NEW DELHI: U.S. President Joe Biden has promised to heal and unify the country but an assessment titled Top Risks 2021 by the New York-based Eurasia Group, which provides advisory and consulting services, has warned that polarisation will undermine his domestic and foreign policies and could even consume his presidency.
The assessment indicates a “conservative backlash” as early as next year, given the fact that 74 million Americans voted for Trump and believe the election was stolen from him. The implication is clear: “a divided U.S. cannot lead.”
Biden faces enormous challenges in terms of ensuring economic recovery from the devastation of the pandemic. Higher income groups will recover faster than lower income groups, feeding the anger of the latter leading to widespread protests and encouraging the rise of populist politicians.
There could be some good news on the climate front with the U.S. among some other countries, registering real progress in reducing carbon dioxide emissions. But it will come with new costs, lack of coordination and competition. The competition will be in the area of batteries, wind vs solar vs nuclear and so on.
The assessment warns that U.S.-China tensions will broaden with Biden seeking to enlist the EU, Japan and India. The tensions will involve the South China Sea, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Incidentally, vaccine diplomacy will bring some advantages for China but on the flip side, climate issues will mean some headwinds in terms of competition.
Still in China, data will be the new battleground with Beijing pushing hard for “data sovereignty”. India is mentioned as among other countries concerned about protecting the data of its people. The assessment ranks India fourth among countries with the most cross-border data flows, the first three being China, the U.S. and the UK. Biden’s tough policy on Russia will see massive cyber intrusions and the U.S. will respond with more sanctions, leading to the risk of cyber conflict.
The low price of Middle East oil will force governments in the region to cut spending, triggering unemployment, mass protest and demands for reform. Iraq will see more instability and violence while Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Salman will face challenges. Biden is expected to avoid any military action against Iran.
The European Union faces a crisis of credibility as Germany’s long serving Chancellor Angela Merkel steps down, leaving French President Emmanuel Macron alone at the helm in Brussels at a time when he faces domestic challenges. Lack of leadership could aggravate Europe’s economic woes which could see the rise of populist leaders in France, Italy and the Netherlands.