Why France and Azerbaijan Are Fighting Over New Caledonia

WEBINAR – Peter Zeihan’s Risk List: What Keeps a Geopolitical Strategist Up at Night

Please join Peter Zeihan for a webinar on June 5th at 12:00 PM EST on a topic that is near and dear to the hearts of the Zeihan on Geopolitics team: geopolitical risk. This webinar will feature Peter’s reasonable-fear list, focused on issues that in his opinion have the most potential to impact market outcomes.

It’s no surprise that the French like to be “involved” in as many places as possible, but what’s going on with the current rebellion in the French protectorate of New Caledonia?

The independence movement is gaining traction in New Caledonia, but the French are changing electoral laws to prevent the movement from succeeding. Given France’s recent moves in Armenia, they’ve attracted the attention of Azerbaijan to this little foothold in the Southwest Pacific.

While Azerbaijan might not have the most experience in supporting dissidents, they do have the financial resources to piss off the French. Tensions are rising and this little island known for nickel mining might be getting more interesting than usual.

Here at Zeihan On Geopolitics we select a single charity to sponsor. We have two criteria:

First, we look across the world and use our skill sets to identify where the needs are most acute. Second, we look for an institution with preexisting networks for both materials gathering and aid distribution. That way we know every cent of our donation is not simply going directly to where help is needed most, but our donations serve as a force multiplier for a system already in existence. Then we give what we can.

Today, our chosen charity is a group called Medshare, which provides emergency medical services to communities in need, with a very heavy emphasis on locations facing acute crises. Medshare operates right in the thick of it. Until future notice, every cent we earn from every book we sell in every format through every retailer is going to Medshare’s Ukraine fund.

And then there’s you.

Our newsletters and videologues are not only free, they will always be free. We also will never share your contact information with anyone. All we ask is that if you find one of our releases in any way useful, that you make a donation to Medshare. Over one third of Ukraine’s pre-war population has either been forced from their homes, kidnapped and shipped to Russia, or is trying to survive in occupied lands. This is our way to help who we can. Please, join us.

Transcript

Nothing says power politics quite like a castle. So I thought this backdrop would be a great way to talk about the Southwest Pacific. specifically, we’ve got a rebellion going on in the province of New Caledonia. It’s an island that’s a French protectorate colony. And we’re starting to see people walking around with flags of Azerbaijan. So, you know, this requires a little bit of unpack. 

So, first of all, this is a territory that survived as a French protectorate. even after the rest of the colonies were hived off. And, on purpose or not. In the aftermath of World War two, during the decolonization period, the French held on to New Caledonia for two reasons. Number one, strategic position in the Southwest Pacific gives them a leg in that part of the world. 

And second, and from an economic point of view, far more importantly, New Caledonia is the third largest mine for nickel in the world. Nickel, obviously is using stainless steel, and of late it’s becoming far more important for green transition technologies. Everything from solar to, electrical grade steel to electric vehicles. Now, New Caledonia has had a kind of a rough time over the last few decades, because their nickel isn’t all that economically viable. 

the mines are the best in the world and far more importantly, takes a lot of energy to process nickel. And to be perfectly blunt, if you’re on a small island in the South Pacific and it’s really, really expensive. So it hasn’t broken even for much of the last 30 years. And even companies like Glencore, which are how should I put this? 

Typically not bound by a lot of ethical concerns are in the process of trying to get out. but but but but but if the green transition really does happen, we need ten times as much nickel. And that’s going to change the math for pretty much everything involving the island, which is why we’ve got the unrest right now. 

There is an independence movement that is gaining steam, and the French are in the process of making sure that it cannot succeed. So they’ve changed the electoral laws. It used to be that if you had been in the province, on the island for more than 25 years, you could vote in local elections. And that gave the local Kanak minority majority status. 

But, the French are in the process of changing that. So you only had to have lived there for ten years. And if you include all the mainland French imports to the island that have moved in the last decade, all or in the last 15 years, you’ve got a very different picture and the independence movement will never succeed. 

So that’s what’s going on to the French point of view. That’s what’s going on from the island point of view. That just leaves the observers. How do you flags? as we talked about recently, France is getting involved in the caucuses, specifically helping out Armenia, where it can diplomatically thinking that that’s going to give them a leg up in the caucuses. 

And that might provide them with some diplomatic heft that they’re losing in West Africa. Azerbaijan’s on the other side of that conflict, as a region in Armenia for a number of wars. And at the moment, Azerbaijan’s doing a lot better for a number of reasons, twice the population, 20 times the economic strength, much more powerful military and has recently kicked the Armenians ass in a couple of regional wars. 

Well, so France mucking about in Armenia has triggered a counter response, with Azerbaijan now monkeyed around in New Caledonia. Now Azerbaijan brings nothing to this fight. They have no experience in supporting it with dissidents. They don’t know how to do paramilitary attacks at all. But what they do have is a metric butt ton of money. This is a country with barely 10 million people who have a million barrels per day of oil exports, and they can throw a lot of cash at a lot of things, at a lot of places if they want to. 

And for their first big trick, they’re trying to sponsor a revolution in the South Pacific just to piss France off. It’s working. 

Why Are the French Getting Involved with Armenia? || Ask Peter

WEBINAR – Peter Zeihan’s Risk List: What Keeps a Geopolitical Strategist Up at Night

Please join Peter Zeihan for a webinar on June 5th at 12:00 PM EST on a topic that is near and dear to the hearts of the Zeihan on Geopolitics team: geopolitical risk. This webinar will feature Peter’s reasonable-fear list, focused on issues that in his opinion have the most potential to impact market outcomes.

Today we’ll be looking at why the French are considering sending military aid to Armenia…and no, its not because they’re looking to swap croissant and nazook recipes.

Let’s disregard NATO and EU ties to Azerbaijan for this discussion, because this move by the French is more motivated by Turkey’s support of Azerbaijan and Iran’s declining regional influence. There’s also some Armenian ex-pats who might be helping push this forward.

The French are coping with their loss of influence in West Africa by expanding their reach to Armenia in hopes that it will help give them some influence in a new sphere. This move would also help to position the French against the rising Turkish influence in the region, so two birds I guess.

Here at Zeihan On Geopolitics we select a single charity to sponsor. We have two criteria:

First, we look across the world and use our skill sets to identify where the needs are most acute. Second, we look for an institution with preexisting networks for both materials gathering and aid distribution. That way we know every cent of our donation is not simply going directly to where help is needed most, but our donations serve as a force multiplier for a system already in existence. Then we give what we can.

Today, our chosen charity is a group called Medshare, which provides emergency medical services to communities in need, with a very heavy emphasis on locations facing acute crises. Medshare operates right in the thick of it. Until future notice, every cent we earn from every book we sell in every format through every retailer is going to Medshare’s Ukraine fund.

And then there’s you.

Our newsletters and videologues are not only free, they will always be free. We also will never share your contact information with anyone. All we ask is that if you find one of our releases in any way useful, that you make a donation to Medshare. Over one third of Ukraine’s pre-war population has either been forced from their homes, kidnapped and shipped to Russia, or is trying to survive in occupied lands. This is our way to help who we can. Please, join us.

