-WWII international order increased global trade and access to resources, technology, and fertilizers, lowering famine risk. Brazil’s growth was a major factor in global nutrition gains. Its decline could reverse these gains, severely impacting developing regions.

  • The US may benefit from Brazil’s higher costs, though this could hurt American farmers competing with Brazilian exports. Australia, Canada, India, and Argentina may gain at Brazil’s expense as competitors in food and raw materials. Consumer countries will face food shortages.

  • However, Brazil is not facing a complete collapse and still has some advantages that could support limited recovery over time, such as agricultural improvements, existing infrastructure investments, access to US markets, and the potential to secure some international financing for strategic exports and energy projects. But long-term prospects remain uncertain.

  • Argentina has ideal geographic conditions for agriculture and economic development, centered around rich Pampas farmland and access to international trade routes via the Rio de la Plata estuary.

  • Buenos Aires is the primate city, naturally concentrating political, economic and cultural power due to its central location overseeing farmland and river access. This centralization has helped consolidate national identity.

  • External borders provide strong natural defenses from invasion or unrest. The Andes mountains block Chile, Gran Chaco and Iberá Wetlands regions deter overland access from other neighbors. Distance from potential threats overseas also helps security.

  • Despite these geographic advantages, Argentina has a history of self-destructive political instability and economic crises, failing to reach its full potential due to internal political challenges rather than external threats.

The passage discusses the geography and history of transportation routes in Argentina. It notes that while the Paraná River allowed for inland travel, it ended abruptly at Guaíra Falls, one of the largest waterfalls by volume. In the 20th century, the falls were submerged by the creation of the Itaipu Dam.

This left Argentina with only two relatively narrow land frontiers for potential invasion - along the Paraná and Paraguay Rivers from Paraguay, and across the Uruguay River from Uruguay. Control over these border areas has been an ongoing struggle in Argentina’s history.

The passage then reviews the differences between Spanish and British colonialism in America. The geographic barriers in Spanish colonies concentrated power in major cities under viceroy control, while the more accessible U.S. saw independent rural development. This led to different social and economic outcomes.

When independent, Argentina struggled due to infighting between local caudillos (warlords) who ruled their own territories, as there was no unified national identity yet. The period was essentially a civil war with many rival powers competing for control. In summary, geography and a history of dictatorship shaped Argentina’s borders and unstable early independence.

  • After independence from Spain, the region of Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay was politically fractured with weak national governments and powerful regional caudillos (warlords) who pursued their own interests above all else, creating constant infighting and instability.

  • Imperial Portugal and then Brazil tried to take over territory controlled by the Spanish, while the caudillos fought each other for power and land. This chaos continued even after the nations gained independence.

  • Francisco Solano López of Paraguay modernized his country’s military based on European models, making Paraguay much stronger than its neighbors. However, Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay allied against Paraguay, defeating it after years of brutal war that killed over half of Paraguay’s population.

  • The war had long-lasting impacts - it centralized power in Argentina and empowered its military, allowing it to expand its territory southward. But it bankrupted Brazil and increased military influence there.

  • Argentina emerged as the dominant power but still had issues with inequality, debt, and instability that periodically erupted into financial crises and military coups over the following decades.

  • Argentina was once a major global exporter of agricultural goods like wheat, corn, pork, beef, oil and natural gas, but lost its status due to periods of anti-Peronism government that weakened the economy.

  • It has significant shale oil and gas reserves that could make it an energy exporter again if developed properly.

  • It has a young population structure that won’t face aging or retirement issues for decades, unlike countries like Brazil.

  • Its geography offers physical security from outside threats due to distance and the Monroe Doctrine.

  • If it shifts away from populism and statist economics under Peronism, it could reemerge as a global success story by developing manufacturing like East Asia did.

  • Even if Peronism persists, Argentina still has advantages like natural resources, geography, and experience dealing with dysfunction that will make it better positioned than most countries in a more disorderly world.

  • Regardless of its policies, Argentina’s geography and demographics ensure it will become a dominant regional power in South America over time simply due to its strategic location and population structure.

  • Two-thirds of Bolivia’s population lives in the highlands, while two-thirds of its economy, which is largely agricultural, is generated from farms in the lowlands that border Brazil.

