Major European Powers Lean Right in Recent Elections

The recent European elections yielded some significant gains for hard-right parties in a number of countries. Today, we’ll be focusing on Germany, Italy, and France, and whether these shifts are game-changers or more political minutia.

The weak coalition government under Chancellor Scholz has greatly diminished Germany’s role leadership role in Europe. The Italian right wing leader, Giorgia Meloni, solidified her position at the table in the recent elections. France is the one we all need to pay attention to.

President Macron’s party underperformed at the polls, which led him to call snap elections. Macron is gambling that the far-right movement will fall flat on its face when a bit of pressure is applied…but if he’s wrong and the snap elections go the other way, France might be getting some updates to their government.

So keep an eye on the French, but let’s not get too worried just yet. There’s a slew of levels to this and altering the power dynamics of Europe will take more than French snap elections.

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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 Florida. sorry. No beach scene today. I’m kind of in a bit of a hurry, but a lot of people have written in expressing an interest in what’s going on in European elections and since that happened. So I figured I would cover a little bit of that today. the short version is that we’ve got this thing called the European Parliament, which technically is the legislative arm of the European Union, and they have elections every few years.

They just completed them and in Italy, Germany and France, the hard right, racked up significant gains, significantly higher in France, in Germany than the ruling party did. and so the question, of course, is this, a game changer? Let’s start with the Germans. the German government under Schultz is a three party coalition that is very weak because the three parties agree on very little.

So whenever something happens in Europe, the three parties have to get together and have a coalition meeting to hammer out a common position before they start bringing in discussions with other countries. So it’s a long, laborious process. It’s really tedious. And because the coalition is so weak and because the chancellor of Germany, Olaf Schultz, is a weak leader, Germany has basically vanished from being a significant player in most European affairs.

or at least not not very much of a leader like it used to be. in the case of Italy, you’ve got a government, led by, Meloni, who actually is of the hard right. If you want to use a term that some people find is a little bit weird. and so when her party did, well, everyone’s like, oh, she’s the up and coming leader, and there’s might be something to that.

And then third, you’ve got France, which as always is a special case. in France again, the leaving party under President Macron, excuse me, did very poorly. And it was the National Front, which is kind of a traditional rightist party that did very well. Macron took this as kind of a personal insult to his view of everything and called snap elections in France.

So France will now have full parliamentary elections, in order to figure out, who’s been around the country. now, there’s a lot of if ends and buts that go with this, this. But basically France is going to have elections less than two weeks after the European parliamentary elections results, which is not a lot of time to get them to be shaped up.

the criticism that a lot of folks have is that Macron is, a little arrogant, like he’s a French president. Of course he’s a little arrogant. That’s not a reasonable criticism. Certainly it’s nothing new. and so what is in play here? Well, we’ve got, kind of two things you need to keep in mind. First of all, the European Parliament is not all that.

It, basically is only responsible for one thing. And that is saying whether or not the European Commission, which is the kind of the executive arm of the EU, is allowed to stand, they can, vote it down if a new one is formed. Like we will be seen here in a few months. they can say no, we reject the slate of commissioners, and that’s really all the power they’ve got.

So don’t read this for more than it is, because it’s not a huge deal in that respect. The European Parliament is not what makes the decisions in Europe. That is the Council of Ministers, which is the group of prime ministers and presidents that all countries directly, basically they work by either unanimity or something called qualified majority voting from time to time in order to decide what happens at the European level.

So what you normally happens is you have a European Union election, the EPP European Parliament that goes one way and then everyone takes a breather and then we get back to politics as normal, where the far right doesn’t do nearly as well. Now, what Macron is doing is betting that that is still the case, and he can take the political wind out of the sails of what was basically a protest vote in a very short period of time.

not in the least like nine things behind anyway. So he’s betting that history is on his side on this one. And, you know, we’re going to find out real soon in just a few days. Okay. Second, Macron’s personal leadership is not on the docket here. It’s not on the chopping block. It’s not at risk in any way, because the political system of France is significantly different from the one in Germany or in the United States.

So here you vote for the president in Germany, you vote for party here. The president controls foreign economic policy in Germany, you vote for the party. You get coalitions within their parliament, the Bundestag, and that coalition decides who the prime minister is. So you have a singular leader in both places who makes most of the decisions for Cabinet Office.

Not how it works in France and France, it’s split. So the Parliament selects the Prime minister and they are responsible for domestic affairs. But there’s a separate set of elections for the presidency. And that’s when Macron has been elected independently. So let’s assume for the moment the Macron was right. Well then the far right will be shown to be a flash in the pan and they go back to old politics.

Let’s assume for the moment that Macron is wrong. And these snap elections that he’s called go the other way. Well then the government falls. We get a new prime minister. But Macron is still president. And in that scenario, we’ve got something called cohabitation, which basically means that not everybody agrees in France, you know, whoop de. So I don’t want to make this up for more than it is.

And even in the worst case scenario for the Macron government, you basically would have a split prerogative. The real issue where this may matter is going to be a national election, possibly in Germany later, but that’s going to be three years away. Unless, of course, the government falls. And then we have a different problem.

Why Austria, Slovakia and (Especially) Hungary Are Ignoring Ukraine?

During my European travels, I’ve received a handful of questions regarding the lack of support for Ukraine coming from Austria, Slovakia, and Hungary. So, let’s address why these countries are holding out amid the Russian invasion.

These three countries happen to be heavily dependent upon a natural gas pipeline from Russia, so policies tend to avoid interfering with that. Although, with Ukraine abandoning the pipeline lease, the dependence on Russian energy will be ending soon.

There’s some historical factors at play here as well. Austria, Hungary, and Slovakia were once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which held significant power in Europe…and regaining some of their former influence might be in the back of their minds. Hungary takes the title of most controversial, as there are rumors of a secret deal with Russia to help Hungary regain some territory in Ukraine.