Transcript

France recently has been, entering conversations about military assistance for aid or supply to Armenia. France, you know, famously has a large Armenian ex-pat population, but NATO, the EU, very broadly have deep energy trade monetization ties with Azerbaijan. is there a future quagmire facing, the individual elements of EU member states, the EU as an organization, NATO membership, with what seems to be a intensifying conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. 

This is this is purely a France issue. NATO’s actually involved with the Armenia Azerbaijan issue. If anything, it’s going to be decided by which direction the two other powers in the region decide to go Iran and Turkey. In the case of Iran, they don’t bring a lot to the table anymore, especially if the Russians are out in. 

The Russians are out. the Turks obviously out of a partnership and an ethnic relationship with the Azerbaijanis, and that is getting more robust by the day. And Azerbaijan has proven to be a wonderful testbed for Turkish drone technology, which has absolutely obliterated any strategic independence at the Armenians may have once had. So the French basically are playing a little bit of a double game. 

the French have lost their position. West Africa, which from a strategic and an economic point of view is no big loss. But it was a hit to the prestige. And they absolutely blame the Russians and absolutely accurately blame the Russians for that. So now the French are in the process of doing a strategic realignment. And that means, first and foremost, take a good, hard look at the interests of the country that are causing them to do that. 

And that is the Russians. So the French are considering putting troops in Ukraine very seriously, in order to provide a bulwark for the Ukrainians and most importantly, for the French to learn about all these changes in technology, as we saw with the Azerbaijani, Armenia war of late, as well as Ukraine war. Drone drones are the newest thing and the French have no experience with that. 

So in both of these theaters, that’s one of the things they’ve got their eyes on in terms of the Caucasus, the French have a little bit more room to maneuver there than, say, the Germans or the Italians, because they’re not dependent upon as of any energy at all. and we are seeing a rising what’s the right here interaction of Turkish interests and French interests. 

Because as the United States steps back from a lot of things, the eastern med becomes a potential zone of competition. And if that turns harsh, the French are gonna want some cards to play on another front. As a region, Armenia, the Caucasus plays into that. I’m not saying that these two powers have to not get along. I’m saying that they need to figure out whether they’re going to get along or not. 

  

And France establishing a few flags on the ground in Armenia is a way to do that. Doesn’t mean they’re going to be hostile. It means they’re going to be rubbing up against each other more often. And this is preparation. 

What Is the Future of Chinese Expansion and Energy? || Ask Peter

WEBINAR – Peter Zeihan’s Risk List: What Keeps a Geopolitical Strategist Up at Night

Please join Peter Zeihan for a webinar on June 5th at 12:00 PM EST on a topic that is near and dear to the hearts of the Zeihan on Geopolitics team: geopolitical risk. This webinar will feature Peter’s reasonable-fear list, focused on issues that in his opinion have the most potential to impact market outcomes.

We’ve got some more interview style questions for you today! We’ll be focusing on China, specifically looking at the potential for Chinese energy independence and if any countries surrounding China should be worried about an invasion/resource grab.

While it may appear that the Chinese have access to significant shale oil deposits, the reality of their energy outlook isn’t so pretty. Most of the Chinese lake bed shales are waxy and produce only a fraction of the energy that American deposits produce. In addition, the location of these deposits just so happens to be in a historically secessionist region, so that helps limit development.

On the Chinese expansion front, the prospects aren’t looking too hot. With limited military capabilities and geographical constraints, expansion towards resource-rich neighbors isn’t feasible. My bigger concern is what happens after Chinese demand for these resources falls off and the countries sending this stuff to China lose that stream of income…

Here at Zeihan On Geopolitics we select a single charity to sponsor. We have two criteria:

First, we look across the world and use our skill sets to identify where the needs are most acute. Second, we look for an institution with preexisting networks for both materials gathering and aid distribution. That way we know every cent of our donation is not simply going directly to where help is needed most, but our donations serve as a force multiplier for a system already in existence. Then we give what we can.

Today, our chosen charity is a group called Medshare, which provides emergency medical services to communities in need, with a very heavy emphasis on locations facing acute crises. Medshare operates right in the thick of it. Until future notice, every cent we earn from every book we sell in every format through every retailer is going to Medshare’s Ukraine fund.

And then there’s you.

Our newsletters and videologues are not only free, they will always be free. We also will never share your contact information with anyone. All we ask is that if you find one of our releases in any way useful, that you make a donation to Medshare. Over one third of Ukraine’s pre-war population has either been forced from their homes, kidnapped and shipped to Russia, or is trying to survive in occupied lands. This is our way to help who we can. Please, join us.

Transcript

On paper, China has considerable, shale oil deposits. One of the Chinese, especially given their history of, massive state expenditure, doing more of their shale deposits, especially contrasted with their massive energy import dependance. Technically, China has the world’s second largest shale deposits. so potentially it’s very, very cool. And that’s certainly the failure hasn’t been from a lack of trying. 

The problem is it’s not very shale. Sovereign shale is shale that comes out, former ocean beds. so saltwater pressure, that sort of thing. Most of China’s shales are, I can’t pronounce word of some, like, extremely stringent. Thank you. Lake bed shells. so a lot more debris in them, if you will. And as a result, are kind of waxy. 

Well, when you frack a maritime shale, it’s hard and it cracks and you get the energy out. If you frack wax, it just kind of sloshes around a little bit and nothing happens. So it turns out that even if the petroleum density and China shales are the same as American shales, they can only get about 5% the energy out for every dollar that they put into the effort, even assuming that they were really good at the technology and they’re at best so-so. 

So only about 5% of the wells that the Chinese have drilled at this point even remotely approach break even. And all of those shales are in Sichuan and Sichuan. It has in the past been a secessionist region in China. So the last thing that the hyper centralized Communist Party is China is going to do is to exploit a new type of energy in a part of the country that might one day go the wrong way. 

and even within that, the volume that they’ve been able to get just warrant does not seem to justify a large scale expenditure. So they’ve steadily revised down their estimates. I think they’re now down to less than 2% of what they thought they were to get 15 years ago. I think for most people who follow you regularly, or read the news, it’s no surprise that China, mainland China has its sights on, if one day possible, securing the island of Taiwan, bringing one of these, an errant province back under the influence of the central government. 

Taiwan by itself, though, is a relatively resource poor place. And we look at China’s import needs, economic development plans. There are neighboring regions closer to home Mongolia, parts of Central Asia, parts of southern Russia that have a lot of the resources that they’re importing. Anyways. Is there a risk to these areas of a future Chinese land grab occupation, cross-border, conflict, kind of like you see between, India and China, the Himalayas. 