  • Bolivia lost its coastline and mining-rich Atacama Desert region to Chile in the War of the Pacific from 1879-1884. Bolivia remains bitterly angry about this loss over a century later.

  • Argentina has opportunities to expand its influence by improving its economic and trade relationships with both Bolivia and Chile. Argentina was previously an important natural gas supplier to Chile, and could resume that role. It could also facilitate Bolivian exports moving through Argentine territory rather than forcing them to go through Chile.

  • Improved Argentine infrastructure and policies would make it easier for goods to move through Argentina from Bolivia to ports, and from inland areas of Brazil to markets. This would increase Argentine economic influence in both countries.

  • Most of the population and economy of landlocked Bolivia depends on moving through neighbors like Brazil and Argentina, giving those countries leverage. Argentina’s geographic position allows it to potentially expand its sphere of economic and political influence in the region.

  • The Republican coalition fractured over policy disagreements like spending/budgets, national security, and hurricane response. This stemmed from a lack of experience managing internal disputes.

  • The rise of social media enabled right-leaning populists like the Tea Party and alt-right to organize independently. Donald Trump rose to power by appealing to these populists.

  • Trump has since purged traditional Republicans in government representing fiscal, defense, and business interests. Populists now control the GOP agenda.

  • The Democratic strategy of building a “rainbow coalition” of minorities has failed to deliver consistent power. Demographic changes are uneven nationally and rural/small-town voters are more socially conservative.

  • The Democratic coalition is also fractured, with different constituencies holding opposing views on economic and social issues. This has led to repeated electoral losses despite national demographic trends.

  • The 2016 election shattered both parties’ coalitions, with populists expanding but also driving many traditional Republicans away. Sanders similarly weakened the Democratic establishment.

  • Political factions will eventually reorganize into new alliances as conditions change over time, as they have in the past. But it will take time for stable new structures to emerge from this period of disruption.

  • The passage discusses the challenges of unwinding the Global War on Terror that the US launched after 9/11. It argues this will take time as parties develop new alliances and policies.

  • The invasion of Afghanistan expanded into a broader challenge as the US had to address militant groups using the country as a base. Assistance from allies was limited.

  • The Iraq invasion was partly aimed at pressuring countries supporting al-Qaeda, but it complicated the situation by antagonizing Iran and Saudi Arabia.

  • Ongoing competition between Iran and Saudi Arabia as well as instability in Syria will occupy the region for decades. This keeps threats focused internally rather than externally.

  • As the US disengages, terrorism may be seen as less of a threat, especially if directed at regional rivals. Groups will also be drawn into local conflicts.

  • The protracted regional struggles benefit countries like Russia and China by distracting US attention from them. A shift in priorities will take time as new alignments and policies develop in the post-9/11 world.

  • The end of the Cold War removed the unifying strategic focus of containing the Soviet Union. This left the US foreign policy and national security apparatus without a clear overarching goal.

  • Maintaining US global primacy itself has become the de facto goal, but this lacks strategic vision and motivation for the public.

  • Without Soviet threat, national security institutions rely on White House leadership, but presidents are busy and guidance is lacking.

  • This leads to a scattershot approach where any potential problem is confronted without clear priorities. Countering some threats also bolsters others unintentionally.

  • It is difficult to motivate the public and political support without a defined strategic vision on par with containing the Soviets.

  • America’s allies also lack clear direction from the US and are confused about priorities like countering terrorism vs Iran.

  • The lack of an enemy like the Soviets has removed a unifying focus both for US national security policymaking and for rallying public and allied support behind American leadership globally.

Based on the information provided:

  • America’s foreign policy goals and priorities often change frequently and lack consistency. Different parts of the government sometimes work at cross-purposes.

  • Major countries like China, Turkey, France and Germany pursue their own strategic interests, which do not always align with American priorities like human rights or containing certain rivals.

  • Without a clear overarching strategic framework, America is sliding away from its role maintaining the post-World War 2 international order through security alliances like NATO. This risks future instability and conflicts.

