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2009: Two questions, 12 predictions

Six leading individuals give us what they feel will be the top security issues in 2009.

Karel Lannoo, Chief Executive Officer, Centre for European Policy Studies

Karel Lanoo

What will be a key security issue in 2009?

Central Africa will become an even more acute problem, there are no signs of a solution and nobody wants to send troops. I also think we will see a continuation of the problems of the Black Sea region, with the possibility that problems could spread beyond Georgia and into other countries in the region. There are so many sources of potential conflict in that area.

Who will play a key role in security in 2009?

It’s very difficult to say, but I think maybe Carl Bildt, because his country has the presidency of the EU in the second half of 2009. He could be important because he doesn’t let himself be pushed around, is well known on the international stage and brings a good knowledge of issues such as relations with Russia.

Tony Barber is the Brussels Bureau Chief of the Financial Times

Tony Barber

What will be a key security issue in 2009?

The biggest threat to global security in 2009 will be the continuing world financial crisis, coupled with economic recession in large parts of the globe. The turmoil risks unleashing economic nationalist, protectionist, populist and anti-globalization forces in a way that would greatly damage multilaterism and accelerate the world's transformation into an arena of multiple rival power centres. Particularly important to watch will be the impact of the turmoil on Chinese attitudes to co-operation with the US and European Union on trade, climate change and broader international security issues. The economic turmoil will also make it harder to reduce tensions in the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East. The danger of a nasty surprise may rise in a major ally or friend such as Turkey or Egypt.

Who will play a key role in security in 2009?

Whether it's countries or individuals, the key player in the global security arena will be the US and President-elect Obama. By the end of 2009, we can expect the Obama administration to have put its distinctive stamp on US policies toward Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran. The big question is the degree to which the financial crisis and economic recession will restrict the ability of the US to act as it wants. There is the potential for a thorough revision of US policy toward Iran, reviving the idea of a "grand bargain" under which Iran gets security guarantees and the implicit promise of regional leadership in return for dropping its nuclear ambitions and its extreme anti-Israeli rhetoric. But the obstacles to putting such a revision of policy into practice are formidable.

Professor Dr Michael Brzoska, is the Director of the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy, Hamburg and Chair of the Board of the International Security Information Service

Professor Dr Michael Brzoska

What will be a key security issue in 2009?

Afghanistan will be the key and more importantly how we deal with the insurgency there. Do we adopt a counter insurgency strategy, continue to muddle through or have a reversal of strategy with a regional focus, where we bring in nealy all of the political forces, with the exception of ones like al Qaeda?

Who will play a key role in security in 2009?

I think it will be General Petraeus, who is a smart man, who understood the issues at the root of the problem in Iraq. Even though I am not convinced that the country is completely stabililised, it could be that General Petraeus comes up with a strategy which could defuse Afghanistan.

Giles Merritt is the Director of the Security and Defence Agenda and Editor, Europe's World

Giles Meritt

What will be a key security issue in 2009?

The most fundamental threat would be continued dissension within the West, notably a failure of the EU to achieve a positive new transatlantic defence and security relationship with the US that ends ESDP-NATO rivalry and aligns European and America threats analysis. If Europe does not build on its ESDP efforts to date, and if the Obama administration does not effectively tackle widespread international opposition to US policies, the West’s ability to stabilize global security risks being dangerously diminished.

Who will play a key role in security in 2009?

Europe must increase its aggregate effort in Afghanistan and retain its diplomatic leadership vis à vis Iran. The US must re-engage with the UN and further develop its dialogue with European powers on a wide range of issues spanning the Middle-East, Russia and China.

Dr Ian Goldin was Vice President of the World Bank and is a former advisor to Nelson Mandela.

Dr Ian Goldin

What will be a key security issue in 2009?

The answer depends upon the meaning of security. In my view, an expansive definition would include the danger of a bioterrorist attack carried out either by a terrorist group or by a solitary fanatic acting without a clear political motive. A well-understood terrorist network has the ability to wreak havoc, but even a single deranged but capable person could create a bio-bomb. That’s why I worry about crazy individuals as well as known and unknown terrorist groups. If one raises questions about the ingredients needed for bioterrorism, then one can begin to perceive a solution, but it must be a global solution.

Who will play a key role in security in 2009?

The key individual player could well be the person – perhaps a business traveller, a migratory worker, a tourist – who carries the pathogen that results in a devastating global pandemic. This danger could come from anywhere, and we need greater surveillance at the global level, especially to identify and contain potential pandemics as close as possible to their source. The World Health Organisation in particular needs more resources to nip pandemics in the bud. Alternatively, the key individual player could be the person who recognises a growing pandemic and intervenes to stop it from spreading.

Gianfranco Pasquino is Professor of Political Science at the University of Bologna and Seniour Adjunct Professor of European Studies at the Bologna Center of the Johns Hopkins University

Gianfranco Pasquino

What will be a key security issue in 2009?

The biggest threat to global security in 2009 will continue to be global terrorism. Al Qaeda may have just become a brand and many “terrorist” groups are said to operate in franchising. But there are plenty of groups resorting to terrorist activities for a variety of reasons and pursuing a variety of goals that believe that a connection with Al Qaeda increases their visibility, their prestige, and their recruitment potentialities. In addition, the “theatres” of operation of terrorism appear to have multiplied. The situation in Afghanistan is certainly not improving. In Iraq the terrorists may have just decided a tactical withdrawal or perhaps are keeping a low profile. In Pakistan their presence has been ascertained. In India some groups appear to be highly motivated and endowed with significant resources. Hamas and Hezbollah remain powerful actors in their respective areas and may feel the need to buttress their positions before new negotiations start between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. In sum, exactly because their actions are not controlled by any whatsoever hidden mind and cannot be coordinated by one single “Centre”, international and supranational terrorists will represent the most serious threat to global security in 2009.

Who will play a key role in security in 2009?

If President Obama keeps his words, I have no reason to believe otherwise, there will not be only ONE key individual player. There is no response by a single state, not even by as powerful a player as the USA, that can improve the situation of global security. It is customarily to bemoan the poor role played by the European Union and to suggest that some Middle-Eastern moderate Arab political systems and rulers be involved in the process leading to better intelligence against the terrorists. Global terrorism is a political project that will not be defeated just by improving the living conditions in some areas. Only a twofold action, more intelligence and more surgical repression, will create the conditions in which even those States that are now, willy-nilly, harbouring the terrorists, may decide to cooperate. The new President of the USA has the opportunity of exploiting his honeymoon to ask for more cooperation.

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