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What Are Swing States?

NEW DELHI: Whether it is the war in Ukraine now in its second year or the strategic churn in West Asia, international geopolitics is in flux with the established great powers looking to smaller countries for support.

Global investment and banking firm, Goldman Sachs believes this flux is here to stay, at least for some time in a report titled ‘The Rise of Geopolitical Swing States’. Authored by its President for Global Affairs Jared Cohen, the report argues that there is a new class of ‘geopolitical swing states’ of the 21st century that great powers will have to deal with.

These states may be big or small, rich or poor or they could be among the developing economies, but because of their location, or the presence of natural resources such as oil and gas or even critical minerals, they enjoy an outsize influence. India is seen as a crucial swing state to Washington’s Indo-Pacific strategy, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are vital players in West Asia and in international oil politics, while Israel is seen as America’s strongest ally in that part of the world.

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There will be countries with a competitive advantage in a critical aspect of global supply chains, such as Taiwan which dominates the worldwide semiconductor manufacturing business. Or these countries could be uniquely suited for nearshoring, offshoring, or friendshoring, such as India with its strong IT, pharma, and automobile industry.

Some countries will have a lot of capital and the willingness to spread it all over the world, such as the oil-rich Arab states. Finally, there will be developed economies and leaders with global visions that they pursue with constraints, such as Norway and Finland which are the world leaders in climate technologies and green funding.

The swing states might not have the potential to set the global political agenda by themselves but in concert with others, can challenge or even influence the big players in Washington or Beijing. These states don’t consider themselves under any obligation to align with any of the ideological blocs. Rather they are driven purely by national interest. This makes them highly unpredictable perhaps even volatile in international geopolitics.