But obviously without a mountain range in between them. I think there’s a lot of risk, but not necessarily China. China can’t go north. Will get the Russians have made that very clear. They don’t have the Navy to conquer a place like Japan or the Philippines or Indonesia. Taiwan is theoretically a possibility. But if they pick a fight over that, the chances of another naval power interrupting their energy and their food inflows and the merchandise exports would destroy China’s industrial estate. 

it can’t go meaningfully southwest because of the Himalayas. And if they go south, you know, they tried that in 79 with Vietnam. They got their ass handed to them just as much as we did it. So there’s nowhere really for China to go and break a country in a meaningful way. I mean, there’s Mongolia, but special case, there’s not enough people there for really the matter. 

And they’re not a huge player in international markets. but I’m more concerned that if you remove China from the equation and Chinese demand for a lot of these minerals crash, you get two things going on at once. Number one, you got the gutting of the income that a lot of these mid-tier countries rely and on to do everything that they do. 

And then number two, it’s unclear where the United States was going to be a lot more narcissistic and focused on its own industrialization. We’ll need all of them. And we’re certainly going to preference specific partners like the Philippines, like Canada, like Mexico, like Australia, like Chile. And so if you’re not on that short list where you kind of get under the American security, your at worst economic umbrella, you need to find a new, for lack of a better word, daddy. 

And if it can’t be China, it’s not going to be the United States. Your list of other options have baggage. Japan might be related to the business. And if you’re an East Asia, you remember how that went last time. It’s not that I think that the Japanese are looking to go bonzai on everybody again, but it’s going to be lingering there in the back of your mind. 

As for the other countries that have projection power, Turkey for it. France. You know, these are all countries with a lot of baggage when it comes to former colonial relationships. Now, I wouldn’t expect it’s to be a neo colonial conquering because the power difference between these states and their former colonies, it’s not nearly as lopsided as it used to be. 

I think it would be more of a partnership, but everyone is going to have to find a friend, and you’re going to have to keep the friend interested. And you don’t have to negotiate every step of that process. Go. It’s a much more complex world than what we had during the Cold War. Even during the colonial era. It’s it’s going to be messy, and not everyone is going to be able to pull it off. 

Why the US Is Ditching Coal as an Energy Source

WEBINAR – Peter Zeihan’s Risk List: What Keeps a Geopolitical Strategist Up at Night

Please join Peter Zeihan for a webinar on June 5th at 12:00 PM EST on a topic that is near and dear to the hearts of the Zeihan on Geopolitics team: geopolitical risk. This webinar will feature Peter’s reasonable-fear list, focused on issues that in his opinion have the most potential to impact market outcomes.

Other than a slight bump in sales during the holidays (shoutout to all the naughty kids), coal has been on the decline for quite a while now. With more environmentally friendly alternatives surging into the spotlight, how does coal fit into the energy framework?

Coal once played a critical role in the US, but political shifts are pushing more and more states towards eco-friendly options like solar and wind. Even natural gas is getting some attention as it becomes more economically viable and a cleaner alternative to coal.

Although the US is stepping away from coal, the international market will likely continue to do well for years to come.

Here at Zeihan On Geopolitics we select a single charity to sponsor. We have two criteria:

First, we look across the world and use our skill sets to identify where the needs are most acute. Second, we look for an institution with preexisting networks for both materials gathering and aid distribution. That way we know every cent of our donation is not simply going directly to where help is needed most, but our donations serve as a force multiplier for a system already in existence. Then we give what we can.

Today, our chosen charity is a group called Medshare, which provides emergency medical services to communities in need, with a very heavy emphasis on locations facing acute crises. Medshare operates right in the thick of it. Until future notice, every cent we earn from every book we sell in every format through every retailer is going to Medshare’s Ukraine fund.

And then there’s you.

Our newsletters and videologues are not only free, they will always be free. We also will never share your contact information with anyone. All we ask is that if you find one of our releases in any way useful, that you make a donation to Medshare. Over one third of Ukraine’s pre-war population has either been forced from their homes, kidnapped and shipped to Russia, or is trying to survive in occupied lands. This is our way to help who we can. Please, join us.

Transcript

Hey, everybody. Peter Zeihan here coming to you from Dockman Valley above Denver, Colorado. today we’re talking about coal. coal has been the primary fuel of industrialization since industrialization started 150, 200 years ago. but obviously it has fallen on some tough times, and it has definitely fallen out of favor for carbon related and pollution related issues. 

in the United States, at its peak, coal in the modern era, coal was providing about half of all electricity generation. Or was the thermal input for half of all electricity generation. So as much as everything else put together and now it has slipped not just below natural gas, but it’s starting to duke it out with wind. and as of calendar year 2023, about 16% came from coal. 

So it’s already fallen below nuclear on most days as well. Anyway, the reason is twofold. the first one is politics. We have chosen to favor solar and wind in the fuel mix wherever possible, and that has displace a little bit of coal. Not as much as you might think, though. coal is what we know as a baseload fuel, because you basically, once you start the boiler, you don’t stop it. 

You can you can kind of slowly tear it up and down. But getting a coal power plant fully running to full efficiency takes the better part of a day. And so if you are spinning it up and spinning it down every night as the sun sets or rises, you’re not going to be using your coal nearly as efficiently. 

So like with nuclear, you tend to have the thing running full out the whole time, providing that baseload capacity. And you leave it to things like natural gas that can be spun up faster to handle all the incremental increases in demand. So, yes, solar and wind have had an impact that has been negative, but not a very big one. 

the big one has come from natural gas. unique among the world’s natural gas producers, the United States produces, its natural gas is a byproduct of other operations, specifically of oil production and natural gas liquids production in the shale fields. And the natural gas just kind of comes up as a byproduct. Now, that’s not making it necessarily a classical waste product, but it is pretty close because people have to build take capacity to get rid of the natural gas, even though they know that the margins for it and the profit from it are not very high. 

So if you’re in the Bakken in North Dakota or the Permian in New Mexico, in Texas, or the Eagle Ford in southern Texas, you have a problem with natural gas and you just have to get rid of it however you can. but remember that the shale revolution wasn’t originally about oil production. It was about natural gas production. 

So we now have 20 years of expertise in producing pure natural gas, or drawing natural gas, as they like to call it. And even in those fields where there’s no oil or very little liquids at all. the cost production curve is very, very low. in fact, in a number of places like the Marcellus in Pennsylvania and Ohio and West Virginia, the full cycle breakeven price for a lot of natural gas production is well below $2 per thousand cubic feet, and coal just can’t compete with that. 

In part, it’s because the really easy to exploit seams were gotten 50 to 100 years ago, and in part it’s because the there’s a population disconnect. most of our good call, the anthracite, the hard coal comes from places like the powder River basin. in the vicinity of Wyoming. And so it’s a long way to truck or rail that to a population center. 

Or the other stuff is in Kentucky and West Virginia, which is usually by two minutes, more polluting, not as much calorie content. And so it generally is burned more locally. And it’s not exactly a high demand product for other areas who are trying to reduce air pollution. Well, natural gas burns cleaner. It generates less, fumes. It generates less carbon. 

It doesn’t have the sulfur byproducts. It doesn’t have mercury. There’s no natural gas ash for disposal on the other end. It’s just a simple, simpler process. Once you have the physical infrastructure in place, and this isn’t 2010, folks, there are plenty of pipelines to take the natural gas away. So everyone who is wanted to convert from coal to natural gas pretty much has at this point. 