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 the south of France. So we’re going to take a question from the Ask Peter files, specifically questions that I have been asked directly by people since arriving here in Europe last week. same question was asked to me by a number of people in Poland and France. the poles ask it in a kind of a direct way. 

the French exit with a little bit more of, and it’s, why why, why, why, why, why, with everything that’s going in Ukraine, everything that’s so important to the future of Europe, everything’s going on with the Russians. Why are the Austrians and to a greater degree, the Slovaks, and especially the Hungarians, being such pains in the asses? 

the three countries are either laggards on sanctions or opposing military and economic assistance to Ukraine or both of these. The Austrians have been the most circumspect. The Slovaks are new to the party. it’s only in the last few weeks we’ve had a new government there that is considerably more Ukraine skeptic than the one that came before. 

But the Hungarians have been actually vetoing, European Union policy and assistance packages, to Ukraine ever since the war began. So, you know, what’s up with these three? Well, we got two things in play. first of all, there are any number of infrastructure links between the Russian space and the European space, but most of those have steadily been whittled down. 

All of them. The one that is most significant and the one that is operating closest to full capacity, is a natural gas line that goes into Slovakia and then has branches that go to Austria and Hungary. And so these three states, in terms of energy dependance, are the ones that are most in the Russian camp, by proximity to these pipeline systems. 

Now, that won’t last too much longer. This pipeline also transits through Ukraine, and the Ukrainians are not renewing the lease on it after this year. So that link is going to go away, which is probably going to force a change of policy in all three states. but for the moment, these are the three that in order to keep the lights on, have to do something that’s at least moderately pro-Russian. 

But the bigger the much bigger issue is historical. Europe, as its detractors will not hesitate to tell you, is not one place. It’s 30 odd countries. And among those 30 odd countries, there are a number of major powers that have risen and fallen, risen and fallen over the years. To date, and most of them have had a geography that allows them to be significant players within the European sphere and sometimes even beyond. 

Now, everyone in the United States, of course, knows the big players. United Kingdom matters because it’s an island. France matters because it’s the western end of the northern European plain, and so doesn’t really have to worry about security too much unless we’re really horribly, Germany’s in the heart of the northern European plain, and so is the biggest country in terms of population and economic structure. 

Spain is out at the end of Iberia. And so when it figured out a technology, deepwater navigation, it was a global power. And at the far side of Europe, you’ve got, say, the Turks, who control the territory around the Sea of Marmara, which gives them both access and control of trade pathways and a lot of insulation for security purposes. 

And so all of these powers have struggled or allied or fought with each other for the better part of the last millennium and a half. but there is one more that most of us in the rest of the world and even within Europe, have kind of written off and forgotten about. And that is the pannone in plain, there is a chunk of flat land that is midway up the Danube valley that is home to brought to Slava and Budapest and Vienna. 

these are the three cities that kind of are at the cluster of what used to be the old Austria-Hungary and Empire. And so whether you are Hungarian or Slovakia, Austrian, you’ve always believed that there’s a special place for you in Europe, in history, politics, whatever it happens to be. And if you look back on the long reach of European history, you’ve got a case to make for that argument. 

the problem for, the Slovaks, the Hungarians and the Austrians, of course, is they lost, Austria-Hungary fell at the end of World War one and was shattered and is now a lots of little states. And Austria-Hungary used to include all of Austria, all of Slovakia, all of the Czech Republic, all of Hungary, most of Romania, a lot of the Western Balkans. 

You know, that used to be a really big thing. Now it’s this fracture zone of a of a dozen different states. So believing that in your interests, from a macro point of view, from an almost imperial point of view, matter just as much as Germany or France or Britain or the rest, you know, that resonates with the people in these countries and of them. 

The faction where it resonates the most is Hungary, because they control the largest part of what used to be the core of that old system. And so there is this kind of semi-open secret cum conspiracy theory based on who you believe, that there is a handshake deal between the Russians and the current Hungarian government that once Ukraine falls, Hungary will get a few chunks of its territory back that used to be part of the old Austro-Hungarian empire, that are now under Ukrainian control. 

And if that sounds too conspiratorial for you, keep in mind that the current Hungarian government has basically pursued some version of that policy less irredentist, more about culture and economics and security issues, with most of its neighbors, with definitely Romania being the country that’s in the spotlight the most, we’ve all heard of Transylvania, right? Well, the people who live in Transylvania are Romanian citizens, but they’re Hungarian ethnic nationals. 

And so it’s, it’s a touch and go issue all around. So basically, we’ve got this dead imperial core where there’s at least some people or a yearning for the Golden age, which is now, well, in the past. All right, that’s it for me. Take care. 

The Rise of the European Far-Right

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I know there’s plenty of issues with the American political system, but let’s take a break from all that and talk about European politics for the day. Given the ongoing European Parliament elections, let’s look at the far-right’s footholds in Europe.

The Europeans designed their electoral system following World War II to provide inclusivity, but that opened the door for multiple parties (not just 2 big ones) to gain power. Combine that with aging populations and not enough young people to balance power in the political sphere, and the far-right has been able to gain influence throughout Europe.

When older generations rule, conservative and reactionary politics follow. Much of Europe is seeing this unfold and will have to work through these ever-increasing challenges brought on by demographic shifts.

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 Italy on the Via della Costa. Excuse me. The old Roman road that went all the way to Spain. since I’m leaving the country tomorrow. Today we’re going to talk about European politics. you guys may have noticed that we have far right parties which, based on which country or you know what your politics are either anywhere from conservative to moderate to Nazi, you know, taking power or at least doing very well in any number of electoral competitions in the European Space. 

in some cases seizing outright power. here, among others, in Italy. there are a couple of reasons for this. The first one is almost boring and statistical. It’s because there’s a different electoral system, a different approach in Europe. when the United States recovered from the Civil War and when the US was created in the first place, there is this idea that how you force modernity or how you force moderation is by forcing political groups to appeal to the largest number of individuals possible. 