  • Disengagement from global commitments could enable the rise of major regional powers that threaten American and allied interests, like a dominant China, resurgent Japan, regional hegemon in the Middle East, or aggressive Russia no longer constrained by treaties.

  • Maintaining a network of allies remains the best way to prevent conflicts, but America lacks the appetite for such extended security commitments. Continued drift risks sowing the seeds for bigger future competitions.

In summary, the passage argues that America’s lack of a coherent strategic vision and increasing disengagement from global commitments risks undermining the existing international order and could plant the seeds for future instability and security challenges that would be harder to address. Maintaining U.S. primacy requires a consistent framework and willingness to uphold the postwar security architecture through strategic alliances.

  • The US has significant wealth due to its large economy and productive capacity. Even low-income Americans earn much more than average global incomes. This means Americans outsource many manufacturing jobs to cheaper labor abroad while retaining higher-value design, engineering and creative work.

  • The US also has high productivity due to a skilled workforce and abundant natural resources like oil, timber, minerals. Few other countries combine high-value workforce skills with high-value commodities.

  • With over 300 million consumers and businesses seeking differentiation, the scale of the US market encourages innovation. Companies develop diverse products and services to stand out.

  • US economic power allows firms to generate profits globally without being dependent on any single country. Scale and resources give the flexibility to shift operations in response to changing political conditions abroad.

  • However, this economic strength and globalization also mean America’s economic interests are less tied to alliance commitments or stability in any one region. Profits can still be made regardless of political disruption elsewhere. This decouples US security policy from business interests.

  • Modern digital technologies and global shipping networks allow many American industries like finance, agriculture and high-tech manufacturing to sell their goods globally. This leads to overproduction for the domestic market alone.

  • American business leaders in sectors that can transport products globally, like agriculture, finance and tech, have the most outward focus and interest in engaging with foreign markets. However, they are still a minority in the business community and cannot drive broad American policy.

  • In a more isolationist America with limited strategic interests abroad, these globally-oriented business leaders will effectively become the main representation of American influence overseas. Foreign partners will see deals with them as deals with the US.

  • Historically in the early 1900s, when most American economic interests were domestic, ambitious business leaders sought opportunities abroad where infrastructure was weak. This sometimes led to exploitative practices and demands for military or diplomatic backing from the US government, known as “dollar diplomacy”.

  • In a disorderly post-Order world, American business interests will likely dominate weaker foreign economies and supply chains that need resources, financing and technology, in a kind of neo-dollar diplomacy approach across various regions. This could bring economic benefits but also risks of overreach.

  • The author argues that as the US withdraws from maintaining global stability through large occupations, it will see disruptions and instability as opportunities to undermine competitors.

  • Countries rely on open seas for trade much more than the US. Targeted disruptions could cripple competitors while having less impact on the US.

  • Manufacturing and food/fertilizer supply chains globally depend on maritime shipping, leaving them vulnerable to disruption. The US system is less reliant.

  • Aging populations means capital will flow to stable countries like the US. Global chaos encourages more capital flight to the US.

  • Many raw materials pass through competitor countries before processing. Disruptions could shift this processing to more stable places like North America.

  • Financial leverage gives the US power to undermine competitors through selective access to global finance systems, potentially destabilizing countries like China, Brazil, Turkey and parts of Europe.

  • In summary, the author argues the US will view global disruption as a strategic tool to weaken competitors rather than always opposing instability.

  • A less globalized, more regional trading system would be more stable since disturbances in one region would have less impact on others.

  • The primary reason the 2007-2009 global recession wasn’t worse was that the US Federal Reserve provided unlimited dollar-denominated loans to foreign banks and institutions, preventing a deeper crisis in countries like Australia, Canada, Brazil, etc.

  • In the future, if the US no longer aims to prevent financial contagion, similar assistance may not be provided or may come with a cost. The US could also deliberately destabilize financially vulnerable countries like Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, etc.

  • With the dollar as the dominant global currency, the US has significant influence over foreign economic systems.

  • If the US pursues self-interest over stability and becomes comfortable with low-level military action, it could easily disrupt foreign countries and policies rather than seek stability.

  • From the US perspective, foreign relationships will fall into categories: allies like the UK who share strategic interests, countries the US can influence or disrupt, and those that could potentially challenge US interests longer-term like China.