And all that’s left are the holdouts, where the local economics make a little bit more sense for coal places like Kentucky and West Virginia. And there we have another problem. the two senators who have been most in favor of keeping coal on the fuel lists are Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. And both of them are in the process of stepping back from public life. 

It’s not that other representatives from this area won’t fill those shoes, but they won’t do what they’re sold with the same amount of gravitas. And so you’ve seen states throughout the Midwest and the South who used to be primarily coal powered, largely cut the fuel out of their fuel mix almost completely. And so the political coalition that has been protecting coal for the last 30 years is pretty much gone. 

I don’t mean to suggest that we’re going to stop using coal completely in the next five years or anything like this, but it’s never coming back because most of the power plants that burn the stuff are over 40 years old. And as a rule, 40 years is about the life cycle for a power plant. If you’re going to extend its life beyond that time, you have to do some expensive refits and you have to make sure that it’s going to make sense for you going ten, 20, 30 years in the future. 

And for coal, that future isn’t very bright. If there is a future for American coal, it’s not going to be in America. One of the things that people forget in an age of green politics is that oil and natural gas are the low carbon fossil fuels that are internationally traded. And if you break down globalization, the ability of large portions of the world to source those two fuels withers. 

And in that sort of environment, people will be clamoring for whatever sort of fuel they can get, and that will make them turn to American oil and natural gas, of course, but will probably also give American coal a fresh lease on life. It just won’t be burned here. 

Things I (Don’t) Worry About: The US Power Grid

WEBINAR – Peter Zeihan’s Risk List: What Keeps a Geopolitical Strategist Up at Night

Please join Peter Zeihan for a webinar on June 5th at 12:00 PM EST on a topic that is near and dear to the hearts of the Zeihan on Geopolitics team: geopolitical risk. This webinar will feature Peter’s reasonable-fear list, focused on issues that in his opinion have the most potential to impact market outcomes.

I’ve started hearing rumblings about the American power grid and vulnerability to cyber attacks. Sure there’s been hiccups throughout the years, but this one isn’t keeping me up at night.

Those hiccups I mentioned, such as the post-9/11 power surge, have laid the groundwork for improving the American power grid’s resilience. Through technological advancements, decentralizing power generation, and network segmentation, the American power grid is reasonably equipped to handle most potential hacks. That’s a major pain for the green transition, but shockingly positive for security.

Thanks to the segmented nature of our grid and the quick response plans in place, hacks just don’t pose that big of risk. So no, the stability and safety of the American power grid does not keep me from catching some ZZZs.

Here at Zeihan On Geopolitics we select a single charity to sponsor. We have two criteria:

First, we look across the world and use our skill sets to identify where the needs are most acute. Second, we look for an institution with preexisting networks for both materials gathering and aid distribution. That way we know every cent of our donation is not simply going directly to where help is needed most, but our donations serve as a force multiplier for a system already in existence. Then we give what we can.

Today, our chosen charity is a group called Medshare, which provides emergency medical services to communities in need, with a very heavy emphasis on locations facing acute crises. Medshare operates right in the thick of it. Until future notice, every cent we earn from every book we sell in every format through every retailer is going to Medshare’s Ukraine fund.

And then there’s you.

Our newsletters and videologues are not only free, they will always be free. We also will never share your contact information with anyone. All we ask is that if you find one of our releases in any way useful, that you make a donation to Medshare. Over one third of Ukraine’s pre-war population has either been forced from their homes, kidnapped and shipped to Russia, or is trying to survive in occupied lands. This is our way to help who we can. Please, join us.

An Accident, Not Assassination, Takes Down the Iranian President

WEBINAR – Peter Zeihan’s Risk List: What Keeps a Geopolitical Strategist Up at Night

Please join Peter Zeihan for a webinar on June 5th at 12:00 PM EST on a topic that is near and dear to the hearts of the Zeihan on Geopolitics team: geopolitical risk. This webinar will feature Peter’s reasonable-fear list, focused on issues that in his opinion have the most potential to impact market outcomes.

Iranian State media has confirmed the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi May 19th, following the crash of his helicopter over Iranian Azerbaijan. Raisi was returning from a ceremony inaugurating the joint Iranian-Azerbaijani Qiz Qalasi dam project. Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian has also reportedly died in the crash—but Iran has no shortage of capable diplomats, and his death certainly doesn’t rise to the level of global geopolitical significance.

Iranian media initially held out some hope for a rescue, but the region’s rugged terrain, dense fog and cold temperatures stymied efforts to locate the crash site in a timely manner. Whether or not Raisi died on impact holds little geopolitical importance. Likewise, I’d argue, his death by itself does not present a significant loss of capability or capacity for the Iranian regime.

But this is Iran we’re talking about. Iranians’ flair for the dramatic and gold chandeliers aside, Iran and its bad behavior are a favorite topic for the world’s politicians and media outlets. Recent tensions between Israel and Iran have only exacerbated what would be the normal run of rumors at a time like this. So, we’re left with two big questions:

  • Did someone kill the Iranian president?
  • What’s next for the corridors of power in Iran?

Raisi, a hardline clerical figure, gained significant notoriety for overseeing the harsh crackdown of Iran’s 2022 protest movement. He is one in a line of presidents who have been at the helm of the Iranian government since the founding leader of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini died in 1989.

Plenty of people within the country and especially outside of Iran’s borders are likely toasting his demise. Wanting him dead and having the capability to do so are two entirely different things, however. Iran’s various separatist movements are highly unlikely to have the sophistication and technology to correctly identify and shoot down Raisi’s helicopter, especially given weather conditions. (Raisi was travelling with other officials and at least three other helicopters at the time of the crash.) So too are regional terror groups, like ISIS-Khorasan, unlikely culprits.

Tensions between Iran and Azerbaijan have only risen in recent years as the Aliyev regime has grown closer to Israel (as well as Turkey and the West). But despite Baku’s recent military successes against Armenia, I really doubt Azerbaijan would shoot down the Iranian president.

Which brings us to the question everyone really has on their mind: Did the Israelis do it?

The short answer? I don’t know. And likely neither does anyone else. I might be wrong here, but I also don’t think the Israelis have a lot to gain right now by shooting down the sitting president of a regional adversary. The aftermath would be incredibly ugly and would do little to change Israel’s current risk profile: love him or hate him (most people probably hated him), Raisi is not the center of power inside Iran.

Since 1989, current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has managed the convoluted and often-times competing factions of the various religious, political, and economic centers of Iranian power. He is old and, if we believe well-sourced Israeli and American intelligence figures who leak to the media, been dying for the past 20 years. (He’s 85 and we’re more likely to get there sooner than not…)

Did the Ayatollah get rid of Raisi? Probably not. Many Iran watchers would argue that Raisi was on the short list of clerics likely to eventually replace the current Supreme Leader. Was it someone within the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps? Another political rival? Not likely. While Raisi was often mentioned as a significant obstacle to nuclear talks with the rest, no one figure in Iran has enough veto power over a policy point (and perhaps not even the Supreme Leader) to stymie a nuclear détente with the West. And Iran was scheduled to have presidential elections in a year. There are certainly less… fraught ways to get rid of a president in Iran.