So the United States has something called a first past the post electoral system with single member districts, which is a fancy way of saying that you vote for a specific person who’s going to represent a specific group of people. that’s not how it works in Europe. In Europe, most of the electoral systems were designed in the aftermath of the World wars, in the aftermath of a series of revolutions and conflicts that killed millions of people. 

And so it was perceived as far more important to, instead of catering to the, the vast majority, to have a society that was more inclusive of everybody. So instead of voting for a person, you vote for a party. And if that party gets 20% of the votes, they get 20% of the seats in parliament. And whoever has the most seats in Parliament then goes on to form the government. 

and in doing this, you allow groups that are maybe not in the center, but can still get a lot of votes to be part of the governing system. And so most countries in Europe don’t have two parties. They’ve got four or 5 or 6 or 8 or 12 or whatever. It happens to be. And so you get a lot more diversity in the decision making system. 

A lot more diversity in the politics of the parties that make up the system. And that means you need people from the extremes as well, anywhere from socialists and communists on the left to reactionaries and maybe even few neo Nazis on the right. That’s by design. It’s not by accident. And so you’re always going to have this element of the election system, of the electoral system, of the voters who are willing to support candidates that other people might find a little distasteful. 

And sometimes they form a government because they’ve got enough support. Now, have the this one piece two shocker is more demographic. when you industrialize and urbanize, you start moving from the farm and into the city, and then the farm kids are free labor in the city. Kids are an expense. And so as time goes on, you have fewer of them. 

Well, a good portion of Europe didn’t get serious about the business of urbanization and industrialization until after World War two. So whereas the Germans and the Brits kind of led the way in that process, and the birth rate has been dropping fairly slowly for a long period of time in places like Spain and Italy. The process really didn’t start into the latter half of last century, and has proceeded and a much, much, much, much faster rate. 

Well, if you’ve got a birth rate that is less than two children per women for a decade or two, it’s not a big deal. But if you do that for, say, 7 or 8 decades, all of a sudden you’ve got a problem. And the issue we have in a lot of Europe is that they drop below replacement as far back as the 50s and the 60s, and they drop past 1.5 children per woman as far back as the 70s, in the 80s. 

And you play that for another 50 years. And it’s not so much that, population reconstitution is impossible. It’s been impossible for decades. But now, at the point that the last people who were born in normal times are now turning 60 and 70. And nowhere is that more advanced than here in Italy. So it’s not that demographics, when they turn, generate a more conservative population. 

It’s that when people retire, they get a little crotchety. And we’re now seeing people across Europe in vast numbers age past that point, and they didn’t have enough children to generate a more economically pragmatic population. And since those people don’t exist, there was not another generation born below to be more liberal. So if you remove the liberality of the youth and the moderation of the middle age folks and all, you’re left with crotchety crunchiness, you get more reactionary politics, electoral systems and ultimately governments. 

It’s furthest along here in Italy. Coming up a close second is Germany, and I’m sure there’s no one worried about that. And after that, you’ve got places like Portugal, Austria, the Netherlands and Poland which are adding to this and a similar rate, but from a slightly younger base. So we are going to see more and more conservative politics, more and more socially conservative politics, more and more populist politics. 

Moving on. Because if you are, turning 70 this year, you’re really not concerned of how things like social rights or economic development, you want your train ticket to be a half a euro and no more. Oh, yeah, that reminds me. Having something like the common currency requires a more balanced economic system. And if you look back demographically at the period we’ve been in the post-Cold War period, we’ve gone through a couple interesting phases because from roughly 1990 until roughly 2015, we saw these people aging, but no one had really hit retirement yet, which meant they hadn’t become interested in no change yet. 

In fact, if you’ve got people who are age 50 to 65 and who don’t have kids, their income is huge. You’re saving loads of money for retirement, the tax base is massive, and the financial wiggle room in that sort of system is absolutely huge. And that’s the same era when the Europeans decided that, hey, let’s do the common currency. 

And if you think back at how insane that sounded at the time, you have industrialized Germany, you’ve got technocratic Luxembourg, you’ve got post industrial Portugal. It’s based entirely on tourism. Who would ever think in a normal system that all of those systems could be under the same currency union? But when there is a huge amount of, financial are just floating around because of all these middle age, not yet retired people, you could try a lot of things. 

And they did. One outcome was the common currency. But now a lot of the people who were generating all that capital to give them wiggle room have moved into mass retirement. And with them, the hopes for the currency go as well. and for those of you who are finance nerds out there, you think the Germans were obsessed with inflation before most of their working age population retired? 

 Just wait till they’re all retirees, because that is something that happens within the next ten years. When that goes down, there isn’t much hope for the euro. So, you know, this is why you can make the most of it. And I’ll see you on the other side of the pond. Take care. 

Jets, Drones & Refineries: Europe Remembers Geopolitics

It looks like the Europeans may have figured out that Russia’s war plans don’t end in Ukraine, so more and more countries are beginning to send aid to the Ukrainians. The Americans, however, are still working through flawed economics and political considerations.

The Norwegian government has decided to send some F-16s to Ukraine, joining Denmark, the Netherlands, and others in providing military support. The most important shift we’re seeing in aid sent to Ukraine is that it is intended to be used on Russian infrastructure and military units…within the Russian border.

The Biden administration’s caution regarding Ukrainian targeting is based on flawed economic analysis and pointless political considerations. This has led us to a strange intersection of this war, where Europe is done limiting Ukraine’s actions in fighting, but the more commonly aggressive American stance is still lagging behind.

