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The State of the World into 2024…

The State of the World into 2024…

Vintage set icons of ballot box for presidential election in USA . Elections 2024. Vote.

One month into the New Year, and we can already confirm that the rumors are true- 2024 will be a precedent setting year …. One might say that we enter the year between a rock and a hard place.  Major conflicts rage on multiple fronts and along multiple planes. Literal fighting continues to take place in Ukraine and the Middle East. A different sort of battle is taking place which will impact the standing of global democracy and the enduring power of important international bodies. Each one of these tension points has the potential to upset the global apple cart- sudden shocks along multiple fronts would be even more disruptive.

The uptick in global violence, exemplified by the warfare in Ukraine, Israel and Gaza, represent a worrying deviation from a decades long trend of increasingly peaceful relations. Each of these conflicts has taken a tremendous toll on combatants and non-combatants alike- some 10,000 civilians have been killed in Ukraine, alongside the over 25,000 Palestinians and roughly 2,000 Israeli civilians who have fallen in the fighting. Beyond the overwhelming loss of life and human potential that has already taken place, these conflicts both appear durable and come with serious downstream risks. 

The current state of affairs in Ukraine, baring a dramatic shift on the ground following the deployment of F-16s, suggests a momentumless and prolonged conflict. Even if we can limit our considerations exclusively to the facts on the ground, neither the Ukrainians nor the Russians appear satisfied with resolving the conflict in accordance with the military positioning as it is today. Once we allow ourselves to remember that other leaders with revisionist objectives are observing the existing power’s reaction to Russian aggression, the position becomes even more tenuous. 

The prospects that Ukraine maintains the whole of its territorial integrity appear increasingly dim, especially given the trajectory of American politics, yet rewarding aggression with territorial expansion sets a worrisome precedent.  A hypothetical “save face” outcome in which Ukraine gains NATO membership in exchange for ceding the currently occupied territories to Russia, feels unsatisfying for all parties involved.

The conflict in Gaza appears similarly intractable  given the current state of leadership both in Israel and in Palestine. Just as it feels increasingly uncontroversial to say that Benjamin Netenyahu’s time in office appears to be coming to an end, so too has it become increasingly clear that the military component of Hamas ought not serve as the de facto government in Gaza. Even as the establishment of a Palestinian state and the integration of existing political organizations in Gaza appear fundamental in order to secure a lasting peace, the military wing of Hamas is unsuited for that role. If more moderate leadership is able to rise in both camps, the international community appears ready to endorse a reimagined status quo in the Middle East.

Just as these conflicts will test the resolve of individual nations, so too will prominent international institutions be measured by their ability to mediate resolutions. In the very same moment during which entrenched powers would like to depend on well respected international bodies, the United Nations finds itself racked with controversy. Israeli political leaders have alleged that dozens of employees in the UNRWA participated in the October 7th attacks. This leaves American policy makers with the difficult choice of either working to reform the complicated UN bureaucracy or stepping away from an institution that long served as a pillar of Liberal values on the world stage. 

Despite the current moment of tension between American policymakers and the UN, the United States has proven itself capable of working within the United Nations framework to pursue American interests. This was on display in 2022 when the United States led an overwhelming diplomatic effort to denounce the Russian invasion of Ukraine. When the United States and the United Nations speak with one voice, their power is mutually reinforcing. American policy makers would be wise to strike the balance between unilateral actions abroad and respect for the international bodies that reinforce an American lead world order. 

Hanging over all of this is the opportunity, and the vulnerability, that comes with the some 4 billion people scheduled to vote in global elections in the coming year. The victory of the independent-leaning Democratic Progressive Party in Taiwanese elections resulted in less disruption- to date- than might have been expected, but there is no guarantee that similar calm would follow other hotly contested elections.The trajectory of American presidential elections will influence how voters in India and Mexico think about their economic and material security- offering an opportunity either for a coming together of international democracies or the further fracturing of the Postwar order.

Given all of this turbulence, and given all that is at stake in the coming months, it is more important now than ever for increased attentiveness to international affairs, and for those of us living in Liberal Democracies, increased concern for the health of our political institutions. 

To paraphrase one of my compatriots in the foreign policy arena, let’s hope that 2024 does not become a year which must not be named. 

Peter Scaturro is the Director of Studies at the Foreign Policy Association.