The simplest explanation would be that the president’s plane simply had an unfortunate accident at a very inconvenient time. Most of Iran’s aircraft are Franken-zombie constructs, a product of successful Western sanctions limiting Iran’s ability to get new technology and parts. Pre-1979 Western equipment is kept alive with a mix of indigenous knock-off components and whatever schlock can get in from Russia and China. Russian and Chinese aircraft and parts are often second-or-third-hand purchases from intermediaries looking to avoid sanctions. And then there’s Brazil: Embraer is no slouch when it comes to small and medium-sized planes, to be sure. And Iran and former/current Brazilian President Lula da Silva are old friends. But not even the President of Brazil can bend US sanctions to his will; Iran has seen its plans to buy a fleet of second-hand jets stall for years as Washington’s most formidable lawyers and accountants work tirelessly to keep the planes grounded.

Bad weather, bad fog, and bad parts make for good chances for an accident. We might learn that more nefarious things were afoot, but there’s certainly not a lot of reason now to jump to that conclusion.

Which brings us to our second question: what comes next for Iran?

Per the constitution, Iran’s First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber becomes acting president. If you haven’t heard of him, don’t worry: neither have any of the pundits and media figures who will become overnight experts on the guy. While Mokhber has ties both numerous and deep to several institutions within the Islamic Republic, he is the definition of a loyalist benchwarmer. By design.

The Iranian constitution lays out that Acting President Mokhber, the Speaker of the Iranian Parliament and the head of the judiciary must arrange for a new election in 50 days. (Contrast this with the US, where VP Kamala Harris would simply serve the rest of President Joe Biden’s term). This is where things might get tricky.

Raisi joins a growing line of Iranian presidents who have overseen brutal crackdowns on Iranian protests. Many within Iran will cheer his passing. Will his death and upcoming elections trigger fresh protests?

This is certainly possible and, if I was a betting man, I’d say probably likely. If for no other reason, protests are no longer a rare or unlikely occurrence within Iranian society. I don’t expect them to fundamentally hasten the end of the regime, though it could distract Tehran from its current regional adventures (Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, and to the extent they have influence, Hamas). But history also shows us that when Iran is more insecure about domestic security, it is more likely to remind regional adversaries of just how hard it can hit beyond its borders.

Here at Zeihan On Geopolitics we select a single charity to sponsor. We have two criteria:

First, we look across the world and use our skill sets to identify where the needs are most acute. Second, we look for an institution with preexisting networks for both materials gathering and aid distribution. That way we know every cent of our donation is not simply going directly to where help is needed most, but our donations serve as a force multiplier for a system already in existence. Then we give what we can.

Today, our chosen charity is a group called Medshare, which provides emergency medical services to communities in need, with a very heavy emphasis on locations facing acute crises. Medshare operates right in the thick of it. Until future notice, every cent we earn from every book we sell in every format through every retailer is going to Medshare’s Ukraine fund.

And then there’s you.

Our newsletters and videologues are not only free, they will always be free. We also will never share your contact information with anyone. All we ask is that if you find one of our releases in any way useful, that you make a donation to Medshare. Over one third of Ukraine’s pre-war population has either been forced from their homes, kidnapped and shipped to Russia, or is trying to survive in occupied lands. This is our way to help who we can. Please, join us.

TranscripT

Hey everyone. Peter Zeihan here coming to you from the Mediterranean coast. It is the morning of May 20th, and the news at the moment is that late last night, local time, helicopter went down and Iranian Azerbaijan in the north of the country and on board was Iranian President Gracey. And he perished. the Iranians don’t use GPS like we do in the United States, because they think that is an end for American intelligence. 

Of course, they don’t use the Russian system either. so it took them many, many hours to find him. And it was bad weather and it was cold. It was foggy. And by the time they found the crash site, he was gone. for a country with Iran that is so, desperate for this dramatic, this is obviously not a great thing to happen, and it’s obviously not a great time for anything to happen, because there’s a lot of movement in a lot of places in the Middle East. 

We have the Israelis trying to box the Iranians in strategically by getting a peace deal with the United States and Israel. We have a number of other Arab states looking to follow their lead. we’ve got the Gaza war. We have the Ukraine war. We’ve got the Chinese starting to put out feelers in the Middle East to see if they can become a regional power there as well. 

a lot is going on. So of course, everyone, everyone, everyone is talking about how he died, how he could have died, how he could have been assassinated. And I don’t want to rule out any particular theory right now, but, it probably doesn’t matter. Raisi is like any other Iranian president before him getting more and more and more involved in violence in the region and more and more involved with the violence at home. 

so it’s not that nobody wants the guy dead. It’s there’s very few people out there who don’t want the guy dead. But at the current moment, killing it doesn’t really achieve anything. Because first and foremost, the Iranian president is nowhere near the most powerful person in Iran. That would be Ayatollah Khamenei, the supreme leader. in fact, we were going to have elections later this year, so somebody in the regime wanted him gone. 

There’s much simpler ways to do so. I also don’t think that we’re in a situation in the Middle East right now where violence is naturally just going to explode. The Iranians and the Israelis have actually figured out how to step back from mutual confrontation to a degree. I mean, I don’t want to overplay this. It’s still the Middle East. 

And so there is no immediate reason for the Israelis wanting to be gone. And if risk is replaced by just another ultra-Orthodox hardliner, you know, it’s like, what changes, you were talking about variations on the theme. There’s always personal reasons. He’s, contributed to the death of a lot of people. And there is a lot of families out there who would like to see him gone. 

  

But again, there’s nothing new here, and there’s nothing that really moves the needle for me. everybody has their own pet theory. I’m not going to bother lining them up and knocking them down. I will just underline that Iran has been under sanctions as regarding its air force and its aviation, civilian and military for 40 years at this point. 

So you’re talking old vehicles being maintained by second, third and fourth hand parts that can sneak through the sanctions airframes that were designed to be pulled from service in the mid to late 80s. And this is what he was flying because this is all they have. And so the idea that this is simply a mechanical failure in bad weather remains the dominant. 

Theory. But that’s the likelihood here as to what happens next. There is a caretaker vice president who will take over. He said do that. No one has heard of before. He has no ambition and no talent, so he’ll be sidelined. I mean, this isn’t like the United States, where the vice president just steps in and serves the remainder of the term. 

And it’s certainly about like Europe, where the Parliament gets together and chooses a new prime minister. he wasn’t that important. And he’s going to be replaced by someone who is even less important. And then we will have elections to decide who will take the spot. at the moment that the only risk here is that the natural drama of the Persians, boil up or someone on the outside chooses. 

This is the opportunity to attempt to destabilize a country that actually hasn’t been destabilized. And then we would be reminded that Iran has a lot of paramilitary operations well beyond its borders. So I kind of find myself, as in this situation, is when Iran launched their deliberately botched attack on Israel a few weeks ago. this is a chance, an opportunity to calm things down. 