Click to enlarge the image

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 a very windy Colorado. It is the 16th of April, and the news today is that the Norwegian government has announced that they are joining the coalition of growing countries that is setting F-16 jets to Ukraine, specifically the foreign minister, a guy by the name of Aspen Barth, I’d, probably has said specifically he hopes and encourages the Ukrainians to use the jets that at the moment are being provided by a coalition of Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands, to stark to target infrastructure and military units actually in Russia proper.

In fact, his phrase was the deeper the better lot going on here to impact. So number one, to this point, the NATO countries have tried to limit the direct attacks by the Ukrainians with their equipment or with equipment that is donated, in order to prevent an escalation. But a few people’s minds have been tripped in recent days because the Ukrainians are now using one and two tonne bombs to completely obliterate civilian infrastructure and are going after aid workers, including, things like E-m-s services.

And this is really tripped the minds of a lot of people in northern Europe in particular, that this war is now gotten way too serious to have any sort of guardrails on what the Ukrainians can target. The French. Well, they have not weighed in on this topic specifically. They’re now openly discussing when, not whether when French troops are going to be deployed to Ukraine to assist the Ukrainians in a rearguard action.

And we have a number of other countries, especially in the Baltics and in Central Europe, that are also wanting to amp up the European commitment to the war. In part, this is just the recognition that if Ukraine falls, they’re all next, and in part is that the United States has abdicated a degree of leadership, both because of targeting restrictions and because there’s a faction within the House of Representatives that is preventing aid from flowing to Ukraine.

So the Europeans are stepping up. In fact, they’ve been stepping up now for nine months. They provided more military and financial aid to the Ukrainians each and every month for nine months now. And this is just kind of the next logical step in that process, which puts the United States in this weird position of being the large country that is arguing the most vociferously for a dialing back of targeting, by Ukraine, of Russian assets in Russia.

If you guys remember, back about three weeks ago, there was a report from the Financial Times that the Biden administration had alerted the Ukrainians that they did not want the Ukrainians to target, for example, oil refineries in Russia because of the impact that could have on global energy prices. And I refrained from commenting at that time because it wasn’t clear to me from how far up the chain it has come.

That warning. But in the last week we have heard national Security adviser Jake Sullivan and the vice president, Kamala Harris, both specifically on and on record, warn the Ukrainians that the United States did not want them targeting this sort of infrastructure because of the impact it would have on policy, and on inflation. Now that we know it’s coming from the White House itself, I feel kind of released to comment.

And I don’t really have a very positive comment here. There’s two things going on. Number one, it’s based on some really, really faulty logic and some bad economic analysis. So step one is the concern in the United States that higher energy prices are going to restrict the ability of the Europeans to rally to the cause and support Ukraine.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Most of the Europeans realize that if Ukraine falls they’re next and most of the countries with an activist foreign policy are already firmly on the side of an expanded targeting regime. The biggest holdout would be Germany, where we have an unstable and unconfident leader and coalition that wants to lead from the back, not the front, which I can understand, but most of the Europeans have realized that if we’re actually getting ready for an actual war between Europe and Russia, that’s not going to be free.

And higher energy costs are just kind of baked into that pie. So almost all of the Europeans have basically cut almost all Russian energy out of their fuel mixes already in anticipation for that fight. So argument number one, gone. number two, the idea that this is going to cause the war to expand in a way that will damage Ukraine more.

Well, one of the first things that the Russians did back in 2022, in the war, was target all Ukrainian oil processing facilities. They don’t have much left. So, yes, there’s more things that the Russians can do, but this is basically turned into a semi genocidal war. So it’s really hard to restrain the Ukrainians and doing things that are going to hurt the Russian bottom line that allows them to fund the war.

So that kind of falls apart. specifically, the Ukrainians have proven with home grown weaponry they don’t even need Western weapons for this. They can do precision attacks on Russian refineries, going after some of the really sensitive bits. Now, refineries are huge facilities with a lot of internal distance and a lot of standoff distance. So if you have an explosion in one section, it doesn’t make the whole thing go up like it might in Hollywood.

As a result, there are very specific places that you have to hit, and that requires a degree of precision and accuracy that most countries can’t demonstrate. But the Ukrainians have a specifically go after something called a distillation tower, which is where you basically take heated crude and you put into a giant fractionated column, if you remember high school chemistry, and if you can poke a hole in that, it’s hot and it’s pressurized.

So you get something that spurts out and based where on the verticality you hit. The products that hit are either flammable or explosive. So we’re including a nice little graphic here to show you what that looks like. the Ukrainians have shown that they can hit this in a dozen different facilities, and the Russians have proven that it’s difficult for them to get this stuff back online, because most of the equipment, especially for his distillation tower, is not produced in Russia.

And a lot of it’s not even produced in China. It’s mostly Western tech. So as of April 2nd, which was the last day we had an attack on energy infrastructure in Russia, about 15% of Russian refining capacity had been taken offline. In the two weeks since then, they’ve gotten about a third of that back on using parts they were able to cobble together.

But it gives you an idea that this is a real drain, because we’re talking about 600,000 barrels a day of refined product that just isn’t being made right now. That affects domestic stability in Russia, that affects the capacity of the Russians to operate in the front. And yes, it does impact global energy prices, but that leads me to the third thing that I have a problem with the Biden administration here, and that the impact on the United States is pretty limited.

the United States is not simply the world’s largest producer of crude oil. It’s also the world’s largest producer of refined product to the degree that it is also the world’s largest exporter of refined product. So not only will the United States feel the least pinch in terms of energy inflation from anything in Russia going offline, we also have the issue that the US president, without having to go through Congress, can put restrictions of whatever form he wants on United States export of product.

