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posted on 19 March 2016

Europe In Turmoil

from LEAP/Europe 2020,

Considering the barrage of change indicators, our GEAB team currently feels like they don't know where to start in order to provide a coherent and complete picture of the crisis. Yet, this feeling is probably nothing compared to what our leaders and their advisers experience. A sense of loss of control of the flow of events probably characterizing the Western leadership in 2016 is what makes the rest of the year quite difficult to predict.

The general feeling is that we are approaching the unwinding of a ten year paradigm shift, but the panic created by the approaching perspective of actual change among the leaders, the Western leaders in particular, is once again raising the question of the exact form this unwinding will take.

When the world sustaining a governance system disappears, but the governance system is still "in charge", concern is justified. The leaders have certain challenges on their agendas which completely exceed their conceptual and instrumental abilities. They must now choose among a variety of "bad solutions", meaning they will inevitably make bad decisions. Some of those decisions will have no impact whatsoever, while others will have rather dramatic consequences, but it is particularly the unpredictability of these decisions which blurs the future and reinforces the feeling of panic even more. This is a strong trend for 2016, one that also justifies the "strategic retreat" identified by our team as the keynote of the year.

In this introductory article of the GEAB 103 edition, we simply list a series of facts revealing this growing and worrying state of panic, as well as the trends which, we believe, will worsen it even more.

Worrying panic indicators among Western elites

Conspiracy theorists in the heart of NATO

Let's begin with this incredible remark made by a US NATO official who said that "Russia and Syria are weaponizing migrants to hurt Europe"[2], or a NATO communications expert analyzing that "Putin is using the migrant crisis to overthrow Merkel"[3]. For so many years, when this type of speech applied to the United States, it was granted the beautiful label of "conspiracy theory", cutting the grass under the feet of even the most legitimate "out of the box" questioning. Yet, the heart of the official thinking wallows in the most paranoid assumptions about the occult maneuvers of the Russian-Shiite networks to destabilize Europe. These statements are all the more striking, since our team has come across the same ideas applied the United States[4], Turkey[5], Saudi Arabia[6], etc... Our readers know that we are sometimes tempted to pay some attention to these theories, but, this time, the sequence of events since the outbreak of the war in Syria, the disastrous management of the crisis by Western powers, the emergence of an army of religious fanatics in the general chaos, and bombings (from allies, to start with), are enough to explain the phenomenon. It was Ockham's razor sharp principle saying "the simplest adequate assumptions are the most plausible"[7], right?

Therefore, if some NATO commanders, at the top of what is supposed to be the most powerful military institution in the world, indulge in such public conjectures, this means they no longer control anything. And the fact is that Russia's intervention in the Middle East is a historical game-changer, irreversibly questioning NATO's supremacy in maintaining the "Pax Americana" within and around the transatlantic axis. In reality, NATO, which missed its post-fall of the wall transformation[8], is now facing the final stages of a deep existential crisis, having to choose between failing in surviving or failing in maintaining peace. The Europeans want to turn NATO into a European common defence system and, until then, no longer want to finance it[9]; the United States is questioning its participation[10]; Turkey leads it into battles alongside Saudi Arabia[11]; and its military staff keeps creating conditions for an escalation of tensions between Europe and Russia; while Mrs. Merkel suggests they conduct migrant-related rescues in the Aegean Sea with the commendable aim to divert them away from their squabbling with the Russians[12].

That said, the disappearance of NATO is certainly a hypothesis that petrifies our leaders. Indeed, if they certainly have a role to play in adapting the system they are born from, it is with a view to safeguard it. Reforming NATO would be their greatest achievement. On the contrary, its disappearance certainly corresponds to an existential anguish for any member of the Western elite. It takes a first-class politician to consider calmly the death of an organization as symbolical as NATO, especially in the current context of global instability. The panic mode is therefore clear from the perspective of NATO officials, but this mode is probably also present among most European leaders.