And normally in the Middle East, I would say no, grab it. But we’ve had several incidences like that in the last few months. So maybe, just maybe, Rossi leaving this Earth will be an opportunity for a little bit more calm in a region that is unexpectedly become the calmest in the world. Take your good news where you can. 

Does Iran Actually Have a Nuclear Weapon?

WEBINAR – Peter Zeihan’s Risk List: What Keeps a Geopolitical Strategist Up at Night

Please join Peter Zeihan for a webinar on June 5th at 12:00 PM EST on a topic that is near and dear to the hearts of the Zeihan on Geopolitics team: geopolitical risk. This webinar will feature Peter’s reasonable-fear list, focused on issues that in his opinion have the most potential to impact market outcomes.

Everyone is talking about Iran’s potential development of an active nuclear weapon. Before anyone gets too frightened at the prospect of this announcement, let me give you some food for thought.

Before we even touch on the technical stuff, we have to look the source of these announcements; which just so happens to be coming from ultranationalist members of parliament (you know, the MTGs of Iran). Now onto the real stuff. Building a functional uranium explosive device is no easy feat. It requires some seriously complex implosion tech, and don’t get me started on ensuring an accurate delivery of a nuclear explosion.

And even if Iran magically developed nuclear capacity, they would be placing a massive target on their backs. However, there are some other players that you might want to keep an eye on. As geopolitical dynamics shift and security commitments change, there are a handful of countries that would be strong candidates for nuclear development or acquisition.

Here at Zeihan On Geopolitics we select a single charity to sponsor. We have two criteria:

First, we look across the world and use our skill sets to identify where the needs are most acute. Second, we look for an institution with preexisting networks for both materials gathering and aid distribution. That way we know every cent of our donation is not simply going directly to where help is needed most, but our donations serve as a force multiplier for a system already in existence. Then we give what we can.

Today, our chosen charity is a group called Medshare, which provides emergency medical services to communities in need, with a very heavy emphasis on locations facing acute crises. Medshare operates right in the thick of it. Until future notice, every cent we earn from every book we sell in every format through every retailer is going to Medshare’s Ukraine fund.

And then there’s you.

Our newsletters and videologues are not only free, they will always be free. We also will never share your contact information with anyone. All we ask is that if you find one of our releases in any way useful, that you make a donation to Medshare. Over one third of Ukraine’s pre-war population has either been forced from their homes, kidnapped and shipped to Russia, or is trying to survive in occupied lands. This is our way to help who we can. Please, join us.

TranscripT

Hey everybody. Peter Zeihan here coming to you from Poland in downtown parsnip. a lot of you have written in about some of the news that’s coming about, you know, from Iran, about the potential of them actually having an active nuclear weapon at this point. I need to take some air out of that argument. 

first of all, these announcements are coming from members of parliament in Iran that are ultranationalist. So it’s kind of like having Cori Bush or Marjorie Taylor Greene announce policies for the government. So, you know, don’t take that too seriously. but more importantly, the technology just in question here, it’s not clear. It’s something that the Iranians can do. 

Now, I know that sounds a little weird. We’ve been hearing intelligence agencies across the West warning about the emergence of an Iranian nuclear program or a nuclear weapon for quite some time. But, you know, that’s kind of the point. Supposedly, Iran has been six months away from having an active nuke for 25 years now. And at some point, it’s not just an issue of putting up or shutting up. 

It’s an issue of dissecting the technology that’s in question and what is actually necessary. So to have a uranium explosive device, you have to do something that’s called implosion, which is basically having a series of very precision milled explosive plates that surround a plutonium or uranium core and all explode in at the same time in order to compress the sphere of enriched material, which then triggers a runaway chain reaction that triggers the actual mushroom cloud. 

this is harder than it sounds, because if you have any flaw in that, or if one of the plates doesn’t go off at exactly the right time, then you don’t get that implosion and the explosion. Instead of funneling in, goes out through one of those spots. And then the nuclei never collide and you never actually get the nuclear reaction. 

So getting this all right is very difficult. And it’s something that yes, yes, yes, the United States figured out in the 40s and other countries have cracked the code since. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. And there is no sign at this point that the Iranians have figured out how to do that. Because if you didn’t do it, not only would you get a nuclear explosion, but you would be able to detect that with, say, earthquake monitors. 

So from the point that that happens, you then enter into this really weird spot where you’ve demonstrated the ability to crack the atom, but you haven’t demonstrated the ability to actually deliver that explosion where you want it. So you the thing is this, this device that can do this is going to be fairly large, fairly heavy and difficult to hurl at someone. 

So if you’ve demonstrated that you can capture the power of the atom but not deliver it, that is the time when anyone who doesn’t like you is going to hit you very, very, very, very hard to prevent you from getting a deliverable weapon. and Iran knows this. Iran knows that if they managed to demonstrate that they can crack the atom but not deliver it, then everyone will be after them. 

So the question is whether they can do it in that or not. I would say they can’t because they haven’t. And even if they did, all that would do is open up a whole Pandora’s box of security problems for them. So am I concerned about Iran for any number of reasons? Sure. This doesn’t make my list. Now, that does raise the question of the broader question of who might want a nuke. 

As we’ve seen over the last 80 years, the countries that develop the nuclear arsenal are the ones who don’t think that they can win a conventional conflict. So Israel has nukes because they were worried that we’re going to be overwhelmed by the Arabs. India has nukes because it was concerned about a war with Pakistan and vice versa. China has nukes because they were concerned about Japan and the United States and so on and so on. 

And so the countries that the United States has traditionally been concerned about are the ones who might find themselves at a conventional war with the United States. Iran obviously falls into that category. But if you’re looking forward, it’s probably going to be a different list of countries that are on the proliferation list. Because if, if, if the United States backs away from some of its security commitments, the math change during the Cold War and since, the United States has a series of alliances that basically underwrite the security of any number of countries and some American nationalists see that as a problem, see these countries as freeloaders. 

But should the United States no longer provide the nuclear umbrella, a lot of these countries are going to feel that they have to take care of themselves. And for many of them who don’t think they can win a conventional fight against a superior conventional force, that means nukes. So during the Cold War, China had nukes to fend us off. 

But the Koreans, the Taiwanese and the Japanese felt they didn’t need one. You remove the United States from that strategic competition, and all of a sudden they do. And all three of those countries Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, have civilian nuclear programs and could easily build a bomb in a matter of days or weeks. In the Middle Eastern theory, it’s not so much Iran that I worry about as, say, Saudi Arabia, who may not have the technical expertise to build a bomb, but they certainly have the cash to buy one. 

And in the European theater, if the Americans, for whatever reason, are a wall and you’re dealing with the Russians, you have a whole list of countries that are going to want nukes Kazakhstan, Finland, Sweden, Germany and above all else, Poland. So for people who are arguing that nuclear proliferation is an issue, I say, yeah, it is, but the suspects are not the usual ones. 