Doesn’t require a lot of regulatory creativity to come up with a plan that would allow to a limiting of the impact to prices, for energy products in the United States. And I got to say, it is weird to see the United States playing the role of dove when it comes to NATO issues with Ukraine. Usually the U.S. is the hawk.

Now, I don’t think this is going to last. the Biden administration’s logic and analysis on this is just flat out wrong. geopolitically, there’s already a coalition of European countries that wants to take the fight across the border into Russia proper, because they know that now, that’s really the only way that the Ukrainians can win this war.

Second, economically, you take let’s say you take half of Russia’s refined product exports offline. Will that have an impact? Yeah, but it will be relatively moderate because most countries have been moving away from that already. And the Russian product is going to over halfway around the world before it makes it to an end client. So it’s already been stretched.

Removing it will have an impact. But we’ve had two years to adapt, so it’s going to be moderate, though not to mention in the United States, as the world’s largest refined product exporter, we’re already in a glut here, and it doesn’t take much bureaucratic minutia in order to keep some of that glut from going abroad. So mitigating any price impact here for political reasons.

And third, the political context is wrong to the Biden administration is thinking about inflation and how that can be a voter issue, and it is a voter issue. But if you keep the gasoline and the refined product bottle up in the United States, the only people are going to be pissed off are the refiners. And I don’t think any of those people are going to ever vote for the Biden administration in the first place.

There is no need to restrict Ukrainians room to maneuver in order to fight this war. in order to get everything that the Biden administration says that it wants to be.

Things I (Do) Worry About: A Post-Germany Europe

Germany has had a streak hotter than the ’96 Chicago Bulls. The German economic model has contributed to European political, economic, and industrial success, but problems are on the horizon.

Germany’s industrial success can be attributed to three trends: a high value-added economy focusing on skilled labor, access to cheap energy and inputs from Russia, and a global trade system facilitated by the US. Now take away all three of those things, mix in an aging population, workforce shortages, and swath of geopolitical challenges, and you’re left with a very scary picture for the Germans (and Europe).

Germany’s role as the hub of multinational manufacturing means that collapse could send ripple effects across Central Europe, with political, economic and strategic implications.

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 the Pacific. Today we’re adding another entry into things that I do and do not worry about, and this one is one that I mostly do worry about, and that’s what happens to Europe, is the German economic model fails. Well, for those of you who don’t live and breathe things German, you basically have three reinforcing trends that have made Germany an industrial superpower, especially for the last 30 years. 

The first one is an extraordinarily high value added economy that is focused on the ultra skilled labor and precision. The problem with that is the German population is aging out and over the next decade they’re going to lose the bulk of that workforce and the retirees are going to start drawing in pensions in health care, instead of paying taxes and providing the capital that’s necessary to keep that high end manufacturing base working. 

So the entire base within the German system is breaking. In addition, number two, relatively cheap, relatively bottomless supplies of energies and inputs from the Russian system, not only those obviously been constrained by sanctions in the Ukraine war, but it was the Germans who did a whole lot of the work in places like Siberia and keeping that production flowing. 

And since the Germans stopped doing that because of the war, we now know that there’s going to be maintenance issues in the Russian system, even if there’s no war damage, even if the sanctions allow the stuff to flow. Now, that’s a little bit loosey goosey. We don’t know how long it’s going to take for this up to go off line, but we know it’s coming. 

And then the third issue is the United States. The Americans have provided warble cover to the world. So that anyone can ship anything anywhere. And the Germans use this before 1990 to ship product primarily to the United States. And more recently, they’ve been using it to ship to China. Well, that’s another country that is facing demographic issues. And there’s a competition between Joe Biden and Donald Trump over who can be more economically protectionist. 

So the entire model is in danger. But the real reason I worry about this is not for Germany per say, but Germany is the hub of a multinational manufacturing system, of which it may be the central and most important part, but it’s hardly the only one. German technology, German training, German infrastructure in German manufacturing supply chains are not contained within Germany. 

They are arguably the single biggest piece of the manufacturing systems in Belgium, in Austria, in Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania, and probably a close second in places like the Netherlands and Denmark. So as the German system fails, even if everyone else demographically is okay and they are not, you’re still looking at the broad scale failure for the entirety of the Central European manufacturing system, and that is going to have any number of rattle on effects politically, economically and strategic. 

Europe’s Latest S*** Show: Farmers On Strike

If you’ve seen the videos of tractors driving through city centers and spraying manure on government buildings, then you’re well aware of the farmer protests happening throughout Europe…but why are they protesting?

The protests, which started in France, are in response to regulatory changes and reduced funding for agriculture in the EU. The Common Agricultural Program has seen drastic cuts to funding and increased restrictions facing farmers.

Despite Europe being a very strong agricultural zone, countries like the US and Brazil stack on the pressure for these European farmers with their higher yields and lower price points. We’ll continue to monitor and release updates as this situation unfolds.

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.

Romania, After America

FOR MORE ON THE FUTURE OF ROMANIA, SEE DISUNITED NATIONS

Today’s discussion comes to you from Huron Peak. We’ll discuss one of the middle powers that’s been dealt a bad hand: Romania. At first glance, Romania’s geographic situation looks alright – a nice chunk of land near some water bracketed by the Carpathian Mountains – but zoom in, and you’ll find three very troubling access points.

These access points open up to areas that can support enormous powers, and Romania is just stuck in the middle. This means Romania is often first on the chopping block whenever those powers want to expand or branch out. So Romania is no stranger to being a cog in someone else’s empire.

Even if Romania could make peace with its extensive and mighty neighbors, a handful of smaller players are just as problematic…ahem, Hungary. So, the Romanians have been kept busy, to say the least.