Migrant crisis: hot-cold decisions

Concerning the management of the refugee crisis, the decisions made during the last EU-Turkey summit are amazingly incoherent: on the one hand, a solution seems to have been found (Turkey, rather than Greece, would assume the role of transit camp to Europe, so that the EU can manage the flow in an organized manner[13]); but on the other hand, this solution is set up in exchange for promises of free visas for Turks and integration to the EU, instantly cancelling the reassuring nature of the first part with regard to the Europeans' identity anxiety attack[14]: Turkey keeps its 2.3 million refugees, but the EU integrates the 75 million Turks into the EU... plus the 2.3 million refugees.

The agreement, which seems to be the work of Merkel (DE), Davutoglu (TR) and Rutte (NL), while having set aside the European representatives, Juncker and Tusk, must be validated in the next EU Council on March 17. The dissatisfaction it will generate will focus once again on the EU, regardless of the fact that it is a few national leaders who strive to make decisions while the rest of them abdicate their responsibilities[15].

This kind of deal which angers everyone (including pro-EU Turks, most of whom already guess that this new layer of hope for integration will probably be disappointed again) shows how intertwined and difficult the situations really are. And when leaders fail to produce better solutions to such concrete and urgent problems, one can bet they're in panic mode.

Apparently even global treasurers have adopted this rather inefficient mode...

Western central banks have lost their touch

Let's now compare the importance given eight years ago to the cryptic statements of a certain Ben Bernanke, the exegesis of which dictated its law to the markets[16], with the importance now granted by the markets to events as capital as Janet Yellen's first increase in interest rates in the past 10 years a few months ago[17], or more recently Mario Draghi's announcement of a significant new European QE increase[18]. Not only have these important decisions not had the intended effect on the markets (which obviously now take into account many other parameters in their strategies), but in the case of the ECB, the decision is subject to very sharp criticism from the core of the system it is supposed to serve: financial and German media[19] to start with.

Compared to the time when a man could decide the destiny of global finance and the feeling of confidence and power given to that man and the system he belonged to, life is now infinitely more complicated for these people who still believe they are central, but whose magic wands are less and less efficient. Panic mode is underway...

"Sign the TTIP before Obama leaves"

EU Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom wants the TTIP to be signed before Obama leaves the White House[20]. The only explanation for such haste is that, given how unpopular the TTIP already was at the time of the rather appreciated Obama, once the latter is gone, the trade deal will become completely unsellable. Clinton, let alone Trump, will never have Obama's good image. Thus "TTIP fanatics", plying the Brussels corridors, know that this year is their last chance. Afterwards, they can all forget about the hundreds of thousands of hours and Euros spent on this project. So it is a now or never attempt... even if maybe they already doubt any positive result.

However it is quite shocking to see that European Commission officials, who are supposed to serve the European public interest, are ready to force a free trade agreement with a country which they obviously know (since they are aware that public opinion will no longer want any partnership with the US after Obama) may soon engage toward an extremely serious political drift. Again, this information shows that our elites are in panic mode, trying hard to achieve the objectives of a dying system, at the cost of rationality and relevance[21].

Vital issues that go far beyond the Western elites' reach

Let us focus now on a series of trends revealing the size - completely out of our leaders' reach - of the challenges they foresee.

Progress Exponentiality

We will see later in this edition the huge human challenges linked to the next technological revolution, those of artificial intelligence and robotics. The internet revolution has given us the impression of a faster pace of social transformation, but we have not seen anything compared to what is coming with the arrival of artificial intelligence. It will exponentially increase the speed of progress and of social change. The state or even supra-state structures theoretically in charge of preparing and supervising these developments are clearly not up to the size of the challenges ahead. Who or what will be? A future in the form of a big question mark...

