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Germany, Brexit and South Africa in geopolitics today

Feb 26


The United Kingdom is still struggling to cope with Brexit, Germany faces a demographic crisis, and South Africa has the potential to become so much more than it is today. And no, China is not behind the Israel-Hamas war.

Straight Arrow News contributor Peter Zeihan addresses viewer-submitted questions about geopolitics in today’s world, responding to a range of complex issues in security, diplomacy, economics and beyond.

Below is an excerpt from Peter’s Feb. 26 “Zeihan on Geopolitics” newsletter:

This is the second episode of our new series ‘Question Time with Peter Zeihan!’ Every week or so I’ll be sitting down with one of the team members from Zeihan on Geopolitics and have them dish out some rapid-fire questions from the ‘Ask Peter’ forum. I’ll be joined by my Social Media Manager, Kyle, for the first few episodes.

In this episode, we’ll be discussing immigration in Germany, the Hamas-Israel conflict, agricultural challenges in Sudan and South Africa, the U.K.’s trade relationship with the U.S. post-Brexit, the future of blue-collar work, and productivity enhancement through automation and AI.

KYLE: Moving on, we’ve been talking a lot about different countries and what they look like in our post-American series. And recently we talked about Germany. Is there any chance that immigration / migration could help mitigate some of the issues that they see in the coming years?


PETER: In order for immigration to really help, it has to be something that’s done over a long period of time, so that you can absorb the cultural shock of having different sorts of people assimilate into your society. The problem with Germany is they started so late in that process, and their demographics was so far down, that they would have to bring in now 2 million people a year for the next 25 years in order to repair–actually, it’s more like, just to hold it where it is right now. And if you do that, then the vast majority of the people who live in Germany would no longer be German. So the only countries to this point that have been able to integrate immigration into their identity are the settler states: New Zealand, Australia, the United States and Canada, and all of those, Canada is the only one who’s been able to do it at a scale that changes the complexity of the country without also generating a massive backlash.


KYLE: Is there any credibility to the idea that the Hamas and Israel war was concocted by Russia and China as a diversion for the Americans?


PETER: No, I mean, don’t get me wrong, they’re happy that it happened. But Hamas did this on its own timeframe. The Iranians may, may have nudged them to do it at a specific month, as opposed to in general. But this was all Hamas trying to change the math. If Hamas had not done this, then you’d be seeing the Palestinians, especially in Gaza, basically just slipping further and further into irrelevance. And they found a way to change that. They would have done [it] they’ve been working on this for years, and they would have done it regardless of what happened in Moscow, in Beijing. That doesn’t mean that Moscow and Beijing are unhappy with what’s happening.


KYLE: This one might not be a quick one either. So our rapid questions are falling apart quickly. But can food insecurity and the Gulf countries be subdued by ramping up the Sudanese agriculture industry?


PETER: No. Sudan is one of the least productive agricultural zones in the world. They’ve got to deal with an alluvial system like the Egyptians do, but they don’t nearly have nearly as much river flow. Even if the security situation which—was solved, and no, you’re still talking about it taking at least a generation of first-world technologies coming in to overhaul this place. And that’s not going to happen. South Africa is much better choice.


KYLE: Good segue! I know we’ll probably touch on this in our post-American series. But could you give us a glimpse at some of the economic concerns in South Africa in the coming decades?


PETER: South Africa has been so mismanaged for so long, we’re starting to see the bones crack. Physical infrastructure, especially power infrastructure, is failing. And without a significant overhaul on governance structures and an end to corruption, it’s only going to get worse. That makes it very difficult for the South Africans to do high-scale agriculture, manufacturing of any sort, and they’re even now starting to see problems in processing the raw materials. These, these are big problems that are honestly normally really easy to fix. But the after effects of having an incompetent president like Mbeki and a deliberately corrupt president like Zuma, you don’t just fix that in a year or five. And the current president has proven that he’s just not capable of bringing all the factions of the ANC, the ruling political party together, to try something new. And that means South Africa is fading. That’s one big problem. The second big problem is just the general population. The deal that was struck between the outgoing apartheid government and the incoming Black government was that the Whites could keep everything that they earned and built during the apartheid era. And in exchange, the Blacks would live free, free housing. But that means they all live in slums. They don’t have, they barely have electricity, and they don’t have plumbing. So you’ve got half the population who basically lives in shanty towns, that is unemployed. And that means that the country is not even using its own population, which is the perfect recipe for all of that corruption. That is hobbling everything else. So South Africa should, should be wildly successful country, but it’s going to require a political transformation for that to happen.


KYLE: We’ve heard your thoughts on the U.K. and some of them are negative. What do you see the U.K.-U.S. trade relationship look like? Over the next 30 years?


PETER: Brexit is now what, seven years behind us, and the Brits still haven’t figured out what’s next. Back when Brexit was being discussed, people would ask me what I thought about Brexit. You know, I don’t think the European Union is going to last, so there’s something to be said for getting out early and getting a jumpstart on what’s next. They haven’t done that. They’re just in another world of negotiations that they can barely manage themselves. Until such time as the Brits bite the bullet and move on, it’s difficult to have a positive opinion about anything that’s going on in London. They’re losing the financial sector, their housing sector is still overblown, U.S. subprime style, and their manufacturing is just withering. The only route road forward that I can find is for the U.K. to sign a trade deal with a country that has stronger demographic growth, and therefore stronger consumption, and the only country on the table is the United States. But that means you have to do it from the U.S. point of view. So in the early post-Brexit days, when the Brits came to the United States to ask for a deal, they were working from the ridiculous positions that the Brexiteers had during Brexit, that they could get a much, much, much better deal from the United States than they could from Brussels. Well, that was never true. And so when they saw the terms of the deal, all the blood ran out of their face. And then Biden came in and they tried again, and it’s the same deal. So until such time as the Brits realize that they’re going to be a subservient power to the United States, and that’s a big pill to swallow, they’re in this in between, and it’s killing them. We know how the story is going to end. We know how it has to end. But until the Brits realize and can accept that the deal they’re going to get from the U.S. is worse than the deal they had with the EU, they’re just stalled.

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