 

Assassination Attempt on Slovakia’s Prime Minister

WEBINAR – Peter Zeihan’s Risk List: What Keeps a Geopolitical Strategist Up at Night

Please join Peter Zeihan for a webinar on June 5th at 12:00 PM EST on a topic that is near and dear to the hearts of the Zeihan on Geopolitics team: geopolitical risk. This webinar will feature Peter’s reasonable-fear list, focused on issues that in his opinion have the most potential to impact market outcomes.

On Wednesday May 15, there was an assassination attempt on Slovakia’s Prime Minister, Robert Fico. At the time of recording, the PM was still in critical condition and there’s no clear political group or foreign entity claiming responsibility.

Slovakia has a unique political landscape and Robert Fico began his career in the midst of it. He entered the political sphere during the Cold War era and has seen the transition to present day as Prime Minister.

PM Fico has had a front row seat to as the rural-urban divide has unfolded and even taken advantage of it throughout his career. When the Soviet Union fell, those in rural communities felt they had lost everything, and they resented the urban areas for their Western drift. The urban areas feel that the promise of membership in the Western world will solve all their problems, and resent the rural regions wanting them to drag them back. There’s also been plenty of economic challenges to add fuel to the fire.

Take all of those factors of Slovakia’s complex internal dynamics and you get a volatile political climate that led to this assassination attempt on the Prime Minister.

Here at Zeihan On Geopolitics we select a single charity to sponsor. We have two criteria:

First, we look across the world and use our skill sets to identify where the needs are most acute. Second, we look for an institution with preexisting networks for both materials gathering and aid distribution. That way we know every cent of our donation is not simply going directly to where help is needed most, but our donations serve as a force multiplier for a system already in existence. Then we give what we can.

Today, our chosen charity is a group called Medshare, which provides emergency medical services to communities in need, with a very heavy emphasis on locations facing acute crises. Medshare operates right in the thick of it. Until future notice, every cent we earn from every book we sell in every format through every retailer is going to Medshare’s Ukraine fund.

And then there’s you.

Our newsletters and videologues are not only free, they will always be free. We also will never share your contact information with anyone. All we ask is that if you find one of our releases in any way useful, that you make a donation to Medshare. Over one third of Ukraine’s pre-war population has either been forced from their homes, kidnapped and shipped to Russia, or is trying to survive in occupied lands. This is our way to help who we can. Please, join us.

TranscripT

Hey, everyone. Peter Zeihan here coming to you from the new airport in Berlin. It is sleek. It is efficient. It is secure. It’s amazing. for those of you who have been to the US airport in Charlotte, you know what I’m talking about here. It’s the opposite of that. Anyway, the news today is that Robert Fico, the prime minister of Slovakia, has been the target of an assassination attempt. 

It’s, too early to know if he’s going to live. Although he did make it through the night. at the moment, while it does look like the attack was politically motivated, it doesn’t seem to involve a formal political grouping or a foreign country. So at least we have that going for us. But I honestly can’t remember the last time that a Syrian political leader was the target of an assassination attempt in Europe. 

well, what we’re seeing here is a combination of personality politics and economic politics and geopolitics all mashed together to make an increasingly volatile situation. there’s no perfect comparison to any other country. Slovakia has its own thing. So let me just kind of give you the rundown of how we got to where we are. Robert Fico started out as somebody who was desperate to get into the Communist hierarchy during the Cold War, and he had just finished training when the Cold War ended, and all of a sudden, he found himself adrift in a new system. 

And unlike a lot of the other countries in Central Europe who immediately surged towards the European Union and NATO, Slovakia took a few years to figure out what it wanted to do. The issue is that Slovakia, used to be part of Czechoslovakia, and when the Czechs and the Slovaks had their political divorce back in 1993, Slovakia kind of the rump state, the poorer part, was adrift. 

And a lot of people in rural Slovakia specifically were really upset with what had gone down because at the time they were part of the country. charged word was a little bit socialist, but it’s like Venezuelan socialist where there’s a lot of crony activity and a lot of theft. And so you had people in a relatively economically depressed area, who were dependent upon the state for their livelihood. 

Well, when the Czech Republic separated, they took most of the industrialized part of the country with them, leaving behind Bratislava, the largest city and then a large swath of people who were more rural. So it is generally considered to be the most rural of the countries in Europe, with about half the population still living in very small towns or on the farms. 

And so you get this urban rural split where the urbanites were desperate to follow the Czechs and the rest of Central Europe into NATO and EU structures, to join modern Europe, where you had half the population living in a relatively depressed area, wanting to go the other direction and yearning for strongman rule and a state handout. So basically 

Euro socialism on one hand, Venezuelan socialism on the other, into this, Robert Fico comes and as you have seen in the United States with the trumpists rural folks who are angry, regardless of why they’re angry, cannot be a potent political force. 

And unlike the United States, where the populist, conservative rural group is less than a fifth of the population, here they’re closer to half. So the sort of vitriol that we’ve seen in the United States in the last five years that has existed in Slovakian politics for the past 35 years, and Fico has road to that over and over and over again. 

That doesn’t mean that the Europeans in Slovakia have been great, because the bad blood started so long ago and because the economic split is so deep, we’ve seen an ossification of really, really rough politics on both sides of the Slovak political aisle. It’s kind of like if you let morally vacuous gun nuts like Lauren Boebert be media personalities on both sides, and that has eventually generated a culture of political violence in the country that has now resulted in a shooting of a prime minister. 

Probably, we’re assuming at the moment that there’s not a foreign intervention in this. If that changes, I will be recording a very different video. 

The Future of Politics and Peace in West Africa

We’ve got another question for our Ask Peter series today: What are the long-term impacts to Western interests of the recent political upheaval in West Africa/the Sahel, especially given the break in security partnerships with the United States and Paris?

There’s a few ways this could play out, but this situation could lead to increased jihadist activity, some non-state actor proliferation, and further destabilization in the region. Russia might even start poking around by backing certain factions and disrupt these regions further.

Nigeria has an opportunity to step up and play a stabilizing role throughout the region, but addressing these security challenges throughout West Africa will be essential moving forward.

Here at Zeihan On Geopolitics we select a single charity to sponsor. We have two criteria:

First, we look across the world and use our skill sets to identify where the needs are most acute. Second, we look for an institution with preexisting networks for both materials gathering and aid distribution. That way we know every cent of our donation is not simply going directly to where help is needed most, but our donations serve as a force multiplier for a system already in existence. Then we give what we can.

Today, our chosen charity is a group called Medshare, which provides emergency medical services to communities in need, with a very heavy emphasis on locations facing acute crises. Medshare operates right in the thick of it. Until future notice, every cent we earn from every book we sell in every format through every retailer is going to Medshare’s Ukraine fund.

And then there’s you.

Our newsletters and videologues are not only free, they will always be free. We also will never share your contact information with anyone. All we ask is that if you find one of our releases in any way useful, that you make a donation to Medshare. Over one third of Ukraine’s pre-war population has either been forced from their homes, kidnapped and shipped to Russia, or is trying to survive in occupied lands. This is our way to help who we can. Please, join us.