  • The UK will become highly dependent on the US economically and strategically due to Brexit and lack of alternative markets/protection, essentially becoming a US “supplicant.” Other North Sea countries may also align closely with the US and UK.

  • Germany is considering boosting its military capabilities in response to threats from Russia. The US sees an opportunity to keep Germany dependent on American military and intelligence systems so they can exert more influence and constrain Germany’s potential to threaten US interests.

  • The long-term goal is reducing Russia’s power and influence over Europe by supporting German and other countries’ conflicts with Russia. However, this could backfire like past strategies if Germany and Russia ally against the West instead.

  • In East Asia, countries like Japan, South Korea and China have more adversarial relationships and less economic integration compared to Europe. The US is encouraging Japan to take a stronger stance against China as it departs the region.

  • This could lead to Japan dominating East Asia militarily and economically in the aftermath of conflicts with China. Eventually the US may grow concerned about Japan’s enhanced power in the region.

  • In Africa, the instability-prone Sahel region is poised to become a new hotbed of Islamic militancy as other conflict zones stabilize. Weak local governments will struggle to maintain control.

  • The US sees opportunities to partner with Sahel countries and use bases there to monitor and disrupt militant activity, counteracting the influence of powers like Russia and Saudi Arabia.

Here is a summary of the countries mentioned:

  • Burkina Faso, Mali, Nigeria, Chad, Ethiopia, and Eritrea - Located in the Sahel region of Africa, south of the Sahara desert. The Sahel region is prone to terrorism and militant groups. The US will focus counterterrorism efforts here as conflicts shift away from the Middle East.

  • France - Has historical influence and interests in the Sahel region as part of its former colonial empire. France is highly involved in counterterrorism in the Sahel. The US sees an opportunity for close cooperation with France, its longest and least conflict-ridden foreign partner. Cooperation in the Sahel could strengthen the US-French relationship.

  • Countries of Latin America and the Caribbean - Will have a complex relationship with the US. On one hand, the US will assert control over security and exclude foreign influence even more aggressively due to its primacy in the Western Hemisphere. Latin American countries will resent this loss of sovereignty. However, they will also be economically dependent on the US as it is the only source of capital. Neighboring Caribbean countries will have an extremely close and dependent relationship with the US due to proximity and reliance on US tourism. Countries like the Dominican Republic that integrate closely with the US will fare better.

  • Cuba’s proximity to Florida gives it potential to disrupt US commerce if hostile. Cuba has served as an anti-American platform in the past. Going forward, the US will take a more hands-on approach in the Americas and restrict Cuba’s “cheekiness.” Cuba could follow Colombia’s path of economic cooperation or Venezuela’s path of hostility.

  • Colombia approached the US about free trade in the 1990s before its civil war ended, recognizing US economic importance. This paved the way for their current cooperation. Cuba has a choice between this path or Venezuela’s.

  • Venezuela’s anti-American leaders allowed politics to blind them from pragmatism. Selling oil to Russia/China at a discount hurt Venezuela’s economy and led to state failure as those countries resell to the US at a profit. Going forward, Venezuela has no leverage and its fate depends on the US.

  • Canada no longer has strategic value due to the Cold War’s end. As a result, the US no longer needs to make concessions to Canada. Canada’s vulnerability to the US is extreme given population and economic asymmetries. Without outside protection, Canada risks breakup if it angers the US.

  • Brazil also faces risks without geopolitical conditions that aided its past rise. Internally dividing forces and poverty threaten its cohesion unless it accepts US business influence - but that too risks fragmentation.

  • Mexico and the US have high economic integration that will withstand global disorder. But Mexico’s proximity, trade ties, demographics, and strategic location relating to migration give it more bargaining power with the US than any other country.

  • Mexico has leverage over the US due to their geographic proximity and ability to impact US issues both internally and externally. This gives Mexico power that others lack.

  • Argentina similarly has flexibility in its foreign relations due to its great distance from the US and other powers. This insulation allows it to operate more independently and on its own timeline.

  • Over coming decades, Argentina is positioned to consolidate power within South America and become an economic and political heavyweight as it attracts foreign investment and establishes regional dominance.