Looking forward, Romania has some big decisions to make. They know Europe is in demographic decline, so there will be a power struggle for the region. They’ve seen Russia’s blunder in Ukraine, so there’s a chance they won’t have to roll over for Putin. So, a partnership with Turkey, one of the region’s emerging powers, could help carry Romania to the most significant chapter in its history.

That’s a bold statement, and yes, there are many caveats to it…but the potential to have a partner like Turkey that’s nearby (not directly adjacent) is a pretty good setup.

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.

Western Europe, After America

FOR MORE ON THE POST-AMERICAN WORLD, SEE DISUNITED NATIONS

The Accidental Superpower: Ten Years On

With a new “10 years later” epilogue for every chapter, comes an eye-opening assessment of American power and deglobalization in the bestselling tradition of The World is Flat and The Next 100 Years.

Ahhh, Western Europe. A region with no shortage of history, but how will they move forward into a deglobalized world? Let’s just say Germany will soon be replaced as the dominant regional power.

Germany is approaching demographic collapse and major economic challenges, and its role in the EU will be greatly diminishing. So who will replace them? The most viable candidates are France and the United Kingdom, but only time will tell.

The US and Russia both have a heavy hand of influence in this region, so the power dynamics will continue to evolve as deglobalization sets in. Western Europe will continue drawing lots of attention in the coming years, so we’ll be revisiting this conversation soon.

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 you from the South Island of New Zealand. Today is going to be the latest in our series on regional power in a post-American world. I want to go through Western Europe here. Now, the dominant power in Europe since the industrial revolution has been German. It’s got the largest population, the most land to work with.

It’s got access to a huge chunk of the northern European plain. It’s littered with navigable rivers. And so it’s always been a capital and an industrial power. And dealing with German strength or German weakness has always been the issue that the rest of Europe has turned dogged. And we are now moving into not simply a period of extreme German weakness, but absolute long term national collapse.

And there is no way that Europe can navigate that without substantial changes to the security, economic and political order. We are dealing with one of the most dramatic demographic collapses ever recorded. We’ve got some of the best data on it. We know that they passed the point of no return back in the 1980s. So even if you include one off events like the civil war in Bosnia or the migrant move up from Syria, those collectively only gave the Germans about 5% of the population increases that they needed in order to stave off decline.

It is not politically possible for them to have events like that every single year from now on in order to prevent demographic collapse. So we’ve always know that the 2020s were going to be the final decade that the Germans could exist as the modern economy. And that’s the best case scenario because we’re also moving to a world where international connections are worse.

And the German economy, because it’s so old, because the average age of the population is in the mid fifties already, they can’t consume what they produce. They have to export it. And as international trade becomes more problematic, especially as the Americans and the Chinese both become more nationalistic on economic issues, the entire German model is facing collapse for geopolitical as well as demographic reasons.

So we need to start thinking of the German space differently, not as kind of a self moralizing, hypocritical position like they have for the Russians. The Chinese during the last couple of American administrations, certainly not as a military superpower that requires people, but instead as something that if you wanted to continue to exist, you have to pay for it.

Basically, Germany is devolving into a much larger version of Greece, and the cost is going to be necessary to maintain the German nation in the German state is an order of magnitude bigger than what the Europeans have paid for the Greeks to continue to exist at this point. And since it’s the Germans that have paid for the Greeks to exist, it is unclear who, if anyone, has the interest or most importantly, the capacity to pay Germany to continue to exist.

That is it. A city can only be made at the highest strategic decision points in Paris and London and in Washington. And I can tell you right now, none of them are really grappling with that issue at this moment. The most likely outcome in the short term, next five years, the Germans will no longer have the financial and economic capacity to pay for the European Union.

And they have been the single largest funder of the EU and its predecessors since the very beginning. And as Germany goes from a half country to have not country, the entire fundamental basis of the European Union crumbles in a day. We are in the final decade of not just the German economy, but the European Union as a whole, and that frees up everyone else in Europe to do something else, whether that’s good or bad, bad for them.

There are two powers worth considering in a post European Europe. The first one, of course, is France. It has the healthiest demography. It has the least complicated security issues as the strongest military. Its economy has not been integrated into Europe as a whole, much less the world. And so in a post globalized system, the French could enter a post German post global post U.S. competition with absolutely everything they need to be a very successful regional power.

Their first issue, of course, is going to be the management of the German decline and whatever the post German space looks like. But they’re going to have their fingers throughout the entire periphery of their interests. The second country that matters, of course, is the United Kingdom. The demographics are significantly better than Germany, although not as good as France.

And of course it’s an island. So just like the French, they never really integrated their economy into the European space. And in the post Brexit world, they are bit by bit, by bit by bit, trying to explore what it means to be an independent middle power. The end result for the Brits was always going to be the same.

Doesn’t matter what the politics and let them tell us it’s always going to be a partnership with North America and most notably with the United States. But until the Brits come to that conclusion publicly, they’re kind of in this limbo. And that buys that most precious of commodities for the French time because the Franco British competition for the last 300 years has obviously been intense.

And until such time as the Brits realized that they have to work hand in glove with the Americans from now on, with the Americans being the hand, they are going to be ceding incremental declines and the geopolitical position from now on. Now, one thing that the Brits have always had but allowed them to punch above their weight is their navy.

They’re an island nation. They have to have a Navy. That means they can choose the time and the place of the competition. That’s always served them well. And in the last few governments, because it’s it’s Britain, you can’t say the last two. It’s like the last 90 now would like Italian style government stability the last several governments have finished work on their Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers, which are two of the world’s 14 super carriers, are two of two, a 15.

The problem is, in order to get those out of drydock, they had to get the rest of the military. And so the Brits no longer have a strong enough navy to provide an escort ring for the super carriers. So the only way that their super carriers can sail as part of an American combat group and the Americans really don’t see the point and the Brits making a power play in northern Europe that’s going to constrain London’s room for maneuver, not to strategically versus the United States, but versus the French at a time when the French are riding high and are only going to be riding higher in the future.