TranscripT

Thanks for joining us today. My name is Michael, and I’m director of analysis here at Zeihan on Geopolitics. And it’s my pleasure today to have a conversation with Peter Simon about some of the questions you send to us about what’s going on in the world. With that, we’ve seen a series of political shifts in West Africa, especially in the Sahel region. 

I think the one that has gotten the most attention is the rise of the winter in Niger and the cessation of security, particularly counterterrorism cooperation between many of these governments and Western powers, US and France being another major one. Are there any long term security implications for Western interests? If these breaks in security cooperation lead to what most people think is the inevitable outcome, a further rise, jihadist activity, non-state actor proliferation area and further destabilization in a place that can ill afford it. 

Well, there’s basically three big things. The first is exactly what you’re suggesting there. the states of the Sahel are very weak. They have borders, they can’t patrol. They have territories. They can’t patrol. You’ve got isolated population centers and a whole lot of nothing in between. Agriculture is weak. Energy is almost unheard of in most of these countries. 

They are barely states, even with robust American and especially French assistance. And so you remove the French and the American assistance in their capacity to even function as states. And these are becoming stateless areas. That doesn’t mean there aren’t powers there. And this is called the belt for a reason. And the Russians looking for a way to throw problems into the Western world, has basically worked with specific factions within each of these countries to overthrow the governance systems. 

And so we now have a stateless system with a gang backed by the Russians on top. And that is unfortunately the future of the region. Unless someone decides to get more directly involved, that will not be the United States. It looks like it’s not going to be the French. The biggest power that may may be interested would be Nigeria. 

And if they do, who look the fuck out because they’ve got capacity and they don’t take shit from anybody. so that’s number one. Number two, there are security outcomes from this that go well beyond this region. the Russians have, in essence, decided to throw sand in the gears and a lot of weak places, thinking that it gets them a lot of influence. 

And, and from a Wagner esque gold mining point of view, maybe it does, but they are losing influence in places that matter a lot more to them. Basically, we’ve seen Russian power expunged from the Caucasus in Central Asia, and at the end of the day, areas of the Russian border are much more important to Moscow long term than anything that’s happened in the Sahel and West Africa. 

It’s also getting the Americans and the French in particular, to stop mucking around in an area that is of tangential interest to them, and focusing on something that is much greater interest. So you might have French troops in Ukraine by the end of the year. We might have Turkish forces in places like in Nagorno-Karabakh, in, this in the Caucasus. 

Within a year or two, we might have Armenia slipping over to be part of more of a Western orientation than it has ever been. pieces are moving. And by putting their hand in the West Africa, basically, the Russians are daring the world to chop off their hand, and they’re probably going to get what they wish before long. 

And it’s come at the cost of something that actually matters to them. So I don’t think this was a good long term play for the Russians because it refocused attention. Now, if you happen to live in this area, this is all very bad because if you become a stateless area, groups like Al-Qaeda, ISIS and the like can operate there with relative impunity, which is what brings me back to Nigeria, the country with the biggest interest in this region not descending into anarchy is a low country that has a military that out staffs all of the crew belt combined by a factor of four five. 

If Nigeria is moved to action, it will do so with at least implicit support from the Western world. And we get our first ever African superpower. So yeah, this matters. The online system Nigeria will love to hear this. 

The US Places Huge Tariffs on Chinese Imports

Some hefty tariffs have just been placed on many Chinese imports, including electric vehicles, semiconductors, solar panels, and more. This is an attempt to prevent China from dominating industries that the US wants to develop.

China will probably slap some more subsidies on these goods, which will lead to more tariffs and so on and so forth. These Chinese goods might also be hit with some European tariffs, but they’ll likely be smaller and easier to offset with subsidies. The developing world might be in the crosshairs as the next Chinese import market, but some infrastructure buildout will have to happen first.

As China continues along its downward spiral, impacts like these tariffs will have more outsized effects on the Chinese economy.

Here at Zeihan On Geopolitics we select a single charity to sponsor. We have two criteria:

First, we look across the world and use our skill sets to identify where the needs are most acute. Second, we look for an institution with preexisting networks for both materials gathering and aid distribution. That way we know every cent of our donation is not simply going directly to where help is needed most, but our donations serve as a force multiplier for a system already in existence. Then we give what we can.

Today, our chosen charity is a group called Medshare, which provides emergency medical services to communities in need, with a very heavy emphasis on locations facing acute crises. Medshare operates right in the thick of it. Until future notice, every cent we earn from every book we sell in every format through every retailer is going to Medshare’s Ukraine fund.

And then there’s you.

Our newsletters and videologues are not only free, they will always be free. We also will never share your contact information with anyone. All we ask is that if you find one of our releases in any way useful, that you make a donation to Medshare. Over one third of Ukraine’s pre-war population has either been forced from their homes, kidnapped and shipped to Russia, or is trying to survive in occupied lands. This is our way to help who we can. Please, join us.

TranscripT

Hello from Poznan. Peter Zeihan here. Still in Poland. Today is the 14th of May. You’ll see this on the 15th. And the news is that the American administration under Joe Biden has just announced a series of very robust tariffs on Chinese imports, roughly 100% on electric vehicles, about 50% on semiconductors and solar panels on similar levels on a raft of other things. 

the goal, very simply, is to prevent the Chinese from swamping industries that the Biden administration is attempting to develop. this is something that has extraordinarily high bipartisan support. In fact, Donald Trump has already come out in favor because of his style, saying, I would have done even more. and that’s actually kind of on the point. 

the Chinese will respond to this by increasing their subsidies even more, which will force this administration or the next one to again up the tariff levels. Basically, the Chinese government will not be allowed to swamp products of these types and an increasingly wider variety of types into the American market at all. Now, that will, of course, trigger its own counter effects, because the Chinese will then try to put it into any market they can. 

Here in Europe, the question like in the United States isn’t will there be tariffs on Chinese products? But how high? Now, under policies currently under consideration by the European Commission, who kind of the executive arm of the European Union. tariffs are coming, but they’re going to be somewhere between 10 and 40% most likely. And that’s just not enough. 

the Chinese subsidizing of these industries is so extreme that anything less than 100% that the Biden administration has done is really not going to do more than slow things. And if you think Ford and GM have a lot of political pull in the United States, that’s nothing compared to Mercedes and Fiat. And, and Volkswagen. So high, high, high tariffs are coming to Europe on these topics as well. 

The only other place these products can then go is the developing world. But the developing world for the most part, doesn’t have the electrical system that’s necessary to use light electric vehicles. So the Chinese will be able to swamp some of these markets, but not enough to move the needle on where the Europeans versus the American versus the Chinese feel they need to be. 

Now, keep in mind that part of the reason why the Chinese are doing this is in the five years since the Covid started, the Chinese are now realizing that their population has shrunk a lot more than they originally thought. So they no longer have enough people under age 45 to mount any sort of consumption led economic recovery. And with the exception of industrial demand in China the last two years, we’ve really seen no increase in consumption at all. 

the population is simply aged out. So export led growth is all they have, and they’re no longer being allowed access to the American market. And very soon they won’t be allowed sufficient access to the European market as well.