Cybercrime - constantly evolving

Recently, a devastating computer virus known as « ransomware » has been circulating around the planet, encrypting the data and asking for a ransom to decrypt it. This kind of gigantic hold-up operation has already blocked hospitals[22], municipalities[23], companies and individuals. This is just one example of the "innovations" that constantly await the police. Is the national level still relevant? How could politicians and media, from their national level, even place this type of problem under the right angle of resolution? To do so, they should step down, recognize their limitations, accept the need to interconnect... well, deny what is most important to them, i.e. make everyone believe that they are the top of the pyramid. Instead they should acknowledge that there are now thousands, or even millions of pyramids that must work together to solve the problems emerging from new network-based social configurations.

Banks are particularly familiar with these cybercrime problems that engulf them with huge sums for constant updates of their IT security systems. And again, what is "panic-inducing" is that these amounts to be allocated to cyber security are exponential... and therefore uncontrollable[24]... blurring visibility on the future.

Obsolescence of nuclear industry

This GEAB edition also draws the attention to the tremendous stakes and potential danger related to the maintenance and dismantling of Western nuclear plants. Visibly, neither the public nor the private companies which built them, nor the States owning them are able to properly carry out this vital task. The European and international institutions to deal with these issues do not exist yet, and given the current conflicting European and international relations, it is unclear on what basis they would emerge. Yet, these risks are a concern for our states in the first place, as they created the conditions for them, but are unable to resolve the consequences of their past decisions. One more thing to nurture our leaders' panic mode...

Global multipolarity, of course...

The global multi-polarity is another trend well known by our readers which challenges all the modus operandi and worldviews of Western elites today evolving in an environment which they never learned in school. In just ten years of global transformation, the US has become a power among others, the petrodollar is dead, Russia is a major player in the Middle East, Iran sells its oil for Euros, the City is but a link in a global network of similar-sized financial centres, the largest construction companies are Chinese, the IMF wants to cooperate with the Chinese AIIB and the BRICS' NDB[25]... Adaptability, instead of stability, is the cardinal virtue of twenty-first century governance systems. Men and structures officially in charge were not prepared for this. They have every reason to panic, along with the citizens... [26]

The combination of so many question marks on the ability of public and private systems of governance to control their own transformations and lead their flock to a brighter future, form a giant collective question mark of global dimension, a characteristic to currently bear in mind in any anticipation work...To read more, Log in or Subscribe to the GEAB

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[1] If we chose to restrict to the Western elites the feeling of panic worrying us so much, the emerging powers, even if naturally more compatible with the 21st century, are also exposed to this panic.

[2] Source: CNBC, 02/03/2016

[3] Source: i24news, 06/03/2016

[4] Sources: ZeroHeldge, 08/07/2015;, 19/09/2015

[5] Source: Moon of Alabama, 03/09/2015

[6] Source: Breitbart, 10/09/2016

[7] Source: Ockham's razor, Wikipedia

[8] Source: Le Monde, 10/06/2010

[9] Source: About Croatia, 28/01/2016

[10] Source: National Interest, 07/10/2015

[11] Source: ZeroHedge, 22/02/2016

[12] Source: EuroNews, 10/02/2016

[13] Source: BBC, 08/03/2016

[14] Source: Politico, 07/03/2016

[15] Source: Euractiv, 08/03/2016

[16] Source: Market Watch, 23/05/2013

[17] Source: Reuters, 15/01/2016

[18] Source: The Guardian, 10/03/2016

[19] Source: Les Echos, 11/03/2016

[20] Source: EUObserver, 22/02/2016

[21] Similarly, Mario Draghi's only mission in keeping the 2% of inflation in the Eurozone as long as possible is indicating the complete nonsense of our leaders' course of action. There will be so many more different objectives to set in the current situation of deep systemic transformation...

[22] Source: PRWeb, 21/02/2016

[23] Source: 20 minutes, 08/03/2016

[24] On the banking cybersecurity challenges in 2016: American Banker, 05/01/2016

[25] Source: Russia Beyond the Headlines, 14/03/2016

[26] These four examples are not exhaustive, of course: uncontrollable migrant flows, informal wars against terrorism, environmental challenges of all kinds... here are the best known vital issues to be dealt with by our current governance systems' tools.

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