Then, of course, the two countries on the outside of the matter the most. Russia doesn’t really directly impact the security of this region unless, of course, they win in Ukraine, which is all bets are off. Good as a motivator. That’s about it. And then the United States, which really hasn’t made up its mind yet, I find it unlikely that the Americans are going to try to subsidize the Germans over the long term.

I find it unlikely that the Americans and the French are going to find themselves on opposite sides of any serious discussion of anything other than cheese policy. The question, though, is whether the countries on the French periphery are going to chew moves to deal with someone other than France. In the case of Portugal, they have one of Europe’s longest standing treaties with the Brits in the case of Spain.

There’s already whispering on the edges of Madrid and Mexico City about the Mexicans sponsoring the Spanish for membership in NAFTA. In the case of Italy, you’ve got a fractured polity that has always gotten along very well with the United States. And then, of course, case of the Netherlands. They will every single time on security issues tied up with the Brits and the Americans over the French.

So there is kind of this competition for who will be the dominant regional power. It’s not that the Americans have an interest in dominating this region, but they certainly have an interest in no one else dominating the region. And that is going to make politics between France and the United States. This weird combination of friendly and rivalrous all at the same time.

For those of you who have been following French-American relations for the last two centuries, this could sound really familiar. It’s just the most recent iteration. All right. That’s it for me. Talk to you guys next time.

 

Europe’s Cold Winter Threatens Energy Supplies

We all know Mother Nature saved Europe’s behind last year, but that won’t be the story this year. So, let’s break down the potential impacts on energy supplies across Europe.

With cold temps settling in much earlier than last year, those energy stockpiles won’t last too long. Europe has reduced its dependence on Russian energy, but can the continent’s new energy suppliers keep up with demand?

We will see this energy diversification’s effectiveness put to the test very soon, and any disruptions could carry global implications. This will likely serve as an ‘aha’ moment for countries that source energy from far away and poke holes in that vulnerable system.

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 Colorado. It is the 5th of December. You’ll be seeing this the following week. And today I want to talk about the weather in Europe and what it’s setting up for us. Unlike last winter, which was one of the warmest winters on record in Europe, winter has come a little bit early across the continent, and it’s a little colder than normal.

We are in roughly the thirties to the forties in Berlin at about ten degrees warmer than that in Paris, about ten degrees colder than that in Kiev. So much more typical, maybe a touch on the colder side. The problem we have, of course, is that the Europeans have gotten most of their energy from the Russian space and they’re in the process of trying to phase that down to zero.

And they’ve had a relative success in doing that. Lots of hiccups, of course, But, you know, it’s a big place.

They’ve done this by doing two things. Number one, they’ve shut down some of their heavier industry, although some of that did come back on this lot online this summer. They’ve also grabbed a lot of natural gas from the United States. The Norwegians have really bellied up to the bar with some new projects and then they’ve gone into kind of what you might consider their near abroad, places like the Middle East and basically and West Africa and just taken everything.

That means that if you are a country that used to get things from those zones and I’m thinking here about Southeast Asia or East Asia or Africa, you’re now getting your crude from further and further away. And this is going to spell some interesting things this this winter. The Europeans lucked out last year because they had such warm weather that they were able to keep energy prices under control and only had to go through a few controlled brown and blackouts if they were to have a really harsh winter.

We’re going to put to the test all the things they put into place over the last year and a half since the Ukraine war. And it’s too early to say that that’s going to be wildly successful or horrible. But what we do know is that because they have reoriented their supplies from further away now and everyone else is now having to get stuff from you and further away.

For example, the anything that the Russians are exporting right now typically goes still out to the western ports on the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea, then goes all the way around Europe and then through Suez or around Africa. But to get to East Asia, for example, which is, you know, a for almost as far actually I think it’s a little further than halfway around the planet.

It is a big place, especially when you throw in Africa anyway. It means that if there is a disruption for any reason, we’re not just looking at the Europeans having problems this time around, it could be much bigger. Something to keep in mind is that there are very, very, very few countries on the planet who have the ability to project maritime power.

The top of the list, of course, is the United States. But the U.S. is in its own energy bubble, so it’s really a non-factor. The second one is Japan. They’ve got the second largest long reach Navy in the world. The United Kingdom is clearly in the third place. The French are clearly in fourth place. And after that, it’s kind of a mix of regional navies.

The Japanese get a lot of credit for having a lot of ships, but most of their ships are these very small 2000 ton Corvettes that really can only sail a few hundred miles. So they may have a lot of vessels, but they don’t have a lot of weight and they certainly don’t have a lot of reach. So in any scenario where there’s not enough energy, either because of a disruption somewhere or a strike or a war, the Europeans are perfectly capable of using their regional navies.

And I’m here thinking like the Spanish navy, the Turkish Navy, the Italian Navy, in addition to the French and the Brits to go into their near abroad and ensure the oil and the natural gas comes to them. And it helps that the United States isn’t going to be a security problem from an energy point of view, and it helps that Norway is hooked up by pipe.

No one else has that. So if you have a disruption, the United States is fine, the Europeans are fine, and the Japanese have the reach and the friendship with the United States to make things happen. No one else does. So we’re now entering a situation where harsh winter anywhere in the world can generate an energy crisis or a military conflict anywhere in the world can generate an energy crisis, or a political spat anywhere in the world can generate a energy crisis, and it makes for a much more vulnerable system because it’s not like you can go next door.

You now have to go several countries away or maybe even a couple of continents. And for most of the world, that has never been an option. And for the countries where it is, they’re the ones that have the military to make sure it works. So it’s not so much that I am worried about Europe this winter, although I’m not not worried.