  • Countries in Southeast Asia have benefited from US security guarantees and Chinese economic ties. However, with the end of the global order, they will need to rebalance relations away from China and toward regional cooperation as US involvement decreases.

  • Going forward, the US may pursue more transactional relationships where other countries provide economic concessions in exchange for US security cooperation. However, few countries are well positioned for this due to US trade policies and strategic needs.

  • The US-Iran and US-Saudi relationships are complex, based more on historical issues than current strategic alignment. Over time, the US may reevaluate these relationships as energy and security interests change.

  • The geopolitical situation is overwhelmingly chaotic and complex due to American withdrawal, demographic issues, and rapid technological change. Many regions are vulnerable and unprepared.

  • The global order of the past 70+ years provided unprecedented stability, development, and interconnectedness that substantially improved lives worldwide. Its collapse will not just mean a return to a previous non-order, but the introduction of new, destabilizing chaos.

  • Most countries will be unable to achieve the levels of development and security they enjoyed under the global order. Its impact permeated all aspects of life and its absence will create tangible losses that are difficult to overcome alone.

  • The collapse of economic systems will shatter political systems as well. Democracies will need to overhaul social contracts to adapt. The changes will be revolutionary, not just evolutionary, and will take significant time even for well-led countries. True systemic adaptation requires lengthy historical periods.

  • In summary, the author argues the current geopolitical transition represents the “dawning of the fourth age” in terms of its overwhelming scale and revolutionary nature. Countries face collapse of the existing system without a clear path forward.

  • The author is analyzing the geopolitical landscape after World War II and the decline of American power and influence.

  • Most major powers before WWII like Germany, Japan, etc. have been destroyed or dismantled by the allies. It will take decades for them to rebuild their institutional strength and find stability. Popular uprisings will likely be common during this rebuilding period.

  • Even the new rising powers will not achieve the same level of dominance as the pre-WWII empires due to factors like technology and weapons being more widely available. Expansions will be more incremental and dependent on cooperation.

  • Countries trying to expand their influence like Turkey, Argentina, France will likely make mistakes in their imperial ambitions due to lack of experience.

  • Maintaining good relations with the US will be important for the new regional powers like Turkey, Iran, Japan and Argentina to have long term success.

  • The US will still be a dominant military power but is becoming more isolationist. This will create opportunities and challenges for geopolitics globally as the US takes a step back from its role stabilizing the international order.

  • In the long run, the retreat of American power is more of an academic issue as the US will still be economically strong and benefit from attracting global skilled talent and investment.

  • The author thanks various American government agencies and international organizations for providing unbiased data and information that was crucial to their research. This includes agencies like the USGS, Census Bureau, BEA, and the Library of Congress domestically, as well as the UN, World Bank, IMF, ITC, and others internationally.

  • They also thank think tanks like RAND and Pew Research, as well as organizations like OPEC, BP, and various foreign government ministries for their data. Some exceptions called out for poor interfaces are Eurostat and Statistics Canada. Russia’s Rosstat data is called fabricated propaganda.

  • Books that proved particularly useful references are highlighted.

  • The author expresses deep gratitude to their team at HarperBusiness for supporting their work, as well as specific members like Adam Smith, Melissa Taylor, Susan Copeland, and Michael Nayebi-Oskoui for their critical contributions.

  • They state their work would not be possible without this support network and research resources, and hope the team is ready to start work on the next book.

  • Denmark, Germany, France, and Russia are mentioned in relation to their history and relationships with the US during and after the Bretton Woods global order period from 1945-1973. Germany had close economic ties to the US during this period.

  • France is described as having a complex relationship with the US, supporting US policy at times but also contesting it, like in Vietnam.

  • Geography is discussed as an important factor for national success.

  • Energy access and security is a theme, with mentions of Germany, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and US policy.

  • The US pursued a foreign policy of strategic commitments after WWII to maintain order, but this led to overreach and a period of disorder without clear strategy in the post-Cold War era.

  • Events like the wars in Vietnam and the Dominican Republic are referenced in relation to changing US foreign policy.

  • drone warfare, Iran and Middle East politics are discussed in the context of US post-order foreign policy from the 1990s-present.

  • In summary, the passage explores themes of international relationships, geography, energy, and the evolution of US foreign policy from the post-WWII order period to the current era of strategic uncertainty. Key countries and regions discussed are Europe, the Middle East, and US involvement overseas.

  • The post focuses on key aspects of post-Cold War US foreign policy, post-Soviet satellites, US-led global order under Bretton Woods, and US relations with key allies and trading partners.

  • It discusses the US approach to post-Soviet states like Poland and how US incorporated former Soviet satellites into its sphere of influence after the Cold War from the 1990s onwards.

  • It outlines how the Bretton Woods global order centered around the US dollar and American military protection promoted open trade and economic growth for key allies like the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea from the 1940s-70s.

  • The summary also briefly touches on how America’s global military posture and alliance network supported physical security for partners during the Cold War period under the Bretton Woods system until the 1970s.

  • In general, it provides an overview of America’s strategic partnerships and role in maintaining a stable global order in the post-WW2 environment through the establishment of institutions like IMF, World Bank and NATO.

  • The passage discusses the decline of the post-World War II international order and the lack of a clear strategic vision from the US in the post-Cold War era.

  • It covers the US’ relations with allies like France, Germany, Brazil, China, Saudi Arabia, and regional neighbors in the Western Hemisphere. It also discusses disenchantment with the order.

  • The passage examines aspects of the order like maritime security, market access, and physical security it provided. It also mentions how the order contributed to improvements in the human condition.

  • There is discussion of the role of economics, dollar diplomacy, foreign policy realignments between the Democratic and Republican parties, and strategic retrenchment and military drawdowns in the US’ post-order foreign policy.

  • The passage assess the US’ treatment of allies as either transactional or long-term. It provides an overall “report card” on US post-order foreign policy.

  • Context is provided on related topics like mercantilism, the global war on terror, regional issues like the Middle East, and foreign policy toward countries like Venezuela, Vietnam, and Uruguay.

  • In the US, 500 miles is typically considered the maximum distance for high-voltage transmission lines to transmit power, after which the transmission costs equal the costs of locally generated coal power.

  • Countries other than the US have been unable to replicate the US shale oil boom due to a lack of existing infrastructure, private land ownership, finance, proximity of deposits to population centers, and skilled labor.

  • It’s impossible to know the destinations of crude oil tankers, as cargoes are often resold multiple times at sea, so disrupting a specific importer is difficult for Iran.

  • Historically, Japan pursued an “Asia for the Asians” policy that really meant “Asia for the Japanese,” while the US “Open Door” policy was really a “Closed Door” for Japan.

  • China has DF-26D missiles that threaten US carriers, but targeting requires satellites, giving an advantage to countries like Japan with indigenous space programs in a future conflict.

  • There is competition among Russian pilots to bomb ice dams on rivers in winter.

  • Satellite imagery is needed to observe some natural phenomena like bird migrations.

  • Even in populated areas, Russia’s population density is low by global and European standards due to its vast inland and northern territories being almost empty.

  • Reliable health and demographic data is lacking from Russia since 2000 as the government inflates statistics from the statistics agency.

  • Saudi Arabia’s culture is more a product of its geography and history than Islam, with brutality against rivals stemming from needs for survival in its environment.

  • Geopolitics often creates strange bedfellows, like the US allying with Stalin and Mao against common threats.

  • Demographic data in the Middle East, especially for minorities, are estimates as governments downplay governance problems.

  • Turkey has limited potential for wind and solar due to its terrain, relying on pipelines from Russia and Gulf states.

  • Brazil developed strains of soy and other crops through Embrapa research to become a top global exporter, overcoming poor soil and pests.

  • A strong middle class is considered important for economic dynamism, political stability, and avoiding redistributive politics or plutocracy.

The passage touches on several geopolitical issues and challenges facing the United States. It notes that American influence has declined as it withdraws forces from the Middle East without resolving issues. Carriers are good for power projection but not constant presence in a region. It also discusses the complexity of global oil markets and America’s status as a net oil exporter. Overall, the passage analyzes shifts in US foreign policy and military deployment amid a changing geopolitical landscape.

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About Matheus Puppe