We haven’t put any of this to the test. I’m worried about everybody else because the Europeans have the capacity to use multiple tools to try to address their problems and they’ve got allies to help. No one else can claim that.

 

Dutch Politics: What Geert Wilder’s New Coalition Means for Europe

The Netherlands has recently undergone an election of its own, so let’s look at the incoming coalition and how it will impact Dutch politics.

In the Netherlands, voters cast their ballots for a party rather than individuals, giving them a multi-party system with countless coalition possibilities. Geert Wilders will likely lead the incoming coalition, but bringing together at least four parties is no easy task. All that to say, Wilders will have to compromise on some of his more extreme ideas if he wants to build this coalition with any semblance of speed.

The Netherlands has long operated as a broker for Europe. The previous PM, Mark Rutte, played that role perfectly, but I’m not as optimistic about Wilders. The longer it takes to form his coalition, the more the plot will thicken…

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

Morning, everybody. Peter Zeihan here coming to you from a chilly New York City in Central Park. We’ve had a fresh election in the Netherlands, which looks like it’s going to generate a couple of interesting effects. So I thought it was worth talking about it. Specifically, the outgoing government of Margaret Ruther is now giving way to an incoming coalition that will be led most likely by a guy by the name of Gert Viel.

There’s who’s got frizzy hair. He’s oftentimes called the Dutch Trump because of his views on immigration and other countries in general. It’s nothing like that. This is still very Dutch, which is to say center, center right. Fairly calm politics. But a lot of people are worried that this is going to break a lot of European issues, perhaps causing complications for Ukraine policy and the short version is we’re just not there yet.

The Netherlands has a very different electoral system for the United States. So in the United States, we have a first past the post single member district system, which is a fancy way of saying that when you go to the ballot box, you vote for a very specific person who’s going to represent a very specific group of people in a delineated geographic area, whether it’s your state or your district.

That’s not how it works in the Netherlands and the Netherlands, you go and you vote for a party. And if a party gets 30% of the vote, as Wilders party did, they then get 30% of the parliamentary seats. This is an interesting system that allows for maybe a little bit more of a pure democracy system, although you don’t know who you’re going to necessarily get because it’s on a party list.

And if they get 30 seats in the top 30 people on their party list, get the seats. But the Netherlands has a weird way of doing things because they really don’t have a floor. There’s 150 seats in the parliament. And if you get 1/150 of the vote, you get a seat, which means you get a lot of parties.

And I think there’s going to be something like 11 in the new parliament. So Wilders isn’t simply going to be prime minister. He first has to cobble together a coalition of a minimum of four parties in order to then establish a government. This is a lengthy process, even when everybody sees everything from the same point of view. So the outgoing government of Ruth, for example, took them nine months to build their government last time, I think eight months the time before that.

So we are not going to see a new Dutch government this year. And it’s entirely possible, considering how actually I say this personality challenge to builders is that we might not even see it next year. Now, you shouldn’t necessarily expect to see huge shifts in policymaking in the near term because some of the builders more from the Dutch point of view, egregious ideas are going to have to go away if he’s going to build a coalition.

In addition, there’s really not a lot of argument anywhere across the political spectrum in the Netherlands about Netherlands place in the world. The Netherlands is pro-American and pro-British and pro-European for reasons that are different from a lot of other countries. Specifically, they’re pro-European because they don’t really like the Germans or the French that much. And the general idea is if you can get the French and the Germans into an institution where other members can kind of dilute their influence, then everybody wins, especially the Dutch, because they handle the trade between the French and the Germans.

They like to keep the Brits close because it’s, again, a hedge against Germany and France and let’s keep the Americans close for the same reason. Keep in mind that the Netherlands is a small chunk of territory, roughly the size of this state here, and as a result, it has a little problem with the fence because it’s completely flat and it’s its borders are completely exposed to its neighbors.

So it’s never going to be a military power. All it can hope is to entangle as many other military powers into its own interests so that the French or the Germans don’t just run roughshod across them. The problem we’re going to see is not with European policy per say. It’s not like things are going to change in the Netherlands, it’s just that for the next several months, maybe up to a year, we’re not going to have a government in the Netherlands that’s capable of playing what has traditionally been the other big role of the Netherlands in Europe, and that is of broker because the Netherlands is either considered the smallest of the large states or

the largest of the small states. They’ve got their fingers on a lot of pots, and it allows the Netherlands to broker deals with parties across the spectrum on economic size and wealth that you wouldn’t expect a middle power like the Netherlands to be able to pull off. And in this, Mark Rutte, that has been key. There’s been a lot that’s happened under his leadership.

He came in at the tail end of the financial crisis when the Greek bailouts were getting really crazy. He helped participate in the solidification of the expansion to include the new members. And now he’s played a central role in the next wave of expansion that is supposed to include a number of countries in the former Soviet sphere of influence up to including Ukraine.

And he’s been doing this while being a relatively reliable spokesman for American and British interests in Europe, as long as it doesn’t hurt Europe. So this sort of balanced, integrated player has been very, very, very important. Everything that’s gone down in Europe for the last decade because he’s been running the place for almost 15 years now, Villiers, regardless of what he says, does have a lot of experience doing this.

Yes, he’s been in the Parliament for the last quarter century, but he’s never been in a government. He reminds me a little bit of Joe Biden and that he’s never really had a big boy job. And so it’s going to take time for him to build the gravitas. It’s necessary to play that broker role within the European Union.

And until then, the French and the Germans don’t have the marriage counselor, and the rest of Europe doesn’t have their advocate of their handbrake. That’s assuming we get a government tomorrow and we’re not going to get a government for months. So the ability of Europe to manage in this environment just went down a very, very big Dutch shaped notch because the Netherlands at the moment can’t play